Are You Afraid of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

Fear of GMO

November 4, 2014   56 Comments

I have chosen to be silent on this issue for a variety of reasons.

I like to remain peaceful and friendly. The topic of GMOs tends to make people frustrated, fearful, and argumentative. I hope we can remain respectful of each other’s opinions.

Another reason my lips have been sealed is that I am a trained biologist in the field of genetics. I have actually genetically modified bacteria in a laboratory as part of my job. Obviously, if I thought it was an evil thing to do, I wouldn’t have done it.

There may be a bunch of political and economic reasons to be against GMOs but I want to talk about food safety and whether the label “Non-GMO” is important to your health.

Probably all of the food you eat is genetically modified.

Almost all of the animals and plants used for food have been genetically modified by humans. We chose to breed apples that are bigger, cows that produce more milk, and wheat that produces many pounds per acre. Selective breeding has been going on since before recorded history.

But, this wouldn't be the "FrankenFoods" that everyone is afraid of (or we would all starve to death).

Genetically modified organisms (as defined by the labels on food), are plants or animals that have their genome altered by a modern technology (versus selective breeding). These techniques started in the 1970’s – much after the start of recorded history.

The reasons for using molecular techniques in crops are varied. Reducing pesticide use, increasing yield, drought resistance, and adding nutrients (such as adding vitamin A to rice) are all reasons scientists add or delete genes.

What do these genetic changes mean to your health? I would argue that since the genetic material moves through your gut (acid, acid, acid) - it would never make it into your cells (altering you). You digest it into wee particles that cannot hurt you.

From Scientific American:

….people have consumed as many as trillions of meals containing genetically modified ingredients over the past few decades. Not a single verified case of illness has ever been attributed to the genetic alterations.

Of course, maybe there have been unverified cases but I think there are much more SCARY and pressing issues than GMO’s in our food system.

What do I think is cause for concern? E. Coli tainted food is a big fear of mine. I cook my meat to the correct temperatures and stay away from steam tables at cut-rate buffets. I wash my vegetables, my cutting boards, and my hands.

Yes, I am afraid of antibiotic resistant E. Coli (10-20 thousand cases per year) and if you are not taking precautions against this potentially deadly bacterium – you should (CDC recommendations for prevention of E. Coli infection).

I do agree that genetically altering a plant or animal sounds like "playing God". But, the results are nothing to fear.

What do you think of GMOs? Do you avoid them?

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First 20 Comments: [ see all 56 ]

Around six months ago I began eating only organic/natural foods,nothing with GMO's Since than my diabetes and blood pressure have become within healthy range. I don't think it is just GMOs but I can't help but think that GMOs were part of the problem.

on November 4, 2014

Good morning, Lisa,
Would love your take on what the genetically modified plants are doing in the field. Lots of reports on that, which also has to do with our eating in the future!! Thank you for thinking on this.

on November 4, 2014

Very well said.

on November 4, 2014

I think you have presented a balanced approach to where we find ourselves in food production. We have to survive lots of marketing and make the best choices for ourselves, so keep it realistic and simple.

on November 4, 2014

Thank you for a reasonable and measured response to the GMO question. If it were not for Generically Modified food in the U.S., we would not be able to feed our population. And you correctly point out the consumption of genetically modified foods have never been linked to any illness, I think that the mass marketing machine has generated an unfounded hysteria, based on bad science and terms like "Franken food" I agree that antibiotic resistant e.coli and other foodborne pathogens present a much greater threat to our current food supply.And to answer your question, no I do not avoid products that are produced from GMO's and believe that it is unrealistic to think you can avoid GMO's in the US.

on November 4, 2014

I appreciate your non-partisan opinion. However, to say that we would not be able to feed our population without GMO's is a reach. There is documented proof by those against GMO's that shows crop production of GMO's is not higher than non-GMO's and in some cases, significantly less.

I would also argue that as a society, we did not have the level of food allergies 50 years ago, that we have today. I am a school teacher and in EVERY class I have, I have one student or another who has some kind of food allergy (peanuts, berries, shellfish, etc). Something has drastically changed in our food supply.

Lastly, proponents of GMO's always say that GMO's are safe and there is nothing to worry about, yet want to restrict my rights to know if my food is made with GMO's. If your product is as safe as you say it is, allow labeling and allow the consumer to make that decision.

