GM Foods – Definition, Popularity, Side Effects, and More
GM foods refer to genetically modified products that underwent biological engineering to change their DNA in order to gain specific traits.
In the field of the food industry, experts add genes to crops for a variety of reasons, including the promotion of growth, additional nutritional value, prolonging sustainability, and neutralizing pests.
Interestingly, we can give natural foods the desirable traits listed above; however, the process takes several generations.
In this article, we will discuss the reason being the sudden increase in the popularity of GM foods, some examples of GM foods, and the side effects of consuming these products.
Epidemiology of GM foods
In the United States, GM crops are incredibly common, with more than 90% of soy, cotton, and corn involved in some form of genetic techniques.
According to estimates, 80% of all foods in supermarkets contain at least one ingredient that comes from genetically modified crops.
Despite the facilitations that come with GM crops, there are always some concerns about the potential side effects of these products on human health and the environment.
For instance, people often question the sudden rise in the popularity of GM foods, which were completely non-existent in the recent past. The reason behind the popularity of these methods is due to how inconvenient it is for farmers to use the resistant crops without having to worry about the harmful effects of other weeds or herbicides.
The potential side effects of GM foods
While current research ensures the safety of GM foods, there are some concerns about the long-term safety of these products, as well as their effects on the environment.
Some of these concerns include:
Many people express their concern about the potential role of GM foods in triggering allergic reactions.
The logic behind this concern boils down to the presence of foreign genes that translate to several proteins. As a result, the body may consider these compounds to be foreign and launches an immune reaction.
In one study, researchers found that adding a protein extracted from Brazil nuts to GM soybeans triggers an allergic reaction in individuals with known Brazil nut allergy. Fortunately, this discovery made scientists abandon adding new elements to foods, especially the ones with allergenic potential.
Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that researchers involved in the development of GM foods run several experiments to make sure that there are no allergens in the new crops.
The risk of cancer
Similar to allergies, there seems to be a common concern about the carcinogenic effect of GM foods.
Since cancer is the result of a genetic mutation affecting the DNA, many people fear that eating GM foods that have altered DNA can influence their own genes.
Perhaps this concern stems from an early study done on mice, which found a connection between GM food intake and a higher risk of dying from cancer. However, the authors of this study retracted their findings due to the poor design of the study.
Today, there is no reliable clinical research that links GM food intake to any type of cancer but please do your own research.
In fact, the American Cancer Society stated that GM foods have no relationship with cancer and that their consumption is completely safe.
With all of that said, we currently do not possess any long-term human studies that allow us to undoubtedly confirm the safety of GM foods. This warrants more research.
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Examples of GM foods
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approves the following GM crops:
- Sugar beet
Whole foods Vs. GM foods
Scientists constantly debate about which diet is the best and the questionable benefits of a certain product or substance. However, the superiority of whole foods seems to have a consensus in the scientific community.
In general, people think of whole food as a type of diet; however, nutrition experts suggest thinking about this as a lifestyle rather than simple food choices.
Switching to whole foods means you will exclude all unhealthy chemicals found in your diet, including processed foods, refined sugars, and GM ingredients. You will be left with nothing but healthy, fresh food.
Moreover, whole foods offer your body all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Check out our other articles about the role of vitamins in your health here.
Consuming whole foods provides you with several health benefits, including weight loss, decreased risk of heart disease, lower risk of cancer and age-related cognitive decline, and improved symptoms of diabetes.
This list is by no means comprehensive. However, discussing all the health benefits of whole foods is beyond the scope of this article (it will require a whole book!).
For more information about the positive health effects of whole foods, check out this article written by The Permanente Journal.
You may notice that most of the studies that support these health benefits had vegan subjects as participants. This is because vegans tend to have a healthier lifestyle and choose their food more carefully relative to non-vegans.
How to find non-GM foods
GM foods have been around in the U.S. since the 1990s.
Unfortunately, there is currently no clear way to tell the difference between natural and GM ingredients.
The good news is that some new regulations are expected to come out soon, which will help the consumer identify any food product that has GM ingredients.
While many health organizations around the world confirmed the safety of GM, having the option to choose whether or not to consume these products is still valuable.
Genetically modified foods are always a controversial topic that raises solid arguments from both sides.
Hopefully, this article managed to shed some light on the different aspects of GM foods and their potential role in promoting and harming our health.
If you still have any questions, concerns, or a personal story about GM foods, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.