GMO Foods: Risks, How to Avoid and Alternatives

GMO foods are one of the hottest topics to come along in recent years. While there is no doubt that GM foods offer many benefits, they also pose a unique challenge for staying healthy and safe from potential health risks. Let’s explore how we can best avoid GMOs and find healthier alternatives.,

Genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are a form of genetic engineering that allows scientists to change the DNA of living things. These modifications can provide benefits such as resistance to pests, more efficient production, and better taste or nutrition. However, they have their risks, including unintended consequences like reduced biodiversity and soil erosion.
The term “genetic modification” is used because the process uses genes from different sources: those found in nature with those added by human ingenuity via induced mutation or bacterial recombination techniques.
When these new combinations result in plants being resistant to insects that would otherwise destroy them, this provides an opportunity for farmers who might not be able to grow certain types of crops without costly pesticides or herbicides but still want some measure of crop protection. However, while GMO technology has been widely adopted since it was introduced about 25 years ago, there are many reasons why GMOs aren’t necessarily the best choice when you’re shopping at your local grocery store.


Consider this the next time you’re at the supermarket: it’s believed that more than 75% of the processed food on the shelves contains genetically altered substances. And this is only one of the many alarming GMO truths that we are being confronted with.

You may recall a time when genetically modified organisms were not even on anyone’s radar. So when did these “Frankenfoods” first appear on the scene? The Flavr Savr (developed by a California-based business named Calgene) became the first commercially cultivated genetically altered product to be authorized for human consumption in the United States in 1994.

Fast forward to today, and the list of genetically modified organisms continues to increase, with even GMO salmon receiving approval for animal genetic alteration. What about the crops? For some, that’s completely out of the question: As of 2015, genetically modified strains were found in 92 percent of maize, 94 percent of soybeans, and 94 percent of cotton grown in the United States.

Is it safe to eat GMO foods? “It is obvious that genetic modification is intrinsically harmful,” according to the Institute of Science in Society, “since it inevitably results in unforeseen and uncontrolled alterations in the genome and epigenome (pattern of gene expression) that have an influence on safety.”

Some argue that GMO foods have advantages and drawbacks, but I believe you’ll agree that the risks or drawbacks much exceed any possible “benefits.”

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.” A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one that has been altered in some way. Genetic material has been intentionally modified in a laboratory via genetic engineering in these live species.

Genetically modified foods (GM foods) or genetically engineered foods are foods that include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) (GE foods). Combinations of animal, plant, bacterium and viral genes are created through genetic alteration of live organisms, which do not ordinarily occur in nature or by standard crossbreeding procedures.

Do you want to discover one of the key reasons why businesses support genetically modified foods? Crop yields are increased as a consequence. “Yields of maize, cotton, and soybeans are believed to have grown by 20 percent to 30 percent via the application of genetic engineering,” according to a New York Times story from 2018.

What is GMO (genetically modified organism) food? It’s food that’s been genetically modified. A 2016 federal regulation imposed standard labeling of all food items containing genetically modified elements, which led to the introduction of the phrase “partially produced using genetic engineering” on food labels.

When Bill 764 was passed into law in 2016, it established a new and contentious requirement for GMO labeling in the United States. It also superseded prior state rules, such as those in Vermont, that were particularly harsh on GMOs. Many members in both the pro-and anti-GMO communities are dissatisfied with how GMO food content is presently disclosed on product labels.

Some businesses are dissatisfied with the time and money it takes to go through the procedures required to carry a non-GMO label, even though they are not manufacturing genetically modified foods. Others opt not to specify that they’re making GMO goods, while others may refer customers to an external source (such as a website) for further information about the product’s GMO status. In general, if a product isn’t organic and certified non-GMO, it might be difficult to tell whether it’s not GMO.

