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Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe to Eat?

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Genetically Modified Corn
Genetically Modified Corn

Scientists say that genetically modified (GM) crops have the potential to feed the population in the coming years. However, the population is scared to eat such food. Many even think GM foods to be artificial!  

So, first let’s know what exactly is GM.  

Understanding Genetically Modified Plant 

As per scientists, GM foods are “substantially equivalent” to their non-GM counterparts, if they meet the following criteria: 

  • The GM food has a resulting chemistry similar to that of non-GM food

  • It possesses only a few added genes

  • It is non-allergenic and produces no toxins 

What the world report on GM foods says 

According to a report, almost all commercially available genetically modified crops across the world have proved to be “substantially equivalent” to their counterparts (non-GM foods).  

It means that GM plants are as safe (or unsafe) as the same species or variety of their non-GM counterparts.  

Testing standard 

Scientists conclude whether a GM plant is equivalent to its non-GM counterpart by measuring how identical the nutritional traits of the GM plant are to its counterpart. Nutrients like proteins, vitamins, fat, dietary fiber, etc. should be identical.  

Since GM crops came into existence, there has hardly been a report of an adverse reaction to anybody who consumed them. To put it in other words, no available GM food at present is found to create or trigger allergic reactions.  

“Nature Biotechnology” had published a paper in 2008 that talks of how a certain group of experts of food and allergy had expressed annoyance regarding the aggressive allergenicity testing of GM crops. They are against it, looking at the safe nature of GM crops.  

Evidence that says GM crops are actually incapable of producing allergies!  

According to experts, foods that trigger allergies contain a specific protein at significantly high levels.  

For example, non-GM peanuts, which are known to trigger allergies in some people, contain high allergy-causing protein – 1000 to 10,000 ppm!  

GM crops are genetically modified. So, naturally scientists will work towards removing the harmful genes. It’s no surprise that these foods contain very low levels of allergy-causing proteins, which are almost incapable of triggering allergies. The foods have repeatedly passed allergy tests with flying colors.  

This is vital knowledge to have because numerable people carry the fear that, because they are “genetically modified,” the foods may produce some “strange” effects in their bodies.  

Key Message from Scientists 

When talking about GMO safety, we need to focus on the plant’s innate genes, not what they have acquired.  

According to scientists, individual gene traits are usually not associated with the species from which the genes belong to.  

Let’s understand like this: 

Suppose a gene from peanuts shifted into grams. Now, will this make gram more “peanut-y” or will it make gram allergenic? 

No way!  

The arc of evolution of species on Earth is so broad that it has created a lot of similarity between genes found in different species.  

Do you know humans share about 50% of our genes with bananas? 

So, do we become bananas?  

No! (Well, some people do go bananas over something! Now we know why!!) 

Purple Tomatoes

Conclusion 

The entire discussion does not imply that GM plants will always be identical to their non-GM counterparts in terms of nutrition.  

The main objective of genetically modifying plants is to IMPROVE their nutrition.  

An excellent example to show is the “Golden Rice Project.” 

This is a fine attempt to enhance provitamin A content in a few of the commonest rice varieties used in Southeast Asia.  

Do you know researches initially extracted a gene from daffodils and placed it in rice to create more provitamin A? 

Later, they took similar gene from maize and put in rice.  

The results were same.  

So, again coming to the point about genes, it does not matter from where the gene has come. What matters is what the gene does in its new location.  

Other interesting GMO attempts include: 

  • Purple tomato, which has high pigments called anthocyanins. They are reported to be smoky and rich in taste, as per chefs. 

  • Transgenic maize, which is free of aflatoxin, a toxin found naturally in maize, peanuts, and cottonseed. It is generated by the fungus Aspergillus flavus

  • GM rice and wheat plants genetically made richer in iron and zinc. 

  • GM rice enriched with Vitamin B9. 

  • Cassava plants fortified with Vitamin B6. 

 So, if you have been served with GM food, do not look at it with fear. Relish it with equal delight. It is food, after all!  

(Disclaimer: This article does not intend to promote eating GM food. This is an opiniated article based on research and evidence so far.)  

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