It is awfully arrogant of man to think we can do a better job than Mother Nature.

on November 4, 2014

I second everything Phillip said. However for me it's _mostly_ not a fear of GMOs, but a fear of the pesticides they allow, like with the new "agent orange" crops. Hard to tell which factor causes what, honestly, but it's pretty clear that at least a lot of the pesticides are awful for the earth and for us, so I stick to organic when I can.

on November 4, 2014

Genetic modification and pesticide use are two distinct issues. (In fact, genetic modification has led to less use of pesticides in some types cases.) If you wish to avoid pesticides,educate yourself, you can reduce pesticide expose in those fruits and vegetables that the chemical can get into the flesh through buying organic and wash your fruits and vegetables before consumption.

on November 4, 2014

I'm not afraid of GMO food ingredients. But I am afraid of what the modification is. Roundup ready corn seed doesn't sound like something I want my body to have to figure out how to digest. Added hormones, pesticides, herbicides and who knows what else are not meant to be in everything we eat. Not to mention, the gmo seed is proprietary to the big business that created it. Thereby making it illegal for the farmer to save some of "his"seed to plant next year. This just makes big business bigger and the small farmer smaller.
I also agree that all foods with GMO's should be labeled. Let the consumer decide.

on November 4, 2014

Yes, could you comment on what you think of Round-up ready corn and BT modified corn?

Cross breeding is different from gene-splicing.

on November 4, 2014

I do wonder whether genetic modification is causing the foods we eat to trigger the food allergy phenomenon today. One of my children has a life-threatening peanut allergy, the other child has oral allergy syndrome and reacts to many foods. We adopted both children, so they do not share genes, but something in their environments or birth parents' genes has set them up for this. Could it be the foods we have 'created' through science?

on November 4, 2014

I wholeheartedly agree with Margaret about the "big business" (Monsanto, Cargill, ADM controlling our food supply through their "patented" GMO creations, even to the point of suing family farms whose fields are accidently pollinated by neighboring GMO crops. I am also concerned about the effect these crops have on the rest of the environment. Some studies suggest that plants that have been genetically engineered pesticides may be the reason for the die-off of our honeybees - which could have a devastating effect on our food supply.

on November 4, 2014

So many people are getting Cancer and Thyroid disease today that because GMO's are ingested by everyone I feel it is possible it could be one of the causes.

on November 4, 2014

No. Not afraid of GMO foods. I also don't worry about buying "organic" foods.

I'm not bothered by other people's opinions on that topic, even if their opinion is not mine. Everyone has the right to believe how they wish and buy foods that meet their personal needs.

on November 4, 2014

Also, the profit-motivated engineering of crops to produce sterile seeds so that farmers need to buy new every year is IMO, a recipe for potential disaster and possible famine

on November 4, 2014

I'm more concerned with the type of pesticides used vs GMO's. I do wonder if it's the pesticides or gmo's or maybe even something else that we are doing different with the production of our foods that is contributing to the influx of allergies and/or food sensitivities. I'm 37 & I don't ever recall hearing of anyone close to me having gluten sensitivies or peanut allergies. Maybe they did exist then as well but it wasn't as sensationalized to a point to where my school would forbid nuts & products containing nuts.
As a few others have already mentioned,I do agree GMO's should be labeled for those that may want to know. As simeone said before if there is nothing wrong with GMO's why be so defensive in not labeling it as such?

on November 4, 2014

Never really thought about whether or not I am geting GMO's in my diet. I suppose I am because I use a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables when I cook my food the old-fashioned way (takes time) and use as little processed food (takes no time) as possible in my diet.

on November 4, 2014

I think genetically modified foods should be labeled so that people can make the decision to buy them or not without having to thoroughly research a company. If there is nothing wrong with them, they shouldn't have a problem with people knowing. I never thought about gmos in relation to the rise in food allergies until I read some of the previous comments. Does anyone know if there is a higher percentage of people with allergies or is just a higher number? The population has grown exponentially even in the last half century. I'm most concerned about how the body digests gmos vs. non-modified food and the decline in the honey bee population.

on November 4, 2014

Personally, my issue with GMO is less of a nutrition one and more of an environmental one. GMO can be a good thing and there are several products created that are beneficial. However, the typical use of GMOs in the US tend to be less towards increasing health benefits and more towards increasing crop yields.

on November 4, 2014

Please watch this movie, OMG GMOs, and then tell us what you think. We are avoiding GMOs whenever possible as a result of research shown in this movie as well as the economic implications created by GMO seed for poor countries:,d.cGE

I will be watching for your review. I checked it out from our local library.

on November 4, 2014

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