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Should You Fear Genetically Modified Foods? It’s Hard to Say

With a reputed journal’s retraction of a controversial, oft-cited study linking genetically modified organisms and cancer, the debate over GMOs heats up.

Credit: AP
Credit: AP
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In a paper published last September, researchers in France suggested a strong link between genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and cancer. The study, which first appeared in Reed Elsevier's journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), pointed specifically to an increased occurrence of tumors in laboratory rats that consumed genetically modified corn. Since its publication, the paper has been so hotly contested, by not only the pro-GMO lobby but also by the scientific community, that last week it was retracted by the journal.

FCT wrote that, “Ultimately, the results presented - while not incorrect - are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology."

For those of us consumers unsure of the health effects of ingesting the genetically engineered food that’s ubiquitous in the United States, FCT’s statement that the study’s results were “not incorrect” comes as little comfort.

So: Are GMOs, present in 60 to 70 percent of the processed foods in grocery stores in this country, safe to consume?

Well, it depends who you ask. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims, on its website, to regulate “foods and ingredients made from genetically engineered plants to help ensure that they are safe to eat,” just last week the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) released a report connecting GMOs to many gluten-related disorders. For example, much of the corn planted in the United States is modified to produce an insecticide called Bt toxin, designed to create holes in insect cells. The recent IRT study claims it does the same in human cells. This may, in turn, cause "leaky gut," so common in people with gluten disorders.

There is no definitive consensus. Polls reveal that 93 percent of Americans believe genetically modified food products should be labeled, as is required in Europe and many other countries around the world.

Andrew Stout, a strong proponent of GMO labeling who owns an organic farm, argues that, "It's no different than just having sodium, salt, artificial flavors and artificial colors, country of origin. Consumers look for that kind of information and make their own individual choices."

Would you avoid genetically modified foods if they were labeled as such? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

David Arsenault December 05, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Interesting article, reminds me of many issues I've seen recently. This topic relates indirectly to climate change, last news piece I saw on GMO's was why they were studied. Theory was that producers have a hard time keeping up with the growing population and shrinking growing acres do to drought/flood. This in turn also reduces the time needed to grow the crops, So one of the large Chemical co. Began experimenting. Worst thing I read was the lack of nutrients in the vegetables. If this one thinks this is horrible, I would say world starvation is much worse. As for meats that is also being thought of through cellular 3D printing, imagine how that will taste? There is currently a co., Organovo Holdings working with liver tissue, along with other samples they may be used in the testing of pharmaceuticals to start with. IMO man has ruined the planet and this could be viewed as evolution...
David Arsenault December 05, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Sorry bout the typo's
Mark Chulsky December 06, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Yeah, let them label them -- I'd be happy to buy GMO. We all are genetically modified, if you believe Darwin.
Jeffrey Freedman December 06, 2013 at 10:35 AM
Suggest watching Food Inc. and related documentaries. Interesting perspective. Incidence of gastro illness, cancers, etc. were much lower pre-1950's agriculture revolution. Good food is good medicine. Unfortunately, due to our growing demand for higher yields in less acreage, in less time, we have managed to engineer the nutritional goodness of food out of much of our food supply.

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