What is Genetically Modified Food?

If the old saying is true that we are what we eat, Americans may want to sit up and take notice: the Center for Food Safety has estimated that up to 75% of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients. Even the most health-conscious individuals have likely been unable to avoid consuming genetically modified foods, especially since food distributors are not required by law to label them. We explore why some people wanted to alter the composition of crops in the first place, how GM food can impact your health, and what your elected representatives are doing in response to public concern. This is a lot to digest (so to speak), but we are confident you will emerge a more alert consumer.

At a local farmers market, we ask some of San Diego's most health-conscious consumers if they're aware of genetically modified foods. Continue watching to study the science behind the modification process.


Did you know that you have been eating genetically modified (GM) food for the past ten years? And it's in 70-75% of our nation's food! A long list of documented health complications associated with eating GM foods includes increased risk of certain types of cancer and fertility complications. What exactly are GM foods?

Simply put, scientists wanted to make crops more resilient to environmental factors. Suppose you grow tomatoes: at night it gets so cold that half of your tomatoes are frozen in the morning and you can't sell them anymore. Scientists were able to combat this problem with genetic modification. They figured out a way to take DNA from one organism and put it inside another organism to achieve a desired characteristic. Recognizing the Arctic flounder's ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures, bioengineers isolated that specific DNA trait in the fish to implant in tomatoes. The result: tomatoes highly resistant to cold and substantially greater crop yields.

The driving motivation for genetic modification was bringing 100% of your crop yield to the market; biotechnology was the answer to ending world hunger. Ironically, we unearthed studies that indicate just the opposite, showing instances where GM crops produce fewer yields. In some countries with high starvation rates, journalists documented cases of people burning GM food in protest.

Let's return to how GM food is created. Our friends at Lily Films and Deborah Koons Garcia made a documentary called The Future of Foods that explains it best.

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