GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are organisms whose genetic material has been purposely altered in a laboratory setting for some beneficial purpose. These beneficial purposes can range from making agronomically desirable crops (such as crops with higher yields, improved nutrition, and pest and disease resistance) to boosting the production of pharmaceuticals and industrial products. GMOs have become increasingly prevalent since the 1990s; now, as much as 60 % of processed food in the US and up to 80% of some staple crops (such as soy and corn) contain GMOs.
At first glance, it may seem that GMOs could only be beneficial, but the topic has sparked considerable debate among scientists, health experts, and consumers over the potential health risks that GMOs pose. Some people are concerned that genetically modifying organisms could expose consumers to unknown and potentially harmful substances, or that the effects of GMOs on our health and the environment may not yet be fully understood.
Many researchers believe that while GMOs do offer potential benefits in terms of improved nutrition and yield, they could also introduce novel compounds into our food chain, or modify our normal dietary components in ways that could cause unexpected health effects. For example, introducing a gene into a plant species may alter how the plant metabolizes certain compounds, meaning that the end product (the food we consume) might be nutritionally different in some way from non-GMO items. Additionally, some studies have suggested that some genetically modified foods may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Moreover, the environmental effects of GMOs are still largely unknown. Researchers have suggested that the introduction of GMOs into the environment could lead to unintended consequences, such as a decrease in biodiversity and the emergence of genetically modified weeds that would be difficult to eliminate.
In short, GMOs are found in a great deal of the food we consume and may have a variety of positive and negative effects on human health and the environment. While more research needs to be done to understand the potential consequences of GMOs, it is important to remain informed and to understand how the foods we eat are produced.