RALEIGH, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than 90 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered. But many Americans still look for foods labeled ‘no GMO’s’ in the supermarket for fear of health risks. So, are GMO’s a threat … or no?
These college students are testing a class on their knowledge of GMO’s or, genetically modified organisms.
“Two of these chips are organic and one of them is genetically modified, can you guys guess which one is genetically modified,” asked Hannah Zimmer, Sophomore, Wake Forest University.
Gloria Muday, PhD, Professor of Biology, Wake Forest University says farmers have been genetically engineering the foods we eat for centuries.
Muday stated, “95% of the corn in the U.S. is a GMO.”
Muday studies the genetic characteristics that make tomatoes resistant to drought and heat.
“As climate change increases, the stress is a very real concern,” continued Muday.
She says crops can be genetically modified to withstand high temperatures and pests reducing the use of pesticides. And she say’s despite fears due to food labeling, studies show GMO’s are safe.
“Those have detected no negative health impacts of GMO’s on humans or animals,” said Muday.
She created a program where college students teach local high school students about the science behind GMO’s.
The college students say teaching the topic has changed their perception. In fact, only 46 percent of them favored GMO’s before and 97 percent after!
“I feel like there’s a lot of false rumors out there and a lot of people don’t know the true scientific reasons behind them,” said Zimmer.
“Having to understand it first before I go teach it makes you, first of all, learn it 10 times better, and that’s kind of why we’re here,” stated Mark Sucoloski, Sophomore, Wake Forest University.
Interesting fact: almost all white corn chips are GMO’s but no purple chips are. Professor Muday’s study suggests students develop an informed opinion first through learning the science of genetic engineering and then teaching it to younger students.
Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
GMO’S THREAT OR NO?
BACKGROUND: Around 92% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered (GE), as are 94% of soybeans and 94% of cotton. It’s estimated that about 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves – from soda to soup, crackers to condiments – contain genetically engineered ingredients. By removing the genetic material from one organism and inserting it into the permanent genetic code of another, the biotech industry has created an astounding number of organisms that are not produced by nature and have never been seen on a dinner table. These include potatoes with bacteria genes, “super” pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, corn with bacteria genes, and thousands of other altered and engineered plants, animals and insects. These creations are now being patented and released into our environment and our food supply.
THE GMO DEBATE: All foods from genetically engineered plants on sale in the U.S. are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, there is some controversy over the benefits and risks. Manufacturers use genetic modification to give foods desirable traits. For example, they have designed two new varieties of apple that turn less brown when cut or bruised. The reasoning usually involves making crops more resistant to diseases as they grow. Plants that are more resistant to diseases spread by insects or viruses result in higher yields for farmers and a more attractive product. Professor Gloria Muday at Wake Forest University says, “In more recent times, farmers and plant breeders purposefully crossed two plants to make better new varieties. These activities change the genes in the crop plants we eat, which is a form of genetic modification that has led to food we eat not looking like native plants. I would not call this genetic engineering. This breeding and selection are absolutely changing the genes of plants to make them more productive, healthier, taste better, and better at defending themselves from pests.” There are also known downsides, but the evidence varies, and the main health issues associated with GMO foods are debated. Some people believe that GMO foods have more potential to trigger allergic reactions. Some researchers believe that eating GMO foods can contribute to the development of cancer. They argue that because the disease is caused by mutations in DNA, it is dangerous to introduce new genes into the body. There is also concern that genetic modification could affect the ability of people to defend against illness.
NEW RESEARCH AND FINDINGS: A plant biochemist at Michigan State University, Dean DellaPenna believes that genetically engineered foods are the key to the next wave of advances in agriculture and health. However, critics fear that genetically engineered products are being rushed to market before their effects are fully understood. “Risks exist everywhere in our food supply,” points out DellaPenna. “About a hundred people die each year from peanut allergies. With genetically engineered foods we minimize risks by doing rigorous testing.” Three federal agencies regulate genetically engineered crops and foods: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA reviews data on allergens, toxicity, and nutrient levels voluntarily submitted by companies. If that information shows that the new foods are not substantially equivalent to conventional ones, the foods must undergo further testing. To learn more on GMO’s, visit https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/resources or https://aspb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Position-Statement-on-Plant-Genetic-Engineering-revised-2014.pdf.
* For More Information, Contact:
Gloria Muday, PhD, Wake Forest University Kimberly McGrath, PR, Wake Forest University
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