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Genetically Modified Foods

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You might be wondering about the terms "GMO" (genetically modified organism), "transgenic," or "bioengineered" and what they mean to your food. They all refer to crops that are genetically modified. A genetically modified crop has had its genes changed by scientists in the lab. The genes are changed to help the crop resist weeds, insects, and diseases; increase its nutrients; or lengthen its shelf life. Farmers in the United States, Canada, and Argentina grow the greatest proportion of genetically modified crops worldwide.

In the future, scientists hope to develop genetically modified crops that provide more nutrients, treat diseases, act as vaccines, or create new materials or energy sources. A good example is golden rice, which was genetically modified with genes from a daffodil so it had more beta carotene. Golden rice has been used to fight vitamin A deficiency in African children.

Genetically modified foods appear to have the same risks and benefits for health as other foods do. The FDA, EPA, and USDA regulate genetically modified foods, and they require extensive safety data before a new genetically modified crop is released. So far, no research shows that genetically modified foods affect cancer risk or cause long-term health problems. If you do not want genetically modified foods in your diet, consider buying certified organic food. The USDA standards for organic food do not allow any genetically modified seed or crops to be used in foods using the organic symbol.

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