The Top 11 Foods Containing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) 

  1. Corn
  2. Soy
  3. Canola
  4. Alfalfa
  5. Beets
  6. Cottonseed Oil
  7. Papaya
  8. Squash/Zucchini
  9. Conventional Meats and Dairy
  10. Apples
  11. Potatoes

This is simply a short list of GMO foods. When exposed to air, these new GMO apples and potatoes do not turn brown. Double-stranded RNA is being used by scientists to suppress a gene that causes browning in apples and potatoes.

Other common GMO food additives include:

  • Soy, maize, cottonseed, and/or canola oil are used to make vegetable oil, vegetable fat, and margarine.
  • Soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy isoflavones, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, tofu, tamari, tempeh, and soy protein supplements are all made from soybeans.
  • Corn flour, corn gluten, corn masa, corn starch, corn syrup, cornmeal, and high fructose corn syrup are all examples of corn-based ingredients (HFCS).

The Non-GMO Project

“To provide customers the informed choice they deserve,” the Non-GMO Project was founded. What exactly are they discussing? “The FDA recognizes that many consumers are interested in whether food ingredients are derived from genetically engineered plants, and has issued guidance for manufacturers who wish to voluntarily label their foods as containing or not containing such ingredients,” the FDA said in a statement in March 2018.

The important term in that statement is “voluntarily,” which indicates that in the United States, food producers are not compelled by law to inform us if a product includes GMOs. As a result, GMOs are not needed to be labeled as such in the United States or Canada as of yet. Meanwhile, 64 nations throughout the world, including Japan, Australia, and the whole European Union, mandate the labeling of genetically modified goods.

According to its website, the Non-GMO Project aims to give customers “the most accurate, up-to-date criteria for non-GMO certification.”  They claim that before a product can be certified as Non-GMO Project Verified, its inputs must be analyzed for conformance with their criteria, which divides foods into four risk categories: high, low, non, and monitored.

A third-party technical administrator is used by the Non-GMO Project to analyze a food item and decide if it fits the Non-GMO Project’s Standard for GMO Avoidance. So, what exactly is non-GMO food? A non-GMO food is one that has not been genetically modified in any way. Consumers may use the Non-GMO Project logo to verify that a food item has met its requirements and is a confirmed non-GMO product.

GMO Foods Pose 5 Major Risks

Why are GMOs harmful? GMO foods concerns are still being identified since they are still relatively new to human consumption, but let’s look at some of the potential GMO food health problems we know about so far.

These are some of the top human health risks at the moment, according to the Center for Food Safety:

  • Reactions to Allergens
  • Resistance to Antibiotics
  • Cancer
  • Nutritional Deficit
  • Toxicity

1. Allergic Reactions 

What evidence do you have that GMOs are causing an upsurge in allergies? When humans genetically modify an organism, the expression level of natural components of that organism alters, potentially worsening allergies.

This situation is well shown in a scholarly study published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness in 2016:

The development of soybeans high in the amino acid methionine is one example. A gene identified from Brazil nuts is responsible for the improved production of this amino acid. As a result, some customers who are sensitive to these nuts have allergic responses to the transgenic soybean.

New proteins may be generated during genetic alteration, resulting in “unpredictable allergic consequences,” according to another scientific assessment titled “Genetically modified foods: safety, hazards, and public concerns—a review.” When it was discovered that the expressed protein of the transgene was extremely allergenic, bean plants that had been genetically engineered to boost cysteine and methionine levels had to be rejected.

In 2003, over 100 persons who lived near a Bt cornfield had a variety of troubling symptoms, including respiratory, cutaneous, and digestive problems, as a result of breathing in Bt corn pollen. Antibodies to Bt-toxin were found in 39 of the victims’ blood tests. Furthermore, in 2004, the same unfavorable symptoms appeared in at least four other communities that had planted the same GM maize type. Some people blamed the maize for the deaths of many animals.

2. Resistance to Antibiotics

There are no human clinical studies before GMOs are allowed for general consumption, which is both terrifying and accurate! One of the concerns with GM crops, according to a 2009 analysis titled “Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods,” is the use of antibiotic resistance genes as markers in GM crops.

