Genetically Engineered Food

In the United States, genetically engineered food crops (plant products) have been grown, processed and sold since the early 90s. However, studies have shown that these foods may not be part of a healthy diet, as some contain unrecognized toxins. Genetically modified foods may also pose an allergen threat, since their protein compositions are not fully understood.

Although genetically engineered animal products haven’t yet been commercially produced and sold, recent reports suggest that genetically modified fish may be available soon. Learn about these foods, and their possible involvement in a healthy diet.

What are Genetically Modified Foods?

Proponents of genetically modified foods argue that animals and crops have been “genetically modified” for thousands of years, due to domestication and selective breeding. In actuality, however, these naturally bred species aren’t the focus of concern. Actual genetic modification is conducted in a lab by one of two processes:

  • During cisgenesis, scientists transfer gene segments between the cell nuclei of organisms that could viably breed in the same fashion.
  • During transgenesis–a form of horizontal cell transfer–scientists remove genetic material from one species and insert it into the cell nucleus of another. While genetic material may occasionally be able to penetrate the cell membrane and join existing chromosomes, this is rare and usually the result of exposure to toxic chemicals or radiation.

The first genetically engineered food produced and sold to the public was the Flavr Savr tomato, a tomato with an extended shelf life developed by Calgene