How Much Do We Actually Know About GMO Foods?

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Should you buy that GMO canola oil? | iStock.com

Of the many food debates we hear about nearly every day, the one over genetically modified organism (GMO) foods might be the most hotly contested. Because both sides feel so strongly about their positions, it often ends up coming across as an argument without much real information. This makes it nearly impossible for the rest of us to figure out what’s truth, what’s fiction, and what’s still fuzzy. And yes, a lot of it is still fuzzy. Let’s dive right in, so you can figure out where you stand.

First of all, we need to go over what makes GMOs different from hybrid crops. When it comes to hybridization, humans have traditionally cross-bred two varieties of produce. With genetically modified foods, Scientific American says scientists select the specific genes from any species, plant or otherwise, they want to include in the new crop. While this is something that could never occur in nature, it’s a far cry from the toxic substances many people think of when they hear the term GMO. In fact, many of the most abundant crops in the U.S. are often genetically modified. Let’s use corn as an example. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, 92% of all the corn grown in the country is genetically engineered.

Frankly, tons of the foods we eat are genetically modified. Business Insider highlighted some of the most common ones. In addition to corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and rapeseeds, which are used to make canola oil, are all more likely to be genetically engineered than not. Grocery store shelves are filled with foods made with these ingredients, so most of us eat GMOs on a regular basis without even realizing it.