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Can These GMO Foods Save the World?

Can These GMO Foods Save the World?

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It would be somewhat of an understatement to say that genetically modified (GMO) foods have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years, on The Daily Meal, among other places. But from drought-resistant corn to virus-resistant squash, some can potentially have quite a positive impact on the world.

Can These GMO Foods Save the World? (Slideshow)

Genetically modified foods have worked their way into our lives pretty firmly by this point, largely due to companies like Monsanto, Aventis, and Syngenta. GM fruits and vegetables stay ripe longer, grow better in a wider range of conditions, and are more resistant to disease. Unfortunately, however, the primary beneficiaries of the positive benefits of these foods have been the companies that created them, not the people who may potentially need them the most. According to a 2008 article in Science, “No conclusive evidence was found that GM crops have so far offered solutions to the broader socioeconomic dilemmas faced by developing countries."

Anti-GMO sentiment and tight restrictions are a large part of the reason why these crops aren’t making their way to poor nations, but another reason why they’re not very helpful is the fact that cash crops like corn and wheat are the ones that are most commonly genetically modified, as opposed to the staple crops poor countries need, like cassava and sorghum. Those who develop GMO crops are looking to make a profit first, and if they happen to help out developing nations, that’s a happy coincidence.

Not all GM foods are apples modified to be a brighter shade of red. Some really have the potential to feed millions of people in developing nations, and offer everything from resistance to disease and insects to a higher nutritive value. Read on to learn about 11 genetically modified foods that just might save the world.

Golden Rice

This breed of rice has been genetically engineered to synthesize beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiencies result in blindness, dwarfism, and death for hundreds of thousands of children every year, and replacing regular rice with golden rice can provide them with this vital nutrient.

Bt Soy, Corn, and Cotton

A soil bacterium called Bacillis thuringiensis (or Bt) produces a natural pesticide, and this gene is currently being injected into the DNA of many different types of crops, including corn, soy, and cotton, preventing the need for dangerous and expensive pesticides. The GE (genetically engineered) corn protects against earworm damage, which is one of the most costly crop pests in North America, and also lowers the level of mycotoxigenic fungi, which have been linked to cancer in humans.

Click here for 9 more GMO foods that do more good than harm.

Did you know?

Genetic engineering is often used in combination with traditional breeding to produce the genetically engineered plant varieties on the market today.

For thousands of years, humans have been using traditional modification methods like selective breeding and cross-breeding to breed plants and animals with more desirable traits. For example, early farmers developed cross-breeding methods to grow corn with a range of colors, sizes, and uses. Today’s strawberries are a cross between a strawberry species native to North America and a strawberry species native to South America.

Most of the foods we eat today were created through traditional breeding methods. But changing plants and animals through traditional breeding can take a long time, and it is difficult to make very specific changes. After scientists developed genetic engineering in the 1970s, they were able to make similar changes in a more specific way and in a shorter amount of time.

Nearly a billion people go hungry every day – can GM crops help feed them?

The Science Museum in London is running an exhibition until the end of May called Future Foods. It attempts to give a balanced view of the pros and cons of genetically modified crops, which are back on the agenda in the light of fears over a major food crisis. It does a good job too.

As part of the exhibition, the museum organised a debate at the Dana Centre to give the public a chance to debate GM crops and the food crisis with some key scientists. I chaired the event and picked up on a few issues I thought might be worth sharing.

The panel of experts included Bob Watson, the chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who in previous incarnations has been a Nasa scientist, an adviser to the White House and chief scientist at the World Bank. He was joined by Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London. Tim used to be director of the London Food Commission, director of Parents for Safe Food, and has also spent time as a hill farmer in Lancashire. Rodomiro Ortiz, director of resource mobilisation at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico, completed the panel.

I've been at GM debates before, sometimes on a panel and sometimes in the audience, and I've always been disheartened by the deeply polarised views I hear. There are those who overstate how useful GM crops could be, while others write off the entire technique, claiming it is inherently dangerous. It's hard not to feel the truth is somewhere in between.