The risk is that these antibiotic-resistant genes might be passed on to human gut bacteria, reducing antimicrobial treatment efficiency and increasing antibiotic resistance.

3. Cancer

A research titled “Long Term Toxicity of Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified Maize” was published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology in November 2012. This research drew a lot of interest across the globe, and rightfully so: it was the first to look at the consequences of a GMO maize diet sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide under controlled settings.

The journal eventually rejected the paper because “the data given (although not wrong) are inconclusive, and hence do not satisfy the bar of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology.”

However, this research paper was released in 2014 by Environmental Sciences Europe, and it shows that rats fed Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize for two years had far more tumors and died much sooner than controls. It was also discovered that the rodents developed tumors when the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup), which is used with GM maize, was added to the rats’ drinking water.

Large mammary tumors formed in female participants more often and earlier than in the control group. On the other hand, Males had four times more big palpable tumors beginning 600 days sooner than the control group, which had just one tumor.

The tumors were both malignant and non-cancerous, according to the research. Non-cancerous tumors were almost as dangerous to the animals’ health since they might induce internal bleeding, compression, and blockage of important organ function, as well as the discharge of hazardous poisons.

4. Nutritional Deficit

“I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks,” says Jonathan R. Latham, Ph.D., a plant biologist, and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project, who has conducted GMO research throughout his career.

The nutritional characteristics of genetically engineered crops are often changed. According to several studies, some GMO crops have higher quantities of antinutrient chemicals and lower levels of beneficial nutrients than traditional crops. In addition, the disruptive and unexpected character of the process of genetic modification itself, according to Jeffrey M. Smith, MBA, Director of Institute for Responsible Technology, may introduce or increase allergies, poisons, and antinutrients in GM foods.

While not scientific, Smith also conducted a fascinating study with over 3,000 participants. Overall, the survey findings showed that avoiding genetically modified foods enhanced one’s health.

5. Toxicology

This is how the Center for Food Safety expresses its concern:

Foods that have been genetically modified are naturally unstable. Each insertion of a new gene and the ‘cassette’ of promoters, antibiotic marking systems, and vectors that go with it are done at random. GE food manufacturers simply have no idea where their genetic “cassette” is being put in the food, nor do they have adequate knowledge of foods’ genetic/chemical composition to determine a “safe” location for such insertions. Consequently, each gene insertion into a meal is akin to playing food safety “roulette,” with corporations praying that the additional genetic material does not destabilize and render a safe item dangerous. Unfortunately, each genetic insertion increases the risk of previously harmless components in the meal becoming harmful.


Based on animal research, GMOs may pose a risk.

The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has also compiled a list of GMO-related animal effects:

  • When rats were given potatoes that were designed to create their own pesticide, they experienced possibly precancerous cell growth in the digestive tract, stunted brain, liver, and testicular development, partial liver atrophy, larger pancreases and intestines, and immune system damage.
  • Seven of the twenty rats given the GM FlavrSavr tomato for 28 days had stomach lesions (bleeding stomachs); another seven of the forty died within two weeks and had to be replaced in the trial.
  • The blood cells, livers, and kidneys of rats fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 Bt maize over 90 days exhibited substantial alterations.
  • Intestinal damage was seen in mice given GM Bt potatoes.
  • After grazing on GM Bt cotton fields for a week, a fourth of the sheep perished.
  • Over 20 farmers in North America have reported that GM maize has rendered their pigs and cows infertile.
  • After being given a diet containing considerable quantities of a single GM maize variety, Bt 176, twelve dairy cows perished on a farm in Germany.
  • Mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans had substantial alterations in their liver cells.
  • Roundup-fed mice In testicular cells, ready soy exhibited inexplicable alterations.
  • The quantities of key enzymes in the kidneys, hearts, and livers of rabbits given GM soy for roughly 40 days indicated substantial changes.
  • Roundup was given to rats. The livers of ready canola were larger.
  • In mice, GM peas elicited an allergic-like inflammatory response.
  • Cows and pigs in farmer-run testing consistently rejected GM grain.

