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Four Big Issues

Are GMOs a good idea?

Jillian Fry, PhD '12, MPH, is project director for Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture at the Center for a Livable Future.

People want to know: Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) causing diseases? Are they bad for my health? The science isn't really settled on those questions. It's not clear if there are direct negative health effects from consuming GMOs.

But to really evaluate GMOs from a public health perspective, we need to look beyond food consumption. Food production affects the environment, populations in surrounding communities and people working throughout the food system.

The two most widely used GMO crops in the U.S. are corn and soy designed to withstand a specific herbicide. Monsanto sells both the GMO seeds and the herbicide, known as Roundup. Over the years, Roundup-treated weeds have become tolerant to the herbicide, leading to increasing doses and runoff, resulting in growing risks to public health and the environment.

The latest chapter of the GMO story is the development of GM salmon for human consumption. GM animals produced for direct human consumption is something we've never seen, and FDA officials evaluating its safety are relying on data from the company seeking approval.

Overall, the use of GMOs to date has been a negative for the food system and for public health because of increased use of chemicals and other issues. It's conceivable that genetically modified food could be used in a positive manner, but many factors need to be considered in addition to dietary intake risks.

Comments

  • Parag Mahale

    Houston 02/25/2014 02:57:04 PM

    Preservatives used in food, in my opinion, are the major cause of food allergies. Many of them, like sodium benzoate, can be carcinogenic after metabolism. GMOs provide foreign proteins that the body is never exposed to and cause GI related allergic issues. The food production is the main reason for increasing incidence of food allergies and it is going to get worse.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:27:23 AM

    first foods are responsible for most non communicable diseases since majority of people do not have choice of want to eat.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:31:35 AM

    GMO foods may lead to extinction of original foods since their genetic make would have changed which may lead to hung shortage of food in the world (global concern)

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