Pioneering New Technology

Are GMOs Safe?

Non-GMO labels, trending hashtags, confusing articles — there’s a lot of noise out there about GMO safety. Emotions are high, and public opinion is heavily split. In fact, it’s not exactly clear what the public believes.
In a survey of more than 10,000 people across 10 countries, we found that roughly half the population thinks genetically modified foods don’t have any long term health effects and that they can benefit the environment. But at the same time, 72 percent of people avoid buying genetically modified foods, and 62 percent think they should be banned. Why the discrepancy? It’s likely lingering doubts about health risks play a big role.
It certainly makes sense to be cautious. When it comes to your family’s health, you want to be absolutely sure you’re making the best choices. We, of all people, believe it’s important to know where your food comes from. So, when you keep hearing buzz that GMOs aren’t safe, it’s natural to wonder: What are the risks?
We’ll break it down it simply here: Over and over again, GMOs have been proven to be safe for humans, animals and the environment. Every major scientific body that has reviewed the safety of genetically modified foods has come to that same conclusion. Let’s talk about what they found.

But First… What Are GMOs Anyway?

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, is a term commonly used to describe crops produced through a plant breeding technique that uses a specific type of genetic engineering. Essentially, plant breeders take the gene for a specific trait in one plant or microbe and insert it into the cells of a crop plant. And no, not just for fun. The goal is to add “desirable traits” to a crop. “Desirable traits” like what, you ask? Well, like better nutrition; longer shelf life; resistance to pests, diseases and herbicides; faster growth… some pretty good stuff
illustration for each step in the process
In reality, pretty much all of the foods we eat has been genetically modified. Farmers have been genetically modifying plants for more than 9,000 years. Our ancestors would select and replant the seeds from the best plants, steadily altering the genetic material of crops over time. Later, plant breeders started crossing related plant species to introduce more genetic diversity and make better crops. Today, we’re simply using modern tools and technology to modify crops more efficiently and precisely.

Do GMOs Cause Health Problems?

No.

Let’s go back for a second… to a time when we thought Beanie Babies would make us millionaires and the Macarena was the height of cool. We’re talking the 1990s. That’s when genetically modified crops first hit the market, and since then, not a single food safety or health issue associated with GM crops use has been confirmed. That means all of the bad things you’ve seen about GMOs on Facebook aren’t true — and aren’t supported by two decades of historical evidence or by credible scientists.

Even though a genetically modified crop is virtually identical to a similar non-modified crop, all GMOs nevertheless go through rigorous safety testing at every stage — from research planning to field-testing to food and environment safety assessment — before going on the market.

Experts Weigh In

At GMOAnswers.com, a wide range of experts tackle reader questions about GMOs and other modern farming topics. Here are some highlights from what they’ve said about GMO safety.

How can you be sure that GMO foods won't affect human health long-term?

Answered by Denneal Jamison-McClung, Ph.D., Associate Director, UC Davis Biotechnology Program
“From their introduction in 1996 until now, scientists have found, through repeated and extensive testing, that GM foods are no more risky than comparable non-GM foods, nor do they differ in nutritional value. Currently approved GM crops developed through specific genetic additions or subtractions are as safe as conventional and organic crops developed via random genetic shuffling. Most people do not realize that plant breeders have been randomly altering and admixing plant genomes for centuries.”

Read her full answer here.

Why are GMO companies against labeling GMO foods?

Answered by Cathleen Enright, Former Executive Director of the Council for Biotechnology Information
“These foods are as safe and nutritious as their non-GMO counterparts as determined by recognized authorities around the world including the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Science, the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Their safety has also been affirmed globally by food safety regulatory authorities including in the European Union, which comes as a surprise to some who mistakenly believe that GMOs are banned by the European Union. Why then, should GM foods deserve a special label?”

Read her full answer here.

What are the effects of GMOs on the human body? Has GMO foods led to an increase in the development of allergies among certain groups of people?

Answered by Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, LD, FADA
“The Food and Drug Administration has set forth guidelines related to the use of GMOs, and in those documents they reference the science that indicates food developed through biotechnology are digested in the same manner as other foods and therefore provide the same nutrition, or in some cases more nutrition (if the goal of the biotechnology was to enhance nutrient content). The science also indicates that these foods are safe for consumption and that they are not contributors to increased allergies.”

Read her full answer here.

Do GMOs affect pregnant women or their babies?

Answered by Robert Murray, MD, Professor of Human Nutrition at Ohio State University
“Based on long-term and multi-generational (two to five generations) studies in animals, there has been no additional risk shown to mother, fetus, or pregnancy outcome from GM dietary exposure. Since 1983, GM crops have been introduced into the food supply, including corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, potatoes, eggplants, strawberries, apples, papaya, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cantaloupe, and even one animal species, a type of salmon. To date, there has not been evidence shown of human health risks tied to GM food exposure.”

Read her full answer here.

GMOs are actually one of the world’s most researched agriculture products and have been deemed safe by virtually every major independent institute. To name a few: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. National Academies of Science. As a matter of fact, the U.S. National Academies of Science reviewed more than 900 studies over 20 years and determined that genetically modified crops are safe to eat and have not caused increases in cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal illnesses, kidney disease, autism or allergies.

All in all, GMOs are safe. Scientists says so. And now you’re armed with the science yourself the next time an alarming Facebook meme pops up!