GMOs explained



Learn more about their purpose and safety

The scoop on GMOs


Many consumers are curious to learn more about the purpose and safety of GMOs.

“GMO” is a common term used to describe foods made from organisms (plants, microorganisms and animals) that have been created using technology called genetic engineering. Genetic engineering allows scientists to copy a gene with a desired trait from one organism and put it into another.

Purpose of GMOs

Humans have modified crops and animals to suit their needs and tastes for thousands of years. Crossbreeding, selective breeding and mutation breeding are examples of traditional ways to make these genetic changes, and they have been used to create crops like modern corn varieties and seedless watermelon. These methods often involve mixing all the genes from two different sources. For example, today’s strawberries are a cross between a strawberry species native to North America and a strawberry species native to South America.

Modern technology allows scientists to use genetic engineering to take a specific beneficial gene, like insect resistance or drought tolerance, and transfer it into a plant without also transferring undesirable genes, which sometimes occurs in traditional plant breeding. The reasons for genetic modification today are similar to what they were thousands of years ago: higher crop yields, less crop loss, longer storage life, better appearance, better nutrition or a combination of these traits.

Some GMO plants have been modified to improve their nutritional value. An example is GMO soybeans with healthier oils – higher oleic acid – that can be used to replace oils containing trans fats. Scientists are continuing to look for new ways to develop foods with increased nutritional value and other useful traits.

Safety of GMOs

Multiple agencies within the United States government work to regulate GMOs, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Each agency plays a part in ensuring GMOs are safe for human, plant and animal health. For example, the FDA makes sure foods from the GMOs it regulates meet the same safety standards as the non-GMO version. The three agencies also monitor the impact of GMOs on the environment.

READ MORE: Top 10 foods for growing bodies

Research shows GMO foods currently on the market are no more likely to cause allergic reactions than non-GMO versions of the same foods. Most food allergies are caused by allergens found in just nine foods: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, sesame, shellfish and fish.

The way GMOs are created allows scientists to know precisely which new proteins are produced in a plant. Scientists perform tests to make sure these new proteins are not allergens. This type of testing, called allergenicity testing, is always part of the process for developing GMOs. As part of this testing, developers consider whether any substances added to the food have characteristics of allergens, such as whether they come from an allergenic source.

Learn more about GMOs and their impact on your health at fda.gov/feedyourmind.

Updated Food Labeling

Certain types of GMOs have a disclosure that lets you know if the food is a bioengineered food. Bioengineered food is the term that Congress used to describe certain types of GMOs when they passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.

The Standard establishes requirements for labeling foods that humans eat that are or may be bioengineered and defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features) 


Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Back-to-school could mean back to nicotine addiction for some teens

    The NYS Smokers' Quitline offers free resources to help teenagers and their parents on a journey to become nicotine-free

    With back-to-school season drawing near and COVID-19 protocols becoming less restrictive, teenagers will soon encounter more opportunities for socialization. This unfortunately could mean exposure to vape products, which often have high concentrations of nicotine and harm the still-developing brain. read more »
  • Centsible ways to teach kids healthy money habits

    It is imperative to secure your child's financial future

    In school, most kids only learn algebra, calculus, and trigonometry but not how to budget, save or invest. The older we get, the more responsibilities we have that make it challenging to focus on learning financial principles, which is why it is key to start teaching kids healthy money habits at a young age. read more »
  • 3 tips to boost your children's self-esteem this school year

    Be your kid's cheerleader

    While packing bags and backpacks for school, there’s one essential that may be overlooked: Children’s self-esteem. Although many children may feel confident and self-assured at home, they can feel differently in the classroom. When children have high self-esteem, they’re less likely to reflect negative feelings toward others. read more »
  • Breathe easy

    What to look for and how to make your home's air better

    According to the 2021 American Time Use Survey, 38% of employed people did some or all of their work from home. That means better indoor air quality at home is as important as ever. read more »
  • Simple, sweet energy bites

    Keep your family's energy level up

    Having enough energy and fuel to make it through a long day can be challenging. No matter if you’re a stay-at-home parent, corporate worker or small business owner, having a high energy level that lasts throughout the day is important for both you and those around you. read more »
  • Get smart about sustainability

    Tips for teaching kids earth-friendly habits

    For many parents, their interest in sustainability and earth-friendly living is driven by a desire to create a better world for their children. Taking personal action and responsibility are part of the solution but teaching the next generation to be environmentally conscious is an important part of the equation, too. read more »
  • A homemade crunchy mushroom wrap to save your grocery budget

    Sneak something healthy into your family's meal

    If the prices of your favorite ingredients have you dreading the next trip to the grocery store, finding ways to stretch your budget can help you feel better at the checkout counter. read more »
  • 6 tips for pet parents

    How to be environmentally friendly with your fur babies

    For many people, “going green” means walking rather than driving, ditching single-use plastics, and conserving energy. To go above and beyond, pet parents can follow additional measures that aid the planet while supporting their furry friends. read more »
  • Minimize the risk of child identity theft

    NYS Division of Consumer Protection offers advice

    Child Identity Theft is a growing problem. According to recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft for those under 19 years old grew 60% in three years. read more »
  • Cyberbullying in the US increased by 10% in 2 years

    How you can protect your kids

    As many children are coming back to school, experts recommend to parents how to keep them safe online read more »