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What Are GMOs, and Should I Be Worried About Them?

GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organism. GMOs are crops or animals whose DNA has been artificially altered in order to improve one or more traits. They could not have evolved or mutated naturally to achieve this change. In many cases, foreign DNA is injected into the organism. Today, the majority of corn and soy in the US are genetically modified, after their DNA was altered to withstand certain pests and herbicides.

While this scientific feat is quite amazing, GMOs pose several challenges:

  • GMOs have not been proven safe for humans over the long term.

  • GMOs have not necessarily decreased the use of pesticides or herbicides. In some cases, pesticide use and toxicity has increased.

  • GMOs are patented and pose ethical issues pertaining to corporate control of the global food supply.

Awareness of the existence of GMOs has grown in recent years, with many consumer groups calling for clear labeling of food products containing genetically modified ingredients. According to Consumer Reports, over 70% of Americans would like to know if their food contains GMOs. What seems to be a basic consumer right - to know what is in your food - has so far been ignored.

Legislation attempts in several states have failed, mostly due to heavy campaigning by food companies and the biotech industry. In July 2016, Congress passed a bill that includes a "National bioengineered food disclosure standard", which lets food manufacturers decide if they want to provide a GMO disclosure as text written on the product package, or to provide a 2 dimensional QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone and lead to information site online. Since most people won't bother to scan every product for GMO info, this law is practically meaningless for the general public.

Bottom Line

Whether GMOs are safe or not is still a hotly debated matter. What should not be debated is consumers' right to know what's in their food.

Supermarket Tip

Use your Fooducate app to find GMOs in your food. Go to the app settings screen, and in the GOAL tab, make sure to turn "WARN ME ABOUT GMOs" to ON.

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