Alternatives to Consider

1. Purchase organically certified products.

Buying certified organic goods is the greatest approach to avoiding GMOs since they do not include genetically altered substances. Organic products might be 100% organic or “produced using organic components.” Items labeled “produced with organic ingredients” must consist of at least 70% organic components, but they must be non-GMO 100 percent of the time.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states:

Inorganic goods, the use of genetic engineering, often known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is forbidden. This implies that an organic farmer cannot grow GMO seeds, that an organic cow cannot consume GMO alfalfa or maize, and that an organic soup maker cannot utilize GMO components. Farmers and processors must demonstrate that they are not utilizing GMOs and preserving their goods from contact with forbidden chemicals, such as GMOs, from farm to table to comply with USDA organic requirements.

Any product containing canola, maize, or soy in its ingredient list, unless it’s certified organic, is likely to include GMOs and the impacts of glyphosate.

2. Look for items with non-GMO certification labels.

If a corporation isn’t offering a fully organic, non-GMO product, how much they inform you is entirely up to them. Some producers may indicate that a specific component (generally one that is known to be GMO, such as corn syrup) is non-GMO, or they might label their whole product is non-GMO.

Look for labels such as the Non-GMO Project mark on packaging to guarantee that the product you’re buying has been Non-GMO Project Verified and has been examined by a third party to confirm that it’s GMO-free.

3. Support your local economy. 

Shopping from small, local farms may also help you avoid purchasing and ingesting GMOs. Although it is ideal for a farm to be certified organic, due to the high cost of certification, you may discover that a local farm does not have that designation despite employing healthy agricultural practices and not producing GMO crops. Talk to the farmers at your local farmers’ markets, go on a farm tour, and learn about the non-GMO choices available in your area.

4. Carefully read all labels 

If you can’t afford organic goods for any reason, refer to my top 12 GMO list, which can help you avoid some of the most popular GMOs.

You’ll also want to read labels carefully to avoid common genetically altered components, particularly on goods like snack foods.

The Center for Food Safety has compiled a handy list of the most prevalent genetically modified “Big Five” substances present in processed foods:

  • Corn flour, meal, oil, starch, gluten, and syrup are all made from corn. Fructose, dextrose, and glucose are examples of sweeteners.
  • Sugar that isn’t labeled as 100 percent cane sugar is most likely made from GE sugar beets.
  • Soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate, and isoflavone are all made from soy. Vegetable oil and protein produced from soy are also acceptable.
  • Canola oil is a kind of canola (also called rapeseed oil)
  • Cottonseed oil is derived from cottonseed.

Last Thoughts

  • What does GMO stand for? GMO stands for a genetically modified organism, which most often refers to food but may also refer to a bacterium or enzyme utilized in food manufacturing.
  • What does it mean to be non-GMO? If a product has the Non-GMO Project seal, it has been examined by a third-party technical administrator and has passed the Non-GMO Project’s GMO avoidance Standard.
  • Why are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) harmful? When it comes to GMOs, human experience and animal research indicate a frightening and broad variety of health risks, including allergic responses, antibiotic resistance, cancer, nutrient loss, and toxicity.
  • GMO crops and components are still being developed and present in everyday meals, but no human studies are required to confirm the safety of this genetic engineering.
  • Isn’t it obvious that foods in their natural condition are the healthiest and safest for our bodies? To preserve your health and the health of your family, I advocate purchasing organic items wherever feasible and checking for non-GMO labels.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can we avoid GMO foods?

A: There is no easy way to avoid GMO foods unless you only buy organic foods.

What is the alternative to genetically modified foods?

A: There is no alternative to genetically modified foods. They are a byproduct of scientific research and increased food production, which has helped the world’s population grow exponentially over the past half-century.

How can the risk of GMO contamination be reduced?

A: The most important thing to do is reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals can kill both plants and animals, which would result in a loss of food supply.

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