Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are a controversial topic that continues to cause much debate in the world. There are many dangers associated with genetically modified foods and if you are going to choose one of the genetically modified foods, you should consider the following:

Bioengineered foods are just that—engineered. The modification of organisms to produce a desired trait is how all crops are made, and it’s quite controversial when people question the safety of foods made with genetic modification. Many people don’t understand the difference between GMO foods and traditional foods made with genetic engineering, so they assume that the foods are all the same.

If you are like 60% of Americans, you probably think you have never eaten genetically modified (GM) food. Think about it. Genetically modified foods are ubiquitous in our food supply. That’s what it is and why it should interest you.


Behind the salad, they can rent tomatoes that have been genetically modified to stay fresh, firm and juicy without losing their flavor. Or lettuce enriched with the genes responsible for broccoli’s nutritional richness. Or a dressing based on rapeseed oil, which like olive oil is low in saturated fatty acids.

As an appetizer, the eminent biologists were treated to pork from pigs that had been injected with recombinant growth hormones that reduce fat content by a third. Corn has been manipulated to produce a poison that protects it from pests. Even bread is made from recombinant wheat, a variety enriched with genes for gluten proteins previously found only in elite varieties.

The dessert is not death by chocolate, but immortality by banana, which delivers a delicious dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

From Science News, by Steve Sternberg

What are genetically modified foods?

When scientists alter the genetic structure of a plant or animal to obtain beneficial properties in an organism, they perform what is known as genetic modification (GM).

The resulting product is a genetically modified organism (GMO). GMOs are a form of food biotechnology.

The fundamentals of food biotechnology have been used for thousands of years. It can be traced back to 4000 BC. The first time this happened was in Mesopotamia, where fermentation and malting were commonplace. Breeders have long selected animals for certain desirable traits, such as size or temperament.

But with the advent of genetic engineering, scientists now cut genes from microbes, plants and even animals using restriction enzyme technology and insert them into the plant genome to create new traits, such as… B. Resistance to herbicides or insects. Therefore, genetic engineering is also called recombinant DNA technology (rDNA), transgenic technology or bioengineering.

A gene that prevents beans from rotting could be inserted into tomatoes. The result is a tomato that looks and tastes like an unmodified tomato, but is resistant to rot. Most genetically modified products are developed to make them resistant to pests, diseases or herbicides.

Monsanto Corporation is responsible for nearly 90% of the world’s transgenic traits.

The GMOs approved in the United States are the following:

Herbicide resistance

Maize, soya, cotton, rape, rice, alfalfa, beetroot, flax…

Insect resistance

Maize, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes

Sterile pollen

Maize, chicory

Virus resistance

Papaya, zucchini, plum

Delayed ripening


Modified oil

Rapeseed, soybeans

Protein composition


Tobacco with reduced nicotine

Why are genetically modified foods so important?

As you can see from the graph below, the number of genetically modified crops is increasing worldwide.

GM products are developed and marketed because of their advantages over non-GM products, including

  • Better taste, nutritional value and quality
  • Higher profits for agricultural producers
  • Resistance to viruses and insects
  • Herbicide resistance
  • Increasing food yields to fight world hunger

The opponents believe that genetically modified products go against Mother Nature. Indeed, the organic food sector prohibits its products from containing more than 5% GMOs.

Farmers fear GMOs will destroy sustainable agriculture and create superweeds. Biologists in particular are concerned about the emergence of monocultures – the dominance of a single species. Monocultures can destroy biodiversity and are more prone to massive crop failures: If a crop becomes susceptible to a pest or microorganism, there are no other varieties to fill the gap.

It is also feared that a variety of native species adapted to each microclimate and region will be lost. For example, there are an estimated 50,000 different maize varieties (!) in gene banks around the world. There are as many unique varieties of potatoes, rice and wheat that have evolved in a particular ecosystem and have been carefully cultivated for generations around the world.

Those interested in solving world hunger argue that genetically modified food is not an ethical way to solve hunger, because it contradicts the values and livelihoods of the people most affected by it. In addition, some argue that current food crops are sufficient to meet human needs, but due to animals’ dependence on food, they are not properly distributed. The data showed that yields of genetically modified crops were not consistently higher than those of conventional crops and that more herbicides had to be used.

Several animal studies have pointed to the health risks of consuming genetically modified foods, including

  • Infertility
  • Disturbance of the immune system
  • Accelerated ageing
  • Changes in genes related to cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling and protein formation.
  • Changes in the liver, kidneys, spleen and intestines.

Other problems related to genetically modified food include


Imagine if scientists inserted the gene for Brazilian nuts into the soybean gene to increase the protein content. What happens if someone has a severe allergy to Brazil nuts? Some say the result could be fatal.


Can genes from genetically modified plants contaminate conventional plants? Some say it is. This could jeopardise food security and sustainability.

US farmers recently filed a class action lawsuit against Bayer AG after the US Department of Agriculture announced in August 2006 that traces of Bayer’s genetically modified rice had been found in commercial long grain rice in the US. Similar cases have occurred in Canada and elsewhere in the world in crops such as canola and corn.