Tim Lang spoke first and stressed that our way of producing food has to change from the post-1940s push for quantity. Yes, of course quantity is still important, he said, but water usage, environmental impact and nutritional content have to be considered now more than ever. Tim doesn't see GM as a technical fix that will put food in the mouths of the hungry, especially while it is in the hands of multinationals. He called for public ownership of GM technology, with the transparency and distribution of benefits that comes with it.

Rodomiro spoke next, describing the work his organisation is doing to genetically modify wheat to grow under drought conditions. The crops are in trials at the moment and if they are a success, similar strains of rice, maize and barley could be next.

Bob Watson spoke last. He began by explaining that today the amount of food available per capita has never been higher, how costs are still low, and yet still around 900m people go to bed hungry every night.

The major problem, said Watson, is not one that GM crops will solve. He stressed the need for good roads to get crops to markets, and simple technologies that will help reduce post-harvest losses in Africa, which currently stand at between 30 and 40%. "GM is a totally oversold technique," he said.

The debate that followed covered some interesting ground, but it seemed easier to identify the problems than the solutions. How can we ensure GM foods are safe when some countries do not have sufficient procedures for testing and evaluating any health issues, let alone the impact of novel crops on the environment? How do you ensure that farmers in the developing world can plant higher-yielding GM crops without becoming dangerously reliant upon a company that has the power to hike prices or withdraw seeds without notice? The problems are recognised, but I'm not sure anyone at the meeting had concrete ideas about how to solve them.

Though GM crops are common in many parts of the world now, they are still absent from the UK and resistance to them is strong in many parts of Europe. Sir David King, the government's former chief scientist, said last year that Africa's ills are largely down to Western do-gooders who oppose GM in favour of organic food. He argued that organic food is a luxury Africa cannot afford and that modern agricultural technology is needed urgently.

It's striking that the views of King and Watson are so diametrically opposed. If these two have such differing positions, is it any wonder that the public is confused?

Genetically Modified Organisms

Ahold Delhaize brands are dedicated to helping customers eat well, save time and live better. Our local brands focus on providing affordable nutritious choices and providing clear product information that enables customers to make choices that fit their needs, their tastes, and their values.

The public debate on bioengineering and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is evolving and being held at different levels in different parts of the world. Ahold Delhaize understands that understanding genetically modified foods can be a complicated and sensitive issue for customers. Supporters of Genetic Modification (GM) see an opportunity for efficient production and increased resistance of crops and an opportunity to grow crops under more extreme conditions. Others criticize GM as it could negatively impact the environment (conventional crops, native plants, and animals) and people’s health (concerns ranging from allergic reactions to antibiotic resistance).

Ahold Delhaize supports transparency for customers through on-pack product labeling that is consistent and easy to read, so that customers are aware if a product contains GMOs or not and can make their preferred choice.

Each Ahold Delhaize brand decides whether to include GMO products in their assortments, which differ which differ among brands based on preferences of local customers

Ahold Delhaize brands in Europe have a very limited number of GMO products. In Serbia, GMOs are prohibited by law. In European Union countries, on-pack labeling is required if a product contains GMO ingredients.

Our Ahold Delhaize USA (ADUSA) brands are choosing a transparent labeling option to make it easier for customers to understand what’s included in the products they love by placing clear on-pack Bioengineered Food* disclosures for all private brand products. We are working to complete this well ahead of the Federal Bioengineered labeling deadline of January 1, 2022.

For our customers that are striving to avoid GMOs, we offer Nature’s Promise private brand products, which are USDA organic or do not have intentionally added GMOs. We also offer a select number of products that are non-GMO certified by a third party.

