What if scientists could insert gene material from a bacterium that destroys certain types of caterpillars or insects directly into a plant? Sound like some weird science experiment of the future? It’s here today in the form of genetically modified foods.
- A genetically modified food is one that’s been altered at the cellular level, typically by introducing gene material from another organism into the plant.
- Proponents say that genetically modified foods need fewer pesticides and less water and fertilizer. They’re designed to produce higher yields and can often be grown in poor, salty soil or hot, dry conditions. Numerous studies over the last 40 years show GMOs to be safe.
- Some GMOs are more nutritious. One type of rice, for example, contains as much vitamin A as spinach. This might not seem like a big deal, but for people living in underdeveloped countries facing malnutrition, blindness, and even death from a lack of vitamin A, such a food could be life changing and even lifesaving.
- Proponents argue that GMO foods could help solve the problem of world hunger. Unfortunately, many countries in which people face chronic hunger have banned GMOs.
- Critics of GMOs point to several studies that show GMO foods might cause serious health problems, including cancer, developmental delays, or infertility. Several of these studies were poorly designed and executed.
- Even so, most European countries have banned all or at least some GMO foods. Following their example, many countries in Asia and Africa have banned GMO foods, even though people in these countries are in desperate need of food.
- The U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina grow the vast majority of the world’s GMO foods.
Questions and Answers
Question: What should be done about GMO foods? Should I eat them?
Answer: Many people believe that we should take a moderate approach to GMO foods by continuing to allow their production, but increasing research on long-term safety. In the meantime, try to eat a varied diet of foods that include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that contain additives and preservatives, e.g., junk food.
Read an article that explains more about genetically modified foods.