The term GMO — or Genetically Modified Organism — refers to plants that have been engineered by man to grow even in the face of disease and insect damage. Proponents of this controversial food source claim that it could help increase crop yields and support global nutritional needs.
According to the Non-GMO Project, there have not been any long-term, conclusive studies that have demonstrated the safety of genetically modified foods. While the FDA does regulate these products to an extent, outside research has raised a few concerns regarding the impact of GMOs on human health. Most notably, altering genes within plants could introduce new proteins in fruits and vegetables that could trigger reactions in individuals with food allergies. These genetic changes may also reduce the overall nutritional value of foods, preventing people from gaining the benefits of following a balanced diet.
GMOs might also negatively affect the environment. Specifically, studies show that the growth of insecticide use has grown tremendously since genetically modified produce has become more prevalent in the United States. This trend increases the risk of soil and groundwater contamination.
The genetic arrangements found in GMO foods are protected by patents held by large biotech firms. This patent prevents other producers from growing GMO crops. However, these genes can spread to other crops as a result of natural plant reproduction. As a result, local produce farmers may end up growing items that contain patent-protected genes, putting them at risk of legal action from biotech firms. As patented compositions become more concentrated, it may become more difficult for small farmers to sustain their businesses, which could negatively impact local economies.
Choosing non-GMO foods is the best way to limit the impact of these risks, but knowing which items are not genetically modified isn't always easy, especially since GMO labeling is not required in the United States. Fortunately, most farms that grow and harvest their own produce do so without the use of GMOs. This is just one of the many reasons to buy your produce from local farmers!