Americans are split on bioengineered food. A little over half of Americans believe that bioengineered food products are bad for their health.
But they remain ubiquitous, with most processed food containing bioengineered food ingredients. Some major crops are mostly bioengineered. 92% of corn grown in the United States is bioengineered, for example.
So how do we square public distrust of bioengineered products with how common they are? A good way to start is to take a closer look at what they are, their safety, and how to make informed consumer decisions.
What Is Bioengineered Food?
“Bioengineered food” is the new term adopted by the federal government to describe genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are living organisms whose genetic material has been manipulated. And on the surface, the term bioengineered food describes the same process.
This new term came to be thanks to a new law concerning labeling gmos that will go into effect on January 1, 2022. Under the new law, foods containing detectable modified genetic material have to disclose those ingredients.
“Detectible modified genetic material” is the operative phrase here. The issue is that it excuses many products containing GMOs from labeling.
Many products made with new bioengineering techniques are as of yet untestable. And processed foods often contain modified foodstuffs that have been so highly refined that the modified genetic material is no longer detectable in the finished product.
Are Bioengineered Foods Safe?
GMOs are an older technology than most people realize. If you could go back in time 100,000 years, a wild apple would look nothing like the ones you can find on the grocery store shelves.
That’s because generations of humans have selectively bred crops and domesticated animals for traits more useful to our purposes. It was a low-tech form of genetic engineering.
The laboratory speeds up a process that would otherwise take years of labor. It can produce crops that are bigger, resistant to drought and disease, and even endowed with extra nutritional value.
Golden rice is a good example. It’s a bioengineered strain of rice with high amounts of vitamin A. It’s meant for use in regions where a lack of natural vitamin A caused high rates of childhood blindness.
Bioengineered foods are deemed safe for human consumption after an intensive evaluation. They have to undergo scrutiny from the FDA, EPA, and the USDA before they can make it to market.
Making Informed Decisions About Bioengineered Food
Bioengineered food is broadly considered safe for human consumption. However, some consumers may prefer to avoid it, either out of concern, for philosophical reasons, or due to religious conviction.
For that reason, it is every consumer’s right to know what exactly is in the food they’re buying.
And bioengineered foods aren’t the only items consumers may choose to avoid. To make sure you always know what’s on your plate, be sure to keep up with our latest food news and guides.