Jul 18, 2019 | Updated: 10:03 AM EDT

Is Genetically Modified Food Safe?

Apr 02, 2015 09:58 PM EDT


Genetically modified organisms are great. That's not necessarily a popular opinion, but it's true. GM apples and potatoes were recently approved in the US and Canada, but with some pushback from companies due to consumer demand. A very large percentage of the population is either skeptical or outright afraid of GM food. There are some legitimate concerns around the business/legal realm of GM crops, but in terms of human safety and nutrition, the consensus is in and GM crops are safe.

Obviously each new crop that is developed needs to be tested and properly regulated. However, any concerns about the actual methods of genetic modification are highly unwarranted. Any plant or animal product is full of DNA that our body readily digests, messing with one or two genes isn't going to impact human health. The only way GM food could affect human health is if the modification somehow produce a protein product that was actively toxic to humans. Say what you want about corporate greed, but a big biotech company would never do that because that would cost them a lot of money in the lawsuits down the road.

Yes many current GM crops make a lot of money for big companies, but they're also useful to farmers. These companies wouldn't be able to make a lot of money if they didn't have a superior product to their competitor. Herbicide tolerance has unfortunately led to an increase use of herbicides. But other current crops are actually reducing pesticide usage and increasing yields for farmers. One example is plants engineered to produce BT endotoxin, which is only harmful to insects and will only kill pests that try to feed on the crops. This protects other insects in the environment that may be useful, because farmers no longer have to spray and pesticide, it's built into the plants.

In an attempt to counteract negative press, a new generation of GM crops is attempting to build in health benefits, as reported on Physorg. The US has already approved the import of genetically engineered pink pineapples that contain the tomato-based pigment lycopene, which is a antioxidant that might help prevent cancer. Similarly, the purple pigment/antioxidant from blueberries is being engineered into tomatoes.

Even if those crops are approved for consumption, it'll take some time to actually confirm any medical benefits, but that's not the point. While slight anticancer benefits are great, there are bigger issues that GM technology can tackle. Increasing yields, resisting disease, drought, and heea resistance. All of these factors will become more important as the population grows and the climate changes. Other groups are also attempting to enhance the primary nutrition of foods, and not just trace compounds. Proteins, minerals, vitamins precursors, all factors that could help alleviate malnutrition in developing countries.

Yes these seeds are modified in a lab, but why is that a bad thing? Even with updated technology, conventional hybridization and breeding practices are slower and less efficient than direct modification. Plus the fact that many of these modifications would be impossible to make with conventional breeding. Transgenic plant technology offers scientists incredible precision and control over what they are making. This accuracy and understanding arguably makes GM crops safer than some other methods. It's not the only solution to world hunger and nutrition issues, but it's certainly helpful. So stop worrying, and eat the weird colored fruit.

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