Monday, October 7, 2013

Superfood or Frankenfood? Rounding Up Research on GMOs

GMO companies claim that engineered foods have more nutrients and need fewer pesticides. Anti-GMO groups argue that these foods have not been proven safe for humans to eat. What does the research say?

Stalks of corn

Genetically engineered foods are quietly taking over your produce shelves. From soybeans to wheat to canola oil, more and more foods are being made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Food producers in the United States are not required to label these items, so shoppers are unaware that someone may have fiddled with their food’s genes.

GMO companies claim that engineered foods have more nutrients and need fewer pesticides. Anti-GMO groups argue that these foods have not been proven safe for humans to eat. What does the research say?

Some studies have found that certain GM foods contain nutrients that are easier for our bodies to absorb. Foods such as carrots with added calcium or potatoes with extra antioxidants are advertised as a solution to world hunger.

Other studies reveal that pesticides found in GM foods are showing up in humans. A recent study in Canada found traces of the insecticide Bt toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. The type of Bt toxin discovered is often placed in the genes of GM corn.

There has not been any research in which humans were fed GMOs on purpose, but there have been a number of studies on GM animal feed. Several have found that this feed has troubling effects, such as flattened cells in the intestines, abnormal kidney growth and slowed liver function.

Do you think consumers have a right to know when foods are GMO? Go to Yeson522.com to learn about I-522, an initiative to require GMO labeling in Washington State.

— By Mary Kuzmick, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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