GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, aka organisms that have had their DNA manipulated for the desired outcome whether it be bigger yields, improved nutrient density or growth in new conditions. When GMO foods are mentioned you probably think of vegetables and fruits but it also extends to living organisms like bacteria and fungi and in some cases goats and pigs.
Genetically modifying foods is nothing new, in fact, we’ve been processing foods for many thousands of years through selective breeding. The first GMO food to enter the market was the Flavr Savr tomatoes in 1994, which were engineered to ripen slowly.
If you want to know if your packaged foods contain GMO foods look at the ingredients list, it is a requirement by Food Standards Australia & New Zealand. Look for the term genetically modified, for example genetically modified soybeans or soy flour (genetically modified).
What are the benefits of GMO food?
Within the science and research field, there is a broad consensus that GMO foods are safe for human consumption. Benefits of GMO foods include:
- Higher yields
- Cheaper prices
- Use less natural resources (i.e water)
- Reduction in food waste
What are the risks?
All GM foods that are on the market have passed strict safety assessments and test. But yes, some of the health issues associated with GMO foods have been dramatised in the media it is still a controversial process.
Some groups believe that as the modification of food often involves chemicals the process is unnatural and therefore harmful for human consumption, although there is not enough conclusive evidence to confirm or deny this theory.
Common GMO Foods in Australia
You’d be surprised to know that GMO foods are almost everywhere you look from the fresh fruit and vegetables at your local grocers to the soy milk you buy at the supermarket. Here is a list of the most common GMO foods in Australia:
The first of the GM foods was the trusty tomato. They were modified to have thicker skin so they could handle the rough journey from farm to plate.
Corn, also known as maize in the US has been genetically modified since 2010 with around one-third of crops around the world now GMO. Higher yields have meant that we have been able to keep up with the demand for maize which is used to feed livestock.
Over 80% of soybeans worldwide are GMO, to remove an allergen that was present in natural soybeans making GMO soybeans safer.
Potatoes were one of the first vegetables to be genetically modified. GMO potatoes bruise less easily and produce
A more recent addition to the list is salmon, which has been engineered to grow faster and all year round to help combat dwindling salmon populations due to overfishing.
Rice is often genetically modified to withstand dry conditions but also to help with malnutrition. In poorer countries where rice is a staple, rice has been engineered to produce more vitamin A where vitamin A deficiency is a huge problem.
A GMO apple called the “Arctic Apple” recently hit shelves which have been modified to not go brown when it comes into contact with oxygen.
Before making a decision on whether or not you choose to eat GMO foods it is important to read the facts and the arguments on both sides of the fence. Reading information from anti-GMO lobby groups and independent GMO scientists is likely to paint a one-sided picture of the debate.