What are genetically modified foods?

Genetically modified food, also called genetically engineered or genetically altered food, has been changed through biotechnology. To create different characteristics in food, scientists move genes from one plant to another. One example is corn engineered to resist a specific herbicide used by farmers. Millions and millions of acres of U.S. farmland have already been planted with genetically modified crops, including corn, potatoes, tomatoes and soybeans.

What are the benefits of genetic engineering?

The goals of genetic engineering include the creation of crops that are resistant to disease, drought and pesticides. In addition, scientists believe they can create food that is more nutritious, tastes better and has a longer shelf life.

What are the risks of genetic engineering?

Critics of genetically modified food are concerned about allergic reactions in individuals who consume this food. It is possible that a gene, responsible for making a protein that causes allergic reactions may be taken from one type of food and inserted into another type of food. The most obvious example would be taking a gene from peanuts and inserting it into potatoes. In this case, a food that may not generally cause allergic reactions could become allergenic.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the production and labeling of genetically modified food. Individuals who experience allergic reactions to some types of food should exercise caution when consuming these foods.

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The information contained on this page has been gathered from the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and other sources in the public domain.

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