For customers who desire to altogether bypass some of the products that could contain GMOs, we recommend being aware products that have ingredients or single ingredients that the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) currently recognizes as crops or foods that could potentially contain GMOs. These ingredients are listed below:

GMO Foods Are Killing Us

If you are active on social media these days then you see that living a fit, healthy lifestyle is now the “cool” thing to be doing. It seems like people who have never cared about health and fitness before are now making the effort to improve their lifestyles, which is amazing. What is not amazing is that the majority of these foods people think are healthy are in fact not -- at all.

See that apple on your desk? Or what about that Naked Juice or Odwalla bar you will use as a meal replacement after the gym? They look healthy and one even says it's GMO free on the back, so they must be good for you, right? Wrong. Would you believe me if I told you that these every day foods you and I consume are packed full of GMO, toxic ingredients, that over time will result in us becoming sicker and our own government richer?

The world we are living in these days is not what it used to be and it's time we all took some time to figure out exactly what is going on when it comes to the food we are putting into our bodies. Since 1990, the way our food is grown has changed drastically, as most companies now use GMOs to produce our favorite foods. What even is a GMO you ask? Well, let's break this down.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, which is when genes from the DNA of one species are extracted and artificially forced into the genes of an unrelated plant or animal. The foreign genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans, the outcome being un-natural foods and products that are hazardous to humans. Basically, your food is being pumped full of weird things it is not made to digest.

For example: Scientists recently created a new breed of chickens, which are not only featherless, but grow faster making it cheaper for processing plants. The chickens don't survive well in cold climates, making the chicken's life now miserable. This change of course is not to help the chicken, but to save money for the ones processing them.

2. Why are GMOs so bad for humans?

GMOs are awful for so many reasons, but the biggest being that they are NOT natural! They are man-made, toxic products the human body is not made to consume and digest. Genetically modified foods have been linked to sick, sterile and dead livestock, and when tested on lab animals, damaged virtually every organ of the animal tested.

Basically the more GMO foods you eat, the sicker you become. You get sick, you visit the doctor, you buy more medicines which = more money for our government, the one's making us sick to begin with. The health care industry is a TRILLION dollar industry so I think it's clear to see why we are being fed poison.

Research shows that consuming pesticides leads to the mutation of cells in the human body, possibly fueling the development of malignant tumors and other forms of cancer.

In your food! First introduced in 1990, GMOs are now in the majority of processed foods in the USA. GMOs are banned in more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the European Union.

4. What companies feed us GMOs?

Monsanto is the King of GMOs and is pretty much responsible for all the toxic processed food you're poisoning yourself with. They unfortunately work with pretty much every single brand you will find in grocery stores and even some in your favorite health food stores.

5. Exactly who is Monsanto?

Monsanto wasn't always in the genetically modified business. The company's first product was the artificial sweetener saccharine and by the 20th century, Monsanto had expanded into the manufacture of many other chemicals, including plastics, herbicides and insecticides. From 1965 to 1969, Monsanto actually produced Agent Orange for the U.S. military to use in the Vietnam War, and has since been subject to numerous lawsuits related to the herbicide's contamination with a toxic dioxin compound. And they're the ones making our food?

6. Why do companies use GMOs?

At the end of the day, it's always about money. These companies want to make products that taste, look and sell the best to keep you coming back for more. GMOs enhance taste and quality, reduce maturation time and improve crops resistance to disease, pests and bugs. When it comes to animals being altered, they are usually altered to yield better meat, eggs and milk. Basically natural things on steroids, so we enjoy them more.

One crop called Bt cotton actually produces pesticides inside the actual plant, which kill or deter insects, saving the farmer from having to ever spray pesticides. The plants themselves are then toxic, and not just to insects, to animals and humans as well. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die.

7. What are the most common GMOs?

The most common are: soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa and squash (zucchini and yellow). Many of these items appear as added ingredients in a large amount of the foods we eat. For instance, you may not eat tofu or drink soy milk, but soy is most likely present in a large percentage of the foods in your pantry.

8. Aren't our foods labeled with GMOs?

Nope! Member how we passed prop 37 last year? Companies do not have to let us know GMOs are in our food. Even crazier, companies can label things "organic" and “GMO free” when they're not! Unless your food says “Non-GMO Project Verified” it most likely is infected with GMOs or produced by a GMO-supporting company.

