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By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD

Genetically Modified Food

If there is one confusing and freaky three-letter acronym out there it’s GMO. Genetically Modified Organisms are not the most fun nutrition topic but they are one of the most important – so much so that over 40 countries (and counting) have banned their use entirely. Dietitian Ashley Koff has referred to GMOs as the second- and third-hand smoke of our generation: we’ve been convinced by everyone around us they are safe and we’re out of harm’s way, but are we really?

First of all what exactly are GMOs? You’re going to have to channel your inner 8th grade science nerd a bit: GMOs are foods whose genetic makeup (DNA) has been changed in a lab to make them more useful. This means plants are made more resistant to insects and weeds, and that animals are genetically altered to produce less waste and resist diseases. While some of this might sound like a positive thing, combining fish DNA with strawberries and tomatoes to make them more frost resistant might not.

GM foods haven’t been around long enough for long-term research but scientists (and myself) are concerned about antibiotic resistance, allergic reactions, and even infertility and cancer. There is no evidence yet that GM crops will cause these issues, just definite concern. Right now, genetic modification doesn’t have to be labeled in the U.S. — something that prop 37 in California will hopefully begin to change.

The most commonly found GM foods include Soybeans, Canola, corn, and milk. While it’s not fool proof, whenever you can I’d recommend you buy organic versions of these products, and ideally local. Talk to the managers at your grocery store and, if possible, buy from the farmers at your green markets too.

Because fishberries? No thank you.

So are you concerned about or familiar with GMO’s?

Photo: iStockphoto

The opinions expressed in WebMD Second Opinion are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Second Opinion are... Expand


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