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Genetically-Modified Foods --Are They
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November 16, 2011, last updated June 21, 2014

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Imagine our planet in 50 years time with over 10 billion people all
struggling to survive on decreasing supplies of water and
increasingly degraded land. How do we feed them all? According to
many experts, genetically modified crops are the answer.

The United States is the world leader in genetically modified plants,
accounting for nearly two-thirds of all genetically modified crops
planted globally, according to the Pew Initiative on Food and
Biotechnology, 2004. We grow a lot. As of 2011, an estimated 88
percent of all corn planted in the United States is genetically modified
and 94 percent of all US soybeans are genetically modified (United
States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics
Service 2000-2011.)

We eat genetically modified food in the form of products made from
high fructose corn syrup (basically the majority of packaged foods
on our shelves today), soybeans and canola oil. Other genetically
modified foods on our plates include squash and papaya as well as
non-food crops like cotton. In the future, the salmon we bake, the
tomatoes in our salad, the fruit in our desserts and the wheat in our
bread could all be genetically modified.

Does genetically modified food represent a brave new world and a
shining agricultural future? Or are genetically modified crops
dangerous to our health and the environment? There’s been a lot of
debate about the genetically modified foods in our kitchen
cupboards. Should you be worried about genetically modified food?

What are Genetically Modified Foods?

Farmers in the United States have been growing genetically modified
crops since their introduction in 1996. The process of genetically
modifying plants takes specific genes from one organism and
introduces them into another to produce new varieties of plants and
animals with desired traits like fast growth, pest resistance and
herbicide resistance.  

Since the inception of genetically modified foods many consumers,
particularly in Europe, have been uneasy about the new technology
although most in the United States have accepted the advancement,
partly because much of the genetically modified crop ends up in
animal feed or in non-food uses such as cotton.

According to a 2004 survey by the Pew Initiative, 47 percent of
people in the United States opposed the introduction of genetically
modified foods while a United States Gallup poll in 2001 said 52
percent supported the application of genetic modification in food. A
2011 study from Iowa State University claimed consumers are keen
to get their teeth into foods that are genetically modified to increase
health benefits and will pay 25 percent more for these goods. Health
benefits include increased levels of vitamins and antioxidants.

But in recent years debate has increased surrounding the safety of
genetically modified foods. In fact, many Europeans are so
concerned about the safety of genetically-modified foods that the
giant EU-US trade agreement being negotiated in 2014 is being
stalled over these and other issues.  Are our accepting attitudes

What Are the Advantages of Genetically Modified Foods?

The most impactful advantage of planting genetically modified crops
is increased pest resistance. Crop losses from insects in the United
States and the world can be devastating. Because consumers don't
want to eat food that has been overly treated with pesticides,
growing food that has been genetically modified to resist pests is
seen as an ideal solution.

Genetically modified crops may also be herbicide resistant. This helps
farmers because they can spray their crops with herbicide - weed
killer - without concerns that the crop itself will die. In addition,
disease resistance, an antifreeze property that allows plants to resist
cold, and drought tolerance are advantages of these super-crops.  
Scientists and agriculture experts are also producing genetically
modified food with nutritional benefits, such as "golden rice," rice
with added
Vitamin A to help prevent blindness in developing

Why Do People Criticize the Growing of Genetically Modified Foods?

These genetically modified advantages exist alongside a cluster of
reported dangers, vocalized by a strident group of experts opposed
to genetically modified foods.

The overarching objection to genetically modified crops is the fact
that so little is actually known about the long-term consequences of
growing and eating this food.

Food chains and nature are complicated and we don’t yet fully
understand living ecosystems. How can we possibly know all the side
effects of these kinds of modification?

Rise of the Superweeds?

For example, can a genetically modified crop cause harm to another
organism in the food chain? A 1999 study from Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York showed that pollen from genetically modified insect-
resistant corn caused increased mortality rates in the caterpillars of
monarch butterflies. The caterpillars didn’t eat the corn, but they did
eat milkweed plants and experts fear the pollen was blown from the
corn onto the milkweed, transferring the toxins from the genetically
modified plant to a plant that was never intended to be altered in any
way.  However, much controversy exists surrounding this study and
data from reexaminations by the United States Department of
Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency suggest the
research was flawed.  

Another big concern is the possible growth of “superweeds” as a
consequence of the cross-breeding of genetically engineered plants
and weeds. These superweeds would be tolerant to herbicide – a
potential disaster for farms. The risk doesn’t only apply to plants. A
2011 study from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada
reported that if genetically modified Atlantic salmon were allowed to
escape from captivity they could pass their genes onto wild salmon.

