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GMOs: I've Heard of Them...What are They?

April 8, 2014

By Betsy Craig (CEO and founder of MenuTrinfo®)

As the debate for GMO labeling continues to be a hot topic across the United States, it is important to know what GMO’s are and why a majority of consumers want to know when they are consuming them. Did you know that you eat GMOs? GMOs are in at least 70% of the processed foods on grocery store shelves in the United States (processed food is any food that has been changed from its raw ingredient form before it is available for us to purchase/eat).  Additionally, GMOs are fed to the cows, chickens, pigs, etc that we eat.  Knowingly or unknowingly—you are eating GMOs.

GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms.  Crops grown, to produce the food that we eat, happen to be the organisms that are more often than not—genetically modified.  Genetic modification takes many forms, but includes the process of taking genes from one organism and inserting them into the genes of another organism.  This process is most commonly used in the production of corn, soy, canola and cotton (for a full list of genetically modified crops, go here).  Some crops are commonly modified to resist herbicides so that when sprayed with herbicides, only the surrounding weeds are affected, but the crop itself is left unharmed.  Additionally some crops are modified to produce insecticide within their own cells in order to protect the plant from insect damage.  The overall motivation for these genetic modifications is to increase crop protection and decrease the amount of crops lost due to weeds and pests.  While these modifications are meant to be beneficial...many people are concerned there are health risks associated with the consumption of GMOs.

Animal studies have indicated consuming GMOs can cause infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs in the gastrointestinal system.  Both animal studies and observed human cases suggest that GMOs can increase allergies—by increasing the abundance of existing allergies, and causing new allergies— due to decreased digestive enzymes and also changes in immune reactions (read more about GMO health and allergy concerns here)

Currently, there are not labels on GMO foods identifying them as GMO, but a non-profit group called the Non-GMO Project is working to test, certify and label specific products as “Non-GMO Project Verified”.  To learn more about the Non-GMO Project, visit  If you are concerned about consuming GMO's, visit to learn more about how to find non-GMO products when shopping.  Polls across the country consistently show that 80-90% of people want GMOs to be labeled.  What do you think?