Development of genetically modified foods

In the early 1990s, transgenic plants and animals began to emerge. A gene that speeds up the ripening process is blocked in a tomato variety called Flavr Savr. By blocking this gene, the quality of the tomato can be maintained over a longer period of time. This made harvesting easier and increased the area available for spreading.

Genetic modifications have also occurred in the animal population. Genetically modified bovine somatotropin (rBST) is used to increase milk production in cows. For more information on rbST, see All About Milk.

The growing popularity of rDNA methods in the late 1970s led to a debate in Congress over public safety. In the 1980s it was decided that DNA was DNA, regardless of the source.

In the United States, the four principles were established in 1986:

  1. The existing laws are sufficient to regulate.
  2. The Regulation applies to products, not to the processes by which they were developed.
  3. Safety must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Agencies should coordinate their regulatory efforts. This new system applies to medicines and foodstuffs.

This requires cooperation between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

I wish you luck. I can’t even get my nephews to pick up their dirty socks.

What you should know about genetically modified foods

As shown in the figure below, a survey in the United States found that 60% of those surveyed believe they have never eaten genetically modified food.

This is unlikely since it is estimated that up to 70% of all foods sold in conventional grocery stores in the US contain genetically modified foods. 80% of the corn and 92% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. Genetically modified beets will account for over 90% of the sugar beet crop in the US this year.

The idea of using animal genes in plant products has been considered. In 1991, a company developed a tomato with a modified gene from a variety of Arctic bones. This was done to make the tomato more resistant to frost and cold storage. The tomatoes were not a success and no one ever ate tomatoes with fish genes. However, this raises concerns about fish allergies and poses an ethical dilemma for those who prefer not to eat animals.

A brief history of food biotechnology

The domestication of animals in ancient Egypt

  • 4000 V. CHR. Classical biotechnology: In the Middle East, dairy farming developed; the Egyptians used yeast for baking sourdough bread and making wine.
  • 2000 V. CHR. The Egyptians, Sumerians and Chinese developed methods of fermentation, brewing and cheese making.
  • 1500 A.D. Acidic cooking methods have led to the creation of sauerkraut and yogurt, two examples of the use of beneficial bacteria to flavor and preserve food. The Aztecs make cakes from spirulina algae.
  • 1861 г. French chemist Louis Pasteur developed pasteurization – the preservation of food by heating it to kill harmful microbes.
  • 1879 William James Beale creates the first experimental hybrid corn.
  • 1910 American biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan discovers that genes are located on chromosomes.
  • 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick describe the double helix of DNA.
  • 1982 The first genetically engineered product, human insulin, produced by Eli Lilly and Company from E. coli bacteria, is licensed for use in diabetes.
  • 1986 First release of a genetically modified plant (tobacco) into the environment.
  • 1990 Pfizer Inc. markets Chymosin Chymax, an enzyme for cheese production, the first product based on recombinant DNA technology in the U.S. food industry. The first successful field trial of herbicide-resistant genetically modified cotton was conducted in the United States.
  • 1993 After nearly 10 years of research and political wrangling, the FDA approves Monstanto Co.’s rBGH/rBST version to increase milk production.1994 Calgene, Inc. launches FLAVRSAVR, the first genetically modified whole food product in the U.S.
  • 1996 Genetically modified soybeans with herbicide tolerance are available in the US.
  • 2003 Japanese researchers develop a caffeine-free biotech coffee bean.
  • 2006 Genetically modified rice is approved for human consumption in the US.
  • 2007The USDA approved the planting of 11 new pharmaceutical or industrial genetically modified crops.

Summary and recommendations

GM is a young phenomenon with many unanswered questions. Inserting genes into other genomes can lead to unexpected results. Moreover, the long-term effects of GM crops are unknown and may be severe and irreversible.

If genetic engineering were truly based on the common good and not on corporate profits, sustainable agriculture could use genetic engineering as a supporting element rather than as a main element.

To determine if you are eating genetically modified food, use the PLU code. (It’s on that annoying little sticker you always have to pick off before eating fruits and vegetables).

Labels starting with 9 indicate an organic product

Marks beginning with 4 or 3 indicate a normal situation

Markers starting with 8 indicate GM


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Weasel LH. Food Fray. Amacom. 2009.

Organic Consumers Association.

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Falk MC, et al. Biotechnology in food: Benefits and concerns. J Nutr 2002;132:1384-1390.

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Finamore A, et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON 810 maize consumption in weaned and aged mice. J Agric Food Chem 2008;56:11533-11539.

Malatesta M, et al. A long-term study in female mice fed genetically modified soybeans: Effects on the aging of the liver. Histochem Cell Biol 2008;130:967-977.

Ewen S, Pustzai A. Effect of a diet containing genetically modified potato expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on the small intestine of rats. Lancet 1999;354:1353-1354.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 common foods that are genetically modified?

Corn, soybeans, canola oil, sugar beets and cottonseed oil.

What is bad about genetically modified food?

Genetically modified food is not good for the environment. It can cause a lot of harm to the ecosystem and it can also cause health problems.

What is in genetically modified foods?

Genetically modified foods are foods that have been altered in a laboratory to contain genes from other organisms. These genes may be from bacteria, viruses, plants or animals. Genetically modified foods are not the same as organic food, which is produced without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

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