Can GMO produce hurt health?

Acronyms like GMO, which stands for genetically modified organisms in food, come with an unfamiliarity that scares us. But are they detrimental to health?

 Can GMO produce hurt health?

GMO foods contain living microorganisms whose genetic material has been modified. This is done via genetic engineering – the introduction of a gene from another organism.

Sounds sinister already (cue: plot of sci-fi thrillers)?

According to dietitian Jaclyn Reutens from Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, the “technology was designed to increase crop yield, reduce the use of herbicides, (build) pest resistance and drought tolerance, to name a few.”

Still, it is “a relatively new science that goes beyond what happens in nature,” health practitioner Pooja Vig from The Nutrition Clinic told Aerinlé.

So do we keep these foods in our diet or avoid them altogether?

As GMO farming is banned in Australia, Europe and Japan, most related produce in Singapore supermarkets come from the United States.

These 5 facts may help you decide:

1) Modified crops are not proven to hurt health

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) analysed long-term health data from Canada and the United States, where people consumed GMO foods over the last two decades.

The study compared health data to that of Western Europe, where such foods are not widely consumed, Bloomberg reported.

Researchers “found no evidence of differences” between both groups, NAS said. “Patterns of change in cancer incidence in the United States and Canada are generally similar to those in the United Kingdom and western Europe, where diets contain much lower amounts of food derived from genetically engineered crops,” it added.

2) Toxic herbicides may be used in farming

“Beyond potential health risks, there is an increasing amount of evidence connecting GMO crops with environmental damage,” said Ms Vig. “As GMO crops are engineered for herbicide tolerance, the use of toxic herbicides like Roundup have increased dramatically,” she explained.

3) More tests needed for allergens

“There are concerns with allergenicity and gene transfer to the human body. However, that still remains to be further tested in clinical trials,” Ms Reutens said. “The adverse effects on health are still unknown,” she added.

4) Corn and soy products may trigger sensitivities

“Because of the scale of farming, corn and soy products are in our opinion best avoided or consumption should be reduced,” said Ms Vig.

Corn is used in bi-products such as high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil and corn starch. These are found in about 80 per cent of American processed foods like sausages, ice cream and cookies, Ms Vig estimates.

“We suggest buying the above organic. Start to read and understand labels so as a consumer you are making an informed decision if you want to eat GMOs. Currently, transparent labelling is not required,” she added.

5) Non-GMO doesn’t mean its healthier

“Healthier does not mean non-GMO,” said Ms Reutens. “In fact, GMO foods typically have the same amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as non-GMO foods,” she added.

In Singapore, GMO foods are screened by the Genetic Modification Advisory Committee and approved by the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority before it is made available to consumers.

The US Food and Drug Administration states that “foods from genetically modified plant varieties marketed to date are as safe as comparable non-genetically modified foods.”

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