Friday, July 22, 2011

Genetic Modification and your food: what are the risks?

Plums that have been genetically engineered to...Image via Wikipedia
Did you know that approximately 70 percent of the processed foods on American supermarket shelves contain ingredients from genetically modified soy, corn, canola and cottonseed? This means that foods such as a snack items, baked goods, tomato sauce and breakfast foods all contain genetically modified ingredients as well. With such use comes questions: what are the health risks? What are genetically modified foods?

This post will examine these questions.

What are genetically modified foods?

Genetically modified foods contain ingredients that are genetically engineered so that they are bug, herbicide and disease resitant. In addition to the list of foods above, also included in this designation are crookneck squash, zucchini and Hawaiian papaya which are all sold in the United States.

According to Michael K. Hansen, PhD, senior scientist with the Consumers Union, a nonprofit independent testing and advocacy group for product safety based in New York, in the article "Banned in Europe, Okay Here?" "These crops are not required to go through a mandatory safety assessment before going on the market." He further adds. "There are still serious questions about health consequences that can arise when you genetically engineer an organism, then eat it." Now, how good does that make you feel about the food your family consumes?

In Europe, if a food contains more than .9 percent genetically modified ingredient, it must be labeled as such. In the US, no such mandate exists.

What are the health risks?

Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of research available to say for sure but an early example includes a research study from the 1990s when researchers inserted a then not known highly allergenic protein from Brazil nuts into soybeans. Due to this subsequent discovery, the bean was discarded due to possible severe allergic reactions.

The bottom line appears to be to shop where the food is certified-organic.


Harrar, Sara, "Banned in Europe, Okay Here?" "O" Magazine

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