So, how do we fight back? Many people suggest growing your own food or raising chickens, but let's be real, most people are not going to do that. Here are some realistic ways you can slow down the beast known as Monsanto:

1. The best way to fight back is to BOYCOTT Monsanto and all of the hundreds of companies they provide their poisonous seeds to. Here is the list of a few of the companies you are probably eating now that you must stop buying! Basically, if you are still shopping at grocery stores, you should assume what you are buying is poison. Pepsi, Smart Water, Naked Juice, Coca Cola, Dean, Nestle, all bad news!

2. Choose products that are USDA Organic & Non-GMO Project Verified (Full list here). If it does not say those exact words, it probably contains GMOs or isn't truly organic. Items may say Non-GMO Project Verified and still be linked to Monsanto.

For example: Silk Almond milk contains no GMOs however, they are sneaky as they are owned by none other than Dean and Dean, which is one of the largest Monsanto backers. So even though your almond milk is GMO free, your money still supports Monsanto.

3. Shop at local farmer's markets or health food stores like Trader Joe's. They offer the best options if you want to shop from an actual store.

4. DL the Buycott & Fooducate iPhone apps. Buycott is an amazing app that actually scans packages to see who makes the item and will also tell you if they are part of the Monsanto BOYCOTT list. The app was created based off all of the companies who donated money to keep prop 37 from passing. Fooducate will actually tell you if the item is non GMO verified and also grades your food based off its ingredients. Both are great tools to fight back and they're free!

5. Share this article with everyone! Everyone should know what GMOs are and how to fight back, especially those with children.

Overall, the effects of GMOs are still being studied, but there is enough info out there to prove these foods simply should be avoided. I know it is overwhelming and it seems like it's impossible, but with a little research and commitment, you and your family can live a healthier lifestyle that makes the entire country stronger in the process.

Popular in Technology

Often, genetically modified foods are held up as a necessity to feed an ever-growing world, but what is less discussed is how the ways we grow that food actually exacerbate our problems. Industrial agriculture strips away topsoil, mandating the use of inputs like chemical fertilizers to replace lost nutrients. Growing genetically identical plants close together allows pathogens to spread quickly, decimating entire crops.

If bananas are a case study in the future of our food, we should think carefully about the framing of the case for GM crops. If the priority is short-term yields and band-aids against rogue pathogens, then GM is a step in that direction. But if long-term resilience and environmental health are in our sights, it’s worth reconsidering what efforts will get us there. A real solution will require a combination of strategies. For our banana, it is crucial to examine the biosecurity and monoculture methods that allow these diseases to spread so ferociously. Without significant changes, we’re just waiting for the next variant to take us by surprise.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society.

So what’s the problem?

One major problem is the fact that a crop can become the intellectual property of a private company. Traditionally, farmers save some of the seeds from their current crop to plant for next year’s harvest.

But when a company owns the rights to a GM crop, they can (and do) forbid farmers from doing this, forcing them to purchase new seed from the patent owners every year. Even if a farmer doesn’t grow GM crops, they can blow in from neighbouring fields, making it necessary to purchase a licence for them – or face heavy fines. GM critics say that this gives large corporations too much control over agriculture and the power to exploit farmers.

There also remain a handful of scientists who still have concerns about ‘unknown’ long-term implications. Anti-GM cellular biologist Dr David Williams says that a genome is not a static environment and claims “inserted genes can be transformed by several different means [which] can happen generations later”. Talking to the journal Scientific American, he argues that potentially toxic plants could therefore slip through testing in future.

Even if most experts support GM technology, some critics argue that scientists could be afraid to challenge the majority and publish anti-GM studies, because they would face attacks on their reputations and receive less funding for their research.

Whether or not that’s true, it doesn’t change the fact that almost all anti-GM studies to date have been discredited or retracted – debunked by the scientific community for using misleading, unscientific methods.

