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GMO Foods

GMO Foods

Most individuals fail to realize that foods that contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), such as corn, tomatoes, eggplants and apples have been inherent in our food supply for many years. Our ignorance is due to the fact that GMOs do not have to be labeled as so because they have been determined to be “identical” to its “organic” counterparts. In 2012, California was the first state to push for mandatory labeling on foods that contain GMO. That means when the consumer reads the product label on tomato sauce, for example, to find the pertinent nutrition information, place of origin, or ingredients, they will be able to see a sign that tells them that the tomatoes were genetically modified. The bill failed to go through, though, due to the heavy lobbying by food companies. Unfortunately, this puts the consumers right back where they started, ignorant, misinformed and confused about the potential dangers of genetically modified foods.

GMOs are altered from their traditional strains by insertion of a foreign strand of genetic material. For example, the FlavrSavr tomatoes produced by Calgenein the 1970s had an anti-sense strand of RNA inserted that inhibited the translation of a protein that stimulates the ripening of the tomatoes. As a result, the genetically modified tomatoes had a longer shelf life. The FlavrSavr tomatoes were the first GMO products brought to market. Subsequently, many other crops were genetically modified to increase herbicide and pesticide resistance. The main goals of designing GMOs is to increase crop yields and extend shelf life, thereby decreasing the price and increasing supply.

So far, scientists have permitted the continuation of GMOs because there has been no substantial scientific research that confirms the dangers of GMOs. However, it has been established that with the increasing production of GMOs, there is also increasing usage of herbicides by farmers and plants can also become pesticide-resistant overtime. Proponents of GMOs highlight the economic benefits of GMOs as well as their alleged safety by pointing out that GMOshave been heavily tested for allergenicity and toxicity. However, they are seeking concrete detrimental evidence for a phenomenon that only has been around for approximately three decades. The actual threats surrounding GMOs may take hundreds of years to manifest, because the effects may well be invisible to the naked eye and are free of detectable symptoms.

The gut microbiota has been an increasingly popular field in the past decade due to the recent scientific discoveries linking the gut microbiota to immunity, brain function, diabetes and digestion. The effect of GMOs on the gut microbiota has not been studied yet, and it is plausible that there could be gene flow between GMO crops and the gut microbiota. The reasoning is that just like the rest of the cells in our body, the bacteria found in the gut have their own genome that is independent of our own DNA. In addition, we already know that there is gene flow between GMO crops and regular crops because although the Mexican government has banned GMO corn from their food supply since 1998, recent studies have found cultivated corn grow on Mexican soil. Thus, it is suspected that the genes from genetically modified plants have transferred over to normal plants. If this is true, then it is reasonable to assume that gene flow could also take place between GMO crops and the gut microbiota.

The bottom line is that from an evolutionary perspective, we as humans were not designed to consume genetically modified foods. Chronic consumption of genetically modified foods could alter our own DNA as well as microbial DNA to bring about permanent detrimental changes to our body system. Such changes cannot be necessarily monitored in the laboratory but precautionary steps should be taken against eating GMOs.


  • The psychology of GMO; Current Biology Vol 23 No9 R356