Allergies and Organ Damage?

Genetically modified crops do not only affect insects, animals and the
ecosystem, they may also harm humans. It seems that more and
more people suffer from allergies these days -- could genetically
modified food be the culprit?

A 1996 study from the University of Nebraska showed that an
allergen from a food known to be allergenic could be transferred into
another food by genetic engineering. The study concerned the
transfer of a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans, a plan which was
eventually abandoned after the study showed people with nut
allergies could have an allergic reaction to the genetically modified

Could genetically modified foods have an adverse effect on human

A 1999 study from the University of Aberdeen, UK showed rats fed
genetically modified potatoes suffered problems with their digestive
tracts, as compared to rats that were fed non-genetically modified
potatoes. A 2010 study from the University of Rouen and the
University of Caen, France reported that genetically modified corn
was linked with organ damage in rats.

This genetically modified corn was approved for human consumption
but caused deterioration in rats’ kidney and liver function as well as
effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells. According to a 2008
study from the University of Vienna, genetically modified food
damages fertility.

The research found that genetically modified corn negatively affected
the fertility of corn-fed mice, which produced fewer offspring in the
third and fourth generation than the mice fed on non-genetically
modified food. Opponents of genetically modified foods say we
simply do not know if humans are also being affected by these
genetically modified crops.

Are Genetically Modified Foods Dangerous?

When faced with the data presented by researchers claiming
genetically modified food causes health damage to rats, opponents
respond with claims that the research is flawed. Supporters of
genetically modified crops and animals say the potential problem of
superweeds and cross-breeding can be solved by either creating
genetically modified plants that do not produce pollen (and
producing only male fish) or by modifying the plant so that the pollen
doesn’t include the modified gene. Building buffer zones around
fields containing genetically modified crops is another solution.

On the whole, scientists and experts are agreed that genetically
modified foods are safe for us to eat. A 2010 report from the
European Commission Directorate-General for Research and
Innovation stated that genetically modified crops are no riskier than
conventional plant breeding technologies.

Research from the University of Queensland, Australia in 2008
reported that genetically modified plants and food were safe and that
the benefits outweighed any risks.

A 2011 study from the University of Zurich found the impact of
genetically modified wheat plants on insects and non-target plants
was negligible.

Genetically modified crops have been cultivated since 1996 in the
United States and there have been no proven adverse health effects,
or effects on the environment, according to the United States
National Research Council and the European Union Joint Research

A 2008 review published by the Royal Society of Medicine, UK carried
out by St George's University of London noted that genetically
modified foods have been eaten by millions of people across the
world for over 15 years, with no proven reports of ill effects. (Read
more in our center on
Dangerous Foods.)

Rise of the Super-sized Salmon

But that is not to say that every new genetically modified food will be
the same. Nowhere is the debate more heated than in the
controversy surrounding new super-sized salmon. Genetically
engineered salmon are a cross between two different salmon species
and are designed to produce growth hormone all year round, rather
than only in the spring and summer. The Food and Drug
Administration failed to reach a conclusion in 2010 on whether
genetically modified salmon was safe for consumers or the fish. In
2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved the salmon amid
intense controversy.

How can we tell what the consequences of the next gene experiment
will be? Because genetic modification involves changing the natural
make-up of plants and animals, many experts believe it can never be
called completely safe.

A 2009 study from the Coordinación de Nutrición, Centro de
Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo, Hermosillo, Mexico noted
that although genetically modified foods are not toxic to animals and
humans, some studies report negative changes at a cellular level that
require more scientific effort and investigation. And if it cannot be
proven to be entirely safe, these experts say, the technology should
be treated with caution. Many people go on to say foods should not
be genetically modified until long-term research has been carried out.

Related:        Hormones in Your Food-Health Dangers

            Diet Sodas -Bad for Your Health?

           Swollen Ankles -Causes and Cures

           Massage Lowers Your Blood Pressure!-New Study

          Unclog Your Arteries --Top 10 Natural Remedies

          Fainting or Blacking Out-Causes
          and Top 10 Natural Cures

          Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics

          Foods That Lower Your Cholesterol

          Blood Pressure --What It Means

          Ideal Weight for Women

          Normal Waist Size for Men and Women


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Almost 88% of corn sold in the
US is genetically-modified.