Genetically modified foods were created with high hopes. Many said genetically modified crops would be the solution to feeding the world’s hungry. Scientists claimed they could create foods that would withstand drought and cold and be resistant to pests and weeds. These super crops would also be more nutritious and easier to grow.
Which sounds great, were it not for the Pandora’s box of unintentional ill effects. Increasing concerns about genetically modified foods have cropped up in the health news with everyone weighing in with an opinion. Those against genetically modified foods have a number of criticisms. Genetically modified foods have been found to cause harm to other organisms, for example. Genetically modified crops could also inadvertently crossbreed with other crops creating a scenario where “super weeds” could be created. Insects may also become resistant to the toxins produced by genetically modified crops. These pesticide-resistant bugs could flourish and damage crops without anything to stop them.
As for humans, opponents of genetically modified food are concerned that introducing a new gene into a food could cause an allergic reaction in some people (for example, if the gene came from a nut).
Other fears include the development of antibiotic resistance, negative nutritional changes, and the creation of toxins.
How do scientists genetically modify a food? They take a gene from one organism and insert it into another. This might be a gene from a bacterium resistant to pesticide, for example. When this gene is inserted into a plant, the plant receives the characteristics held within the genetic code. Or simply put, the plant also becomes able to withstand pesticides.
One of the biggest concerns swirling around genetically modified foods is that the world’s biodiversity will irrevocably be altered. And as we are part of that biodiversity, we will also be altered — whether for better or worse, no one seems quite sure.
If you want to avoid eating genetically modified foods, you may be in for a bit of a challenge. There is already very little canola, for example, which has not already been genetically modified. Perhaps the best you can do is to try to at least buy organic produce. While some organic food is undoubtedly modified, many organic products do come with a GMO-free label to signify that none of the ingredients have been genetically altered. (GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”)
For more on organic foods and how they could benefit your health, read the article Organic Foods Have Become Mainstream.