Eat These 50 Foods to Save the World

Please excuse that hyperbolic title, but I am feeling enthusiastic and the idea behind this collection of foods is ambitious.

It starts with this remarkable fact: According to a new report, 75 percent of the food we eat comes from 12 plant sources and five animal sources. Of those 12 plant sources, 60 percent comes from just three crops – wheat, corn, and rice.

We live on a planet of mind-boggling biodiversity, yet for the most part, we eat 17 things.

What could possibly go wrong?

The lack of variety in agriculture is bad for our health, bad for nature, and a threat to food security, explains the report and subsequent campaign: Future 50 Foods: 50 Foods for Healthier People and a Healthier Planet. The project is a collaboration between the World Wildlife Fund and Knorr foods. And while that might seem like one of the odder partnerships out there, you may have already guessed the connection. The way we eat is also disastrous for wildlife.

With a startling 60 percent drop in wildlife populations since 1970, conservation efforts are no longer enough to save the animals. "We have to address the drivers of habitat loss and species collapse," says David Edwards from WWF. "And the biggest driver is global farming."

So there’s habitat destruction – think dwindling orangutan populations thanks to the proliferation of palm oil plantations. But there’s also the inherent risks in investing so much agriculture in so few crops – think Irish potato famine. Not to mention human health benefits of eating a variety of nutrients, and the enormous benefits to soil when not being stripped by growing monocrops.

When you think about it, the answer seems pretty evident: Grow and eat a lot of different kinds of foods. But not just any foods we should be focusing on adopting foods that are going to be sustainable enough to meet the needs of a growing population while leaving nature intact. Foods that are nutritious and may be naturally pest resistant, that are kind to the soil and don't destroy critical habitats, that defy drought and produce good yields.

“The Future 50 Foods have been selected based on their high nutritional value, relative environmental impact, flavour, accessibility, acceptability and affordability. This set of criteria is modelled after the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) definition of sustainable diets. Some of the Future 50 Foods have higher yields than similar crops, several are tolerant of challenging weather and environmental conditions, and many contain significant amounts of critical nutrients. Each has a story to tell.”

These are the 50 – the report provides great descriptions and suggestions for each.

1. Laver seaweed
2. Wakame seaweed
3. Adzuki beans
4. Black turtle beans
5. Broad beans (fava beans)
6. Bambara groundnuts/Bambara beans
7. Cowpeas
8. Lentils
9. Marama beans
10. Mung beans
11. Soy beans
12. Nopales
13. Amaranth
14. Buckwheat
15. Finger millet
16. Fonio
17. Khorasan wheat
18. Quinoa
19. Spelt
20. Teff
21. Wild rice
22. Pumpkin flowers
23. Okra
24. Orange tomatoes
25. Beet greens
26. Broccoli rabe
27. Kale
28. Moringa
29. Pak-choi or bok-choy
30. Pumpkin leaves
31. Red cabbage
32. Spinach
33. Watercress
34. Enoki mushrooms
35. Maitake mushrooms
36. Saffron milk cap mushrooms
37. Flax seeds
38. Hemp seeds
39. Sesame seeds
40. Walnuts
41. Black salsify
42. Parsley root
43. White icicle radish
44. Alfalfa sprouts
45. Sprouted kidney beans
46. Sprouted chickpeas
47. Lotus root
48. Ube (purple yam)
49. Yam bean root (jicama)
50. Red Indonesian (Cilembu) sweet potatoes

My household eats many of these, others, not so much. Which is where Knorr steps in. Dorothy Shaver, head of sustainability for the food conglomerate, tells NPR the company wants to be part of the movement.

"This actually gives us a major opportunity to identify some of the flavors that people are missing out on," she says. "And then we can get them on people's plates. We can get people to switch out one of their white potatoes that they eat potentially four or five times a week with a purple yam. Or in Indonesia make it an Indonesian sweet potato instead of white rice."

