Five things to know about genetic modification in foods
By Stephanie Hodges, MS, MPH, RDN
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, almost half of Americans believe that foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients are worse for their health. The survey also contained questions about food pricing, food supply, and environmental impact.
In response to the survey, here are five things you need to know about GM foods.
1. Foods that contain genetically modified ingredients are not worse for one’s health.
Although some Americans believe GM foods are worse for their health than non-GM foods, there are no facts to support this. A review of over 20 years of data, compiled in a 2016 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, found that GM foods are safe. Not only are they safe, but they found there is no risk to human health between GM foods and non-GM foods.
2. Genetic modification allows us to increase the food supply to meet demand.
Genetic modification has increased the supply of soybeans and corn. Without the use of GM, production of these crops would be lower. Prices would also be higher for not only these crops, but for others as well. According to an agriculture researcher, without GM crops, the price of food would be 5–10% higher than it is now.
3. Foods with GM ingredients are just as nutritious, and in some cases more nutritious.
Foods that contain GM ingredients are just as nutritious as foods that do not contain them. Foods that contain GM ingredients may also have more nutrients than non-GM foods. For example, some vitamins are added to foods through this process. This may be done to address malnutrition and to prevent illnesses and diseases.
4. Genetic modification is good for the environment.
There are several ways in which genetic modification helps the environment. Some crops that have been genetically modified require less water. They can also reduce soil erosion and improve the air quality. Modifying crops to resist pests also leads to less pesticide usage. These types of uses of genetic modification have a positive impact on the environment.
5. Foods with GM ingredients can reduce food waste.
Using genetic modification to reduce browning or bruising can prevent food waste. This modification can reduce food waste at every step- from producers to processors to retailers and consumers. If we can prevent a food from bruising or browning, it will be less likely to end up in the trash.
Instead of fearing genetic modification, consumers should focus on the benefits of this technology. Foods containing GM ingredients are safe. They are also just as nutritious as non-GMO containing foods. They have been shown to help the environment and even reduce food waste. Because of these qualities, GM should be viewed in a positive way.
Stephanie Simms Hodges (MS, MPH, RDN) is the founder and owner of The Nourished Principles, a public health and nutrition consulting business. Prior to founding her business, Stephanie provided technical assistance to school divisions to adhere to nutrition regulations, wrote and implemented grants for non-profit organizations, and assessed and developed programs and policies to support nutrition, health, and wellness. Stephanie earned a Master of Science in Food Policy & Applied Nutrition and a Master of Public Health from Tufts University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise from Virginia Tech and she completed her Dietetic Internship at the Medical University of South Carolina.