Unless agricultural science changes course, expect to see more tree genes in your bananas and frog DNA in your rice and tomatoes.
Researchers are always seeking ways to improve our food supply. They look for ways to optimize the production of the plants and animals we consume.
Much if this research has concentrated on modifying organisms so that they are pest resistant, herbicide tolerant, disease resistant, cold tolerant, drought tolerant, more nutritious and capable of significantly increasing yield over their purely natural or organic counterparts.
This has led to tinkering at the genetic level, attempting to infuse one organism with the positive traits of another. And it is not simply crossing plums with apricots to produce plumcots; it includes using DNA from animals to modify plants.
In the case of foodstuffs, “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) have been legally defined by the European Union as any organism, plant or animal, that has had its genetic material “changed in a way that does not occur under natural conditions through cross-breeding or natural recombination.”
But are such changes safe? Should we be concerned about GMOs?
The sad fact is that genetically modified foods have not yet been adequately investigated. There are many concerns regarding potential health risks such as allergies arising along with other unknown effects on human health.
There are also environmental threats to consider. Causing an imbalance in the natural order of organisms could cause unintended harm to other organisms. It could also reduce the effectiveness of existing pesticides on harmful insects when they consume genetically modified crops.
Whatever the advantages and disadvantages of GMOs may be, literally thousands of processed foods are already sitting on supermarket shelves that contain genetically modified ingredients. The contents include genetically modified soybeans, rapeseed, maize, sugar beets and GM microorganisms used to create enzymes, vitamins, flavor enhancers and more.
The beef you eat and milk you drink is likely to have come from cows that were raised on genetically modified feed. Some products, such as baked goods, can contain half a dozen GM ingredients, from soy flour to glutamate, ascorbic acid, vegetable oil and more.
Although we are still unaware of the long-term effects of GMOs, in many parts of the world it is still not necessary to identify GM ingredients on labels. The only sure way to avoid GMOs is to go completely organic—something our cavemen ancestors did quite naturally.
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