GMOS: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s been just over a week since Thanksgiving and I’m sure many of us haven’t stopped dreaming about creamy mashed potatoes and baked corn dishes or picturing that delectable turkey that sprawled across our dinner tables. But, how many of us sat down after our meals with unsteady breathing induced by our oncoming food comas, and considered how much of what we consumed had been genetically modified?

Genetic engineering techniques have been around since the 1960s. Though the first US field-test for genetically modified organisms occurred in 1987, it wasn’t until 1992 that they were approved by the FDA for consumption on the grounds that they are “not inherently dangerous”. Two years later, the Flavr Savr tomato hit produce aisles, making a grand entrance as the new and improved version of its conventional counterpart. The ingenious product was developed by researchers at Calgene Inc. who omitted a protein-producing gene found in tomatoes that made them get squishy. Because of their success, tomatoes now have an increased shelf life and supposedly, taste better as well.

While there has been much expressed concern from the public and NGOs about the health and environmental risks of genetically modifying our food, scientific evidence suggests that GMOs are perfectly safe to consume and do not damage the environment any more than traditional alternatives. According to the National Center for Biotechnological Information, “there is little documented evidence that GM crops are potentially toxic.” There are over a million scientific articles weighing in on GMOs, a significant number of which arrive at a similar conclusion. In a poll conducted by Pew Research Center, 88% of the scientists surveyed reported that they believe genetically modified foods are safe to eat. In contrast, only 37% of the general public shared this view. This large difference in opinion underscores the progress that has yet to be made in wholly accepting GMOs as a part of our food culture.

If you don’t regularly participate in the laborious meal prep required to serve a feast like Thanksgiving, or any home cooked meal for that matter, genetically modified organisms may seem like an insignificant part of your life. You may have never taken note of the eye-catching labels on GM foods at the grocery store or engaged in a heated debate over whether these relatively new products are safe for human consumption or the environment. Lucky for you, there’s no time like the present to explore this controversial topic. Whether you consider yourself an expert in the kitchen or you’ve never stepped foot in a grocery store, I invite you to take some time to think about GMOs and determine how large of a place they deserveat your table.

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– Makena Mugambi


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