injecting ear of corn to suggest GMOAccording to a new industry-backed survey, nearly 70% of American consumers aren’t really clear about what GMOs are – or at least “are not confident” that they know what they are, in the language of the survey.

So is it any surprise that roughly the same number say that they’re uncomfortable having GMOs in the food supply? Not a lot of us would jump at eating something that we’re not too sure about.

Yet anywhere from 60 to 70% of all processed grocery products contain at least some GMO ingredients. More than 90% of the corn grown in this country is GMO – and that corn makes its way into industrially raised meat and dairy, as well as sweeteners, oil, flour, and other ingredients used in modern processing.

As Michael Pollan famously noted in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so much corn is used in supermarket products that, in terms of tissue composition, “we North Americans look like corn chips with legs.”

So just what is a GMO, or genetically modified organism? Here’s the definition offered by the World Health Organization:

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination…. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. [emphasis added]

That means each GMO is a novel – and patentable and profitable – life form.

But while there’s plenty of benefit to agribusiness, there’s scant benefit to the consumer – or the environment, for that matter.

Indeed, a good and growing body of research suggests that we would be wise to proceed with caution when it comes to relying on GMOs for our nutritional needs.

As one registered dietitian has put it, “The more we mess with the way food was intended to be grown and consumed, the more risk we take that it adversely affects our health down the line.”

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