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Should You Fear Genetically Modified Foods? It’s Hard to Say

With a reputed journal’s retraction of a controversial, oft-cited study linking genetically modified organisms and cancer, the debate over GMOs heats up.

Credit: AP
Credit: AP
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In a paper published last September, researchers in France suggested a strong link between genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and cancer. The study, which first appeared in Reed Elsevier's journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT), pointed specifically to an increased occurrence of tumors in laboratory rats that consumed genetically modified corn. Since its publication, the paper has been so hotly contested, by not only the pro-GMO lobby but also by the scientific community, that last week it was retracted by the journal.

FCT wrote that, “Ultimately, the results presented - while not incorrect - are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology."

For those of us consumers unsure of the health effects of ingesting the genetically engineered food that’s ubiquitous in the United States, FCT’s statement that the study’s results were “not incorrect” comes as little comfort.

So: Are GMOs, present in 60 to 70 percent of the processed foods in grocery stores in this country, safe to consume?

Well, it depends who you ask. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims, on its website, to regulate “foods and ingredients made from genetically engineered plants to help ensure that they are safe to eat,” just last week the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) released a report connecting GMOs to many gluten-related disorders. For example, much of the corn planted in the United States is modified to produce an insecticide called Bt toxin, designed to create holes in insect cells. The recent IRT study claims it does the same in human cells. This may, in turn, cause "leaky gut," so common in people with gluten disorders.

There is no definitive consensus. Polls reveal that 93 percent of Americans believe genetically modified food products should be labeled, as is required in Europe and many other countries around the world.

Andrew Stout, a strong proponent of GMO labeling who owns an organic farm, argues that, "It's no different than just having sodium, salt, artificial flavors and artificial colors, country of origin. Consumers look for that kind of information and make their own individual choices."

Would you avoid genetically modified foods if they were labeled as such? Tell us in the comments or in a blog post.

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