GMO’s in Food: Why They Are Used
People are becoming more and more conscious about what they eat, increasingly opting for foods produced using sustainable sourcing and practices. But the move toward sustainability and organic foods also comes with a few misconceptions, and GMOs are one of the areas where these misconceptions abound. So, what are GMO’s and why are they used in food?
What Are GMO’s?
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. In food, it refers to crops that have been genetically modified in some way.
You Likely Eat a Lot of GMO Foods
Most people don’t realize how many GMO foods they are already eating. Americans commonly eat corn syrup, cornstarch, corn oil, granulated sugar, canola oil, and soybean oil made with GMO crops. There are also some fairly common GMO summer squash, apples, papayas, and potatoes in addition to non-GMO versions of these.
GMO’s in Animal Feed
That being said, most of the GMO crops currently produced in the U.S. go to animal feed, not for human consumption. The FDA estimates that over 95% of animals used for dairy and meat in the country eat GMO crops. But they also highlight that independent studies don’t show any difference in the safety and health of animals when they eat GMO’s.
Why We Have GMO Foods
There is a long list of potential benefits associated with GMO foods. Overall, manufacturers genetically modify food to add desirable traits to the crops. This can include:
- Improving the appearance of the product (such as reducing the risk of browning or bruising)
- Enhancing flavor
- Increasing nutritional value
- Improving shelf life
- Improving resistance to diseases and viruses
- Improving resistance to insects
- Improving tolerance to herbicides
- Letting the crops thrive in heat, drought, or other harsh climates
- Letting crops grow in salty soil
Overall, the goal of GMO foods is to help maintain a global food supply while reducing waste and improving nutritional content. The result tends to be easier access to food and lower costs for food.
Concerns About GMO Foods
While GMO foods are widely used, there are still some concerns about them. These include:
- Reducing the nutritional content
- Potential toxic or allergic reactions
- Unexpected and harmful genetic changes
- Accidentally transferring genes to an animal or plant that manufacturers didn’t want to modify
- Concerns about the potential for cancer
- Potential antibacterial resistance
Some of these concerns are still considered unfounded and research does not back them up. For example, it will take a lot of years and more data to come to final conclusions. GMO’s in our foods is still a relatively new if you look at the history of mankind. In other cases, there are already steps in place to reduce the risk. For example, the WHO has guidelines in place to reduce the already very small risk that some genetically modified foods could lead to a person or animal developing an antibiotic resistance.
The point about potential allergic reactions is also worth mentioning in more detail. Research seems to indicate that this is possible, but only if making the genetic change causes the allergen to be produced. Products are tested before hitting the market, but that will typically just be for the most common allergens. This can be concerning to people with unusual allergies.
GMOs are already commonly found in many of the foods you eat. Manufacturers use them to improve the quality and supply of food, as well as its nutritional value. There seem to be minimal downsides to GMOs. Even so, you are well within your rights to choose to avoid them, and it may make sense to do so if you have rare allergies.
At Papa Earth we try to source from farmers who avoid GMO feed in their animal feed entirely. Our grass-fed beef famer Harley Farms for example is an entirely closed and independent farm who raised their animals on a sole grass-fed diet. They have enough land to produce enough hay for the wintertime in order to feed their cow throughout the seasons.