Shaver tells NPR that doing this across the globe would have an enormous impact on the environment. She says Knorr will try to mainstream 10 or 15 of these so-called future foods in its dishes. She says its popular cheddar and broccoli rice dish will soon have versions featuring black beans and quinoa instead of rice.

My inner punk rock teenager feels skeptical when I hear multinational food behemoths talking sustainability – but at the same time, I'm always complaining about Big Food ruining everything. Could this be the point when giant corporations actually start to use their power to make a difference? Only time will tell but in the meantime, I am looking for some pumpkin flowers and fonio to cook.

I really do recommend looking at the report and reading about all the foods. If nothing else, it is a great reminder to step away from the rice, wheat, and corn and try new things. See the report here: Future 50 Foods: 50 Foods for Healthier People and a Healthier Planet.

Genetically Modified Organisms and Our Food Supply

GMO (genetically modified organism) foods are being seen more and more in our food supply and are often cited as the future of our agricultural system. Many GMOs, in fact, are already ingredients in food products that we frequently enjoy. GMO crops are crops that have been safely engineered to have new traits such as increased vitamin availability, drought resistance and pest tolerance. Genetically modified (GM) foods support the food production system by increasing yields, supporting conservation and building sustainability through social, environmental and economic opportunities. Today, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of the 11 GM foods that have been approved in the U.S.

GM alfalfa, a highly nutritious legume used as cattle and dairy feed, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006. It is the fourth largest U.S. crop (both in acreage and production). GM alfalfa has been altered to (a) be more resistant to herbicides like glyphosate and/or (b) contain less lignin, making the alfalfa easier to digest by cattle. These modifications limit the overgrowth of weeds, increase alfalfa production, and increase the nutritive value of feed for cows.

Approved by the FDA in 2015, GM apples first appeared on the U.S. market in 2017. We’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and GM apples have been modified to keep browning away by suppressing the oxidase enzyme. These non-browning apples can reduce food waste in the food system, as bruised apples (which may be perfectly fine to eat) may appear brown and distasteful to consumers.

FDA-approved in 1999, the GM canola plant is an oilseed crop whose seeds are used for canola oil (a heart-healthy unsaturated fat), animal feed and biofuel. The canola plant has been modified to increase its resistance to herbicides and produce less phytate (a naturally occurring plant seed anti-nutrient that prevents the body from absorbing vitamins and minerals). Decreased herbicide use translates to improved environmental sustainability, decreased pesticide use and increased desirable yields.

4. Corn (Maize)

As one of the world’s most important crops, corn is used as food for both humans and animals alike. GM corn (maize) was FDA-approved in 1996 and has been modified for insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, drought tolerance and size enlargement. By increasing its resistance to insects and tolerance to herbicides, GM corn not only resists predation from caterpillars, beetles and other pests it is also not prone to mold and fungi growth. Ultimately, these improvements lead to increased yields, reduced toxins and decreased environmental impacts from pesticide use.

As a multipurpose fiber, cotton is used in clothing, textiles and animal feed. FDA-approved in 1995, GM cotton accounts for 80 percent of the world’s cotton. Prior to its genetic improvements, cotton crops were environmentally, economically and sanitarily detrimental due to their natural pests (moths, aphids, etc.) and heavy pesticide application. GM cotton is continuously modified for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance in order to decrease herbicide use (thus diminishing environmental impact) and to increase yield. Recently, GM cotton was approved for human consumption as a new high-protein food!

From the 1940s through the 1990s, the papaya industry was devastated by the papaya ringspot virus papaya production dropped by 50 percent between 1993 and 2006. In 1985, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture funded research on virus-resistant GM papayas. Approved by the FDA in 1998, ringspot-resistant GM papayas now encompass 90 percent of all papayas grown. GM papayas allow the papaya industry and family farms to thrive and remain sustainable.

