Genetically Modified Organisms / GMOs

gmos.pngYou may have heard the heard in recent years the term GMOs. GMOs stand for genetically modified organisms, and these are animal and plant genes that have been altered by science to provide more favorable outcomes such as more colorful fruits, sweeter fruits, increase in crop, milk and egg production. There are many debates on whether GMOs are safe for human consumption, and many think it may be harmful for your health in the long run. Nearly half of the people surveyed by the Pew Research Center believe that GMOs should probably not be eaten. But what do scientist think? Nine out of ten scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science believe that GMOs are safe to consume and that there is no reason to worry.

Although genetically changing genes may sound unnatural, these changes in genes happen in nature over time. The genes in certain plants and animals are responsible for their traits and characteristics. Over time, the most useful traits that help both animals and plants survive are passed down and become common while the least useful genes are lost. Humans have been speeding up this process for many years. For example in animals, the most favorable animals were paired and bred to make improved and better offspring. Today’s scientist speed up this process on crops by altering the seed’s DNA with radiation or certain chemicals. They may also seek a desired trait such as drought survival, or resistance to certain viruses by taking a gene from a different plant, virus or bacteria and transferring it to the crop to obtain the desired trait.

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Common GMOs (Photo courtesy: discover.monsanto.com)

So why exactly do scientist try to alter the genes of plants and animals? They do this for many reasons but some include adding extra vitamins and minerals to certain foods, boosting omega-3-fatty acids in meats, have crops yield more and cost less to produce. Altering foods can help feed more people, reduce certain nutritional deficiencies and reduce food costs.

Due to these changes and transferring of genes, many think that GMO foods are harmful. Many people are uneasy with the idea that food may be deliberately altered in a lab, and view this as unnatural. Scientist have done extensive research as to whether or not GMOs negatively affect human health and have not found any clear impact on human health. Another thought by some is that GMOs may not have the same nutritional value as non-GMO foods.

Did you know that you are most likely eating GMOs? Approximately 80% of processed foods contain GMOs. Corn and beets are used to make many foods and are GMO crops. Corn is the source for cornstarch, while beets are the main source of the sugar found in processed foods. Also, close to 90% of GMOs grown are used as animal feed. Studies have shown that the animals fed with GMOs are just as healthy as animals who have been fed non-GMO feed.

For those who are still not to convinced that GMOs are safe then they can shop and look for foods labeled as “certified organic,” and “USDA organic.” Normally this would include only fresh and unprocessed foods. These tags though are not always checked by the government and are tagged on trusting that the farmers are truthful. Although foods can be tested for pesticides and similar chemicals, there is no real test to make sure a food is organic.

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Created by: Ricardo Blanco, Texas Tech Graduate Student
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD   mindy.diller@ttu.edu 

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