GMO foods are safe to eat

Are GMO foods safe to eat?

Food, Nutrology

Genetically Modified Organisms, better known as GMOs, are one of the most controversial areas in science. Actually, for many, the issue is not controversial at all—most people have already decided that GMOs are not safe. Are they really not safe?

Divergent opinions on GMOs

More than any other subject, GMOs show the largest difference of opinion between the public and the scientific community. A 2015 survey showed that only 37% of the general public believe GMOs are safe, compared with 88% of the scientist members of the elite American Association for the Advancement of Science who believe they are safe.

International opinions

The most traditional scientific organization in the UK, the Royal Society (founded in 1660) concludes, ”There has been no evidence of ill effects linked to the consumption of any approved GMO crop”. They note an example of animals fed GMO tomatoes, modified to produce a higher level of antioxidants. These animals showed a lower rate of cancer, presumably due to the greater antioxidants.

In 2016, the most comprehensive study ever was published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (USA). They examined hundreds of scientific papers on the subject, both pro and con, and heard testimony from experts and the public on both sides of the issue. Their conclusion was that there is “no substantial evidence that GMO foods were less safe than non-GMO foods.”

The World Health Organization concluded “GMO foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.”  Like the majority of expert organizations, they believe further research is needed, but the consensus is “In the decades since the first GMO foods reached the market, no adverse health effects among consumers have been found.”

What are GMOs

GMOs can be foods, but also, for more than 20 years, GMO techniques have been used to make vaccines and strains of animals with certain characteristics. These animals are utilized for much of the cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer research happening today. Many of the newest medications used to treat advanced cancers have been produced through genetic modification.

Main argument GMOs are safe

For centuries, agricultural scientists have been genetically modifying plants and animals to produce favorable characteristics. They have cross-bred animal and plant species, at times using radiation and various chemicals to induce desirable mutations. None of this is a “natural process.” Now, scientific advances have allowed for more precise genetic modifications as used in modern GMO techniques.

Golden Rice and blindness

The controversy over GMOs is highlighted in the fight over “Golden Rice”. This is a type of GMO rice created by Swiss researchers to include beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. Beta carotene is yellow (as in carrots), so it gives the rice a yellow color. The WHO estimates that about 250 million children in developing countries have severe Vitamin A deficiency, and 2.7 million children die per year because of this deficiency.

Nobel laureates and Greenpeace

Golden Rice was developed to combat Vitamin A deficiency, save lives and vision, but since it is a GMO product, Golden Rice was attacked, particularly by Greenpeace, which opposes GMOs. Greenpeace’s opposition was effective, and in response, in 2016, a group of 107 Nobel prize winning scientists signed a letter:

“We urge Greenpeace and its supporters to re-examine the experience of farmers and consumers worldwide with crops and foods improved through biotechnology, recognize the findings of authoritative scientific bodies and regulatory agencies, and abandon their campaign against ‘GMOs’ in general and Golden Rice in particular.”

We hope this post gives you another perspective on GMOs. You might not be convinced they are safe, but at least we hope you keep an open mind. GMOs sound scary, but they basically represent a modern, more precise way to do what has been done with plants and animals for many centuries.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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