Approved by the FDA in 2015, GM potatoes have been modified to resist diseases, reduce bruising (browning and black spots), increase storage duration and reduce compounds associated with acrylamide formation. Low-bruising and enhanced-shelf-life potatoes decrease food waste from post-harvest losses and consumer waste. Moreover, reducing acrylamide formation lets us continue to enjoy delicious and healthy baked or fried potatoes.

8. Soybeans

Soybeans are incredibly versatile commodity crops. Soybeans are made into tofu, soy milk and other plant-based protein products. Soybean oil is used for salad dressings and frying. Soy can also be formed into candles and used as biofuel. Mostly, they are used for high-protein animal feed. FDA-approved in 1995, 90 percent of U.S. soybean crops are GM soybeans. These beans were modified for herbicide tolerance and improved oil quality. By changing fatty-acid compounds in soybeans, soybean oil can be stabilized to prevent rancidity (an off-putting flavor resulting from chemical breakdown). Additionally, herbicide tolerance within GM soybeans increases yields and decreases environmental impacts.

9. Summer Squash

Although approved by the FDA in 1995, genetically modified summer squash (yellow squash and green zucchini) is grown at low levels in the U.S. These summer squash are resistant to zucchini yellow mosaic, a virus that disastrously impacts global cucurbits (squash, pumpkins and melons). Unaffected by the virus, GM summer squash reduces resource use and prevents food waste from crop destruction that would result from a viral infestation.

10. Sugar Beet

Fifty-five percent of sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets. FDA-approved in 2006 to be more herbicide-resistant, GM sugar beets account for 90 percent of sugar beets grown in the country. Sugar beets are a labor-intensive crop prior to GM sugar beets, farmers applied cocktails of five or more herbicides bi-weekly to their crops. GM sugar beets have alleviated many environmental stresses by using less herbicides and pesticides to reduce water usage and carbon footprints while at the same time promoting no-till farming, water retention and soil health.

Although salmon is the second-most popular fish consumed in the U.S., overfishing and environmental degradation has dangerously reduced wild salmon populations. Approved in 2015, GM salmon is the first GM animal to be authorized by the FDA. Compared to its non-GM counterparts, GM salmon can grow to full size in half the time. Not only can GM salmon meet the growing demand for fish, it is also environmentally sustainable by conserving wild fish populations, reducing carbon emissions and controlling fish farming inputs and outputs.

Globally, GM crops have been adopted in 67 of the world’s 195 countries. In 2017, 17 million farmers raised GM crops. The most frequently grown global GM crops include corn, cotton, canola, and soybeans. However, other countries also cultivate GM crops such as pineapple and eggplant.

GM crops not only increase our world’s food supply but their ability to increase economic value, conserve biodiversity, decrease carbon emissions and support human health is changing the world one gene at a time. Next time you are sautéing a vegetable or chewing on a French fry, take a moment to reflect on the GMO science behind the food you are eating and the sustainability this innovation provides our food system.

This article contains contributions from Tamika Sims, PhD, and Lily Yang, PhD Postdoctoral Research Associate at Virginia Tech in the Department of Food Science and Technology.

How to tell if you're eating GMOs

The new label required on GMO foods, which became effective in 2020.

Even though GMOs have been around for nearly 30 years, the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) released the first set of rules for GMO labeling in December 2018.

By 2022, GM foods or foods made with GM ingredients must display the "bioengineered" emblem on the packaging. Implementation of the new labeling began on Jan. 1, 2020 for large food manufacturers and begins on Jan. 1, 2021 for small manufacturers. For both, the mandatory compliance date is Jan. 1, 2022.

However, the notice clarifies that "For refined foods that are derived from bioengineered crops, no disclosure is required if the food does not contain detectable modified genetic material."

So just like you'll start seeing (or have already seen) the new nutrition facts label this year, expect to see the new emblem soon. You can also still look for the Non-GMO Project label, a sign that the independent organization has evaluated that food for GM ingredients.

If you're really worried about eating GMOs, you can keep them out of your diet by eating organic food and avoiding foods with soybeans, canola oil, corn and sugar from sugar beets.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.