FIT WebQoof: Are Genetically Modified Foods Toxic and Cancerous?
Viral Message Fact Check: Genetically Modified Foods have always been under suspicion, but do they actually harm us?
Viral Message Fact Check: Genetically Modified Foods have always been under suspicion, but do they actually harm us?(Photo: Aroop Mishra/ FIT)

FIT WebQoof: Are Genetically Modified Foods Toxic and Cancerous?

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Claim

A new Whatsapp message went viral recently claiming that Genetically Modified Foods (GM Foods) are toxic.” The statement continues to assert that most tumour diseases are associated with GM Foods.

First, What Are Genetically Modified Foods?

Genetically Modified (GM) or Genetically Engineered (GE) foods are products from crops and animals that have had DNA modifications.

Biotechnology changes the seeds of the DNA, and enhances certain aspects of the crop which makes it resistant to germs, diseases and adverse environmental effects.

Is the Claim True or False?

According to the World Health Organization, the standard agencies in the countries where GM crops are being grown have said that there is no evidence that these crops have a negative impact on our health.

Dr Ashwini Setya, Senior Gastroenterologist at Max Healthcare told FIT that if genetically modified foods were so toxic, they would not be allowed to be sold so openly in our markets.

So there is no substantial evidence to prove that eating GM foods or foods made from GM crops and animals will lead to any sort of harm.

However, there have not been any in-depth studies to prove the same.

Also Read : A Genetically Modified Plant Can Clean Indoor Air, Say Researchers

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Are GM Foods Toxic & Carcinogenic?

According to the American Food and Drug Administration, food from genetically engineered plants found in the market today is as safe as non-GE food.

Dr Setya said that genetic engineering is simply used to increase the properties of crops and their products, and especially, it makes them resistant to bacteria.

Additionally, Dr Jasankan Sethi, Cancer Specialist at Fortis Hospital, told FIT that the connections to tumour disorders from GM Foods are unfounded and nothing of the sort has been proven yet.

There has been no conclusive evidence linking GM Foods to an increased risk of cancer.
Dr Jasankan Sethi

Dr Setya also added that while the overall the cases of cancer have increased, the cause of this increase has not been confirmed. He did, however, say that there has been a lot of controversy around GM Foods but the links to cancer remain inconclusive.

Also Read : Genetically Modified Virus Effective in Treating Cancer

Are GM Foods Declared Toxic in the US?

Contrary to what is written in the whatsapp message, there has been no news confirming that the US has declared GM foods as toxic.

In fact, AP News reported that US President Donald Trump signed an order on 11 June to facilitate the easier entry of GM plants and animals in the food supply by creating simpler regulations for producers.

So What’s All the Fuss About GM Foods?

(Photo: iStockphoto)

Since the idea was introduced, GM Foods have been plagued by many controversies.

In 2012, a paper highlighting the faults of GM Foods was published by one Gyan Eric Ceralini, a science teacher from Caen University. In this paper, Serralini’s team found that mice which were fed genetically modified glyphosate-resistant maize for two years developed tumors and died soon after.

According to the paper, the mice developed tumours after the first year. However, scientists and regulatory agencies later concluded that the