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Health Concerns of GMOs

Health Concerns of GMOs

Many people express health concerns regarding the safety of genetically modified foods. However, there are currently no documented health effects from GMOs, nor are there any GMOs on the market whose nutritional content is altered in any way. The modifications that are made to the food crops (pesticide and herbicide resistance) do not change the nutritional content.

According to the World Health Organization, the major health concerns of GMOs are:

* Direct health effects (toxicity)
* Tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity)
* Specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties
* The stability of the inserted gene
* Nutritional effects associated with genetic modification
* Any unintended effects, which could result from the gene insertion.

Many studies have addressed these concerns, and the vast majority found no evidence of negative health effects. The few studies that raised red flags have been largely rejected by the scientific community for flawed methodology. In one such example, a 2012 experiment studied the effects of feeding GM corn to rats over a two-year period. The results were alarming and widely reported in the press. The researchers claimed that up to 50% of the males and 70% of the females fed GM corn died during the 2-year study, compared with 30% of the males and 20% of the females in the control group. Also, tumors were reported in 50% to 80% of the females compared with only 30% of the controls. Scientists quickly criticized this study and rejected the results. The major flaws cited were that a very small number of rats were used, and the strain of rats chosen is prone to tumors and has a relatively high mortality rate at two years of age under normal conditions. Additionally, at the same time the rat study was published, one of the lead scientists announced the release of a book and a film about his work. Critics point out a conflict of interest; the media coverage of the study provided publicity for his book.

CLICK HERE to learn more about GMOs
CLICK HERE to learn about the ecological concerns of GMOs
CLICK HERE to learn about attempts to require labeling of GM foods
CLICK HERE to read a case study addressing ethical issues associated with GMOs

References:

Andrew Pollack. “Foes of Modified Corn find Support in a Study.” New York Times on the Web September 19, 2012.

Butler, Declan. “Hyped GM maize study faces growing scrutiny” Nature News. October 10, 2012.