Farmers have been selectively breeding plants for thousands of years. They have done so to make them tastier, bigger, or hardier.
Technology has moved part of this process out of the farmer’s field and into the scientist’s lab. Now plants like corn and soybeans can be changed by changing certain genes.
Like many people, you may wonder if these foods are safe to eat. A recent report looked closely at the scientific evidence to date. Read on to learn the facts about these foods.
What are GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants that scientists have changed in a lab. They have not been changed by traditional plant science.
That works by choosing good traits, such as disease resistance, over many generations of a plant. This can work well.
But breeding a plant for one trait over time may change other unrelated genes. These changes may not be what the farmer wants.
Genetic engineering, or biotechnology, is more specific. Scientists can now replace or change one gene in a lab to make a new plant.
They can directly change the plant’s DNA for a trait that is wanted. These methods have been around since the 1970s. But such foods have been sold only since the mid-1990s.
Scientists often change plants to protect them. For example, much of the corn grown in the U.S. today is now more resistant to insects. As a result, farmers don’t have to use as much pesticide.
Plants may also be changed to protect them from viruses, bacteria, or other threats. Some have even been changed to make them taste better or have more nutrients.
Are GMOs safe?
Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on genetically engineered crops. This group of leading scientists gives independent advice to the nation on science topics.
The group looked at all the research on GMOs. They spoke to more than 80 experts. They also took comments and questions from the public and groups concerned about GMOs.
In the report, the scientists covered many aspects about genetically engineered crops. They looked at how they may affect the environment and society.
They also focused on human health. From their review, they found that these foods are safe to eat. Animal studies have shown no ill effects.
And more important, these foods have not been linked to higher rates of any diseases. That includes cancer, diabetes, celiac disease, and autism.
To further ensure safety, the FDA regulates all genetically engineered plants. Like any other type of food, these plants must be shown to be safe.
The FDA works with companies who make these foods to make sure that they aren’t toxic and that they don’t have any allergens. They must also be as nutritious as foods created through more traditional means.
The bottom line: The debate about GMOs can be complex and cause for argument. But in terms of human health, research to date shows they pose no risk.
News source: Vanderbilt Health. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
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