GMOs for the Layperson

What We Know, What We Don’t, and What We Can Agree On

Article by Meredith Whitemore

Have you ever heard an argument that neither side can seem to win? Whether it’s a debate on free will versus destiny, nature versus nurture, or even the chicken and the egg, both sides can be passionate in defending their case. They can seem logical. Confident. Oh, and even hell-bent on changing the other side’s views.

That’s what the deliberation on GMOs—otherwise known as genetically modified organisms—can feel like.

Both sides of the GMO debate are fiery in their stance. Both sides present what seems to be, or even is, credible evidence. But in the midst of the “yelling,” short-term studies, and claims that the other side’s reasoning is ridiculous, you are left wondering. Which expert is right? How can I know? What should I feed my family?

While I don’t have all the answers, let me try to shed at least some light on the subject.

What is it?

First, GMOs, as their name indicates, are genetically modified. That is, scientists have artificially altered an organism’s genetic material in an attempt to produce a better variety of the organism. For example, crops—primarily corn, soy, and cotton—are often genetically modified to increase pest resistance, size and speed of growth. Produce such as tomatoes is modified to improve flavor, texture and resistance to decay. And to increase milk production in dairy cows, RGBH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), a genetically altered variation of a naturally occurring hormone, is injected into the animals.

Sometimes crops are also modified to, supposedly, increase nutritional value and harvest. Golden rice, for instance, contains much more beta-carotene than white rice and was genetically developed as a humanitarian tool to protect malnourished children who might otherwise die of vitamin A deficiency.

Where is it?

GMOs are almost everywhere. If you live in the United States, the chances are you’ve already consumed a GMO product today. Genetically modified corn, wheat, and soybean products are used in approximately 70 percent of processed foods in this country. A much smaller percentage of the produce we consume, including sweet corn, papaya and certain squashes, has been genetically modified.

What are the potential side effects if I consume it? Risks possibly associated with human GMO consumption include increased food allergies and the synthesis of toxic compounds in cells and tissue (resulting in an increased risk of certain cancers).

What do we know?

Well, that depends. It is possible that genetically modified foods are unsafe. Though some people would feed GMOs to their children, claiming the foods are harmless.

The fact is that, while there are countless studies on GMO foods, the number of reputable, long-term and comprehensive studies of the safety of GMOs and the potential risks to human health remains small.

There simply needs to be more long-term research.

As it is, the more short-term studies one reads on GMOs, the more confusing it can become for a layperson to decipher. Words such as “seem to” and “appear to,” “speculated” and “possibly,” prevail when it comes to trying to draw definitive conclusions.

Overall, studies do seem to indicate that GMO foods are relatively safe. A peer review article titled “Benefits and risk associated with genetically modified food products,” in the Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, states in its final summary, “Consumption of genetically modified food entails risk of undesirable effects, similar to the consumption of traditional food.” Translation: You could get sick through eating a GMO just as easily as you could become sick through eating a non-GMO. It continues its indefiniteness, stating, “To date, no completely negative effects of transgenic [genetically modified] food on the human body or its complete harmlessness could have been documented.”

Translation: The jury is still out.

What Can We Agree On?

It’s safe to say, though, that we can agree on this: People should have a right to know what is in their food. That includes the knowledge of any, even potentially, detrimental alterations. While we all wait for a more definitive verdict on GMO foods, that point is clear. The public should be made aware of even the slightest GMO risks so they have the option to avoid them. . Whether people wish to purchase or avoid genetically modified foods is their personal decision.

I choose to eat as much organic, non-genetically modified food as possible. That’s the option I’m most comfortable with. If I don’t have to, why take the risk? In any case, it isn’t unreasonable to press for more research and for a well-written labeling system. There are probably a couple more thing we can agree on, too: A low-carbohydrate diet eliminates most GMOs, and talking about GMOs at the dinner table is sure to cause indigestion one way or another.


Cheeseburger Pie


2 pounds ground beef (we get ours from Zaycon)
3 Tablespoons onion powder
4 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup heavy cream
16oz shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste


Brown ground beef and drain.
Mix in onion powder and a little salt and pepper.
Stir in ¾ of the shredded cheese, leaving a handful or two for the top at the end.
Dump meat mixture into a 9 inch pie pan or any oven safe dish.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, heavy cream and eggs with a dash of salt and pepper. Pour over meat mixture and top with a handful of cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until bubbling. Take out of oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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