Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?
Most Americans have eaten genetically modified foods without knowing it, but are they safe?
Genetically modified food has quietly become second nature in
the U.S., and it may surprise you just how many foods you are eating that you
never knew contained a genetically modified ingredient.
Experts say 60% to 70% of processed foods on U.S. grocery
shelves have genetically modified ingredients. The most common genetically
modified foods are soybeans, maize, cotton, and rapeseed oil. That means many
foods made in the U.S. containing field corn or high-fructose corn syrup, such
as many breakfast cereals, snack foods, and the last soda you drank; foods made
with soybeans (including some baby foods); and foods made with cottonseed and
canola oils could likely have genetically modified ingredients. These
ingredients appear frequently in animal feed as well.
If this shocks you, a new USDA-funded survey shows you're not
alone. Researchers from the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers' Cook College
found that only 52% of Americans realized that genetically modified foods are
sold in grocery stores and only 26% believed that they have ever eaten
genetically modified foods -- a modest 6% increase since 2001.
But what exactly is genetically modified food? Is it safe to
eat? Why isn't it labeled in the U.S.? The European Union and the U.S. are
boxing it out.
The U.S. government's position: Genetically engineered crops
are safe, resist disease better, and can provide much-needed food in starving
The EU position: Keep it out. We prefer organic, which is much
healthier. The risk of genetically modified foods to health and the environment
outweigh the benefits. Only the multinational biotech companies will benefit,
dominating the world food supply and squeezing out traditional farmers.
The U.S. is the largest producer of genetically modified
More than a dozen countries around the world have latched on to
the technology, including Argentina, Canada, China, Australia, India, and
The term genetically modified food (also known as biotech or
genetically engineered food) refers to crop plants that have been modified in
the laboratory to enhance desired traits, such as resistance to herbicides or
improved nutritional content. Experts say this science, like any other, has no
guarantees. Risks include:
- Introducing allergens and toxins to food
- Accidental contamination between genetically modified and non-genetically
- Antibiotic resistance
- Adversely changing the nutrient content of a crop
- Creation of "super" weeds and other environmental risks
- Increased pest and disease resistance
- Drought tolerance
- Increased food supply
Is Regulation Too Soft?
So you might ask, what's the big deal? The U.S. government
wouldn't allow a product on the market without strict testing and approval,
right? It seems genetically modified foods are a bit of a scientific anomaly, a
creature that U.S. regulation agencies aren't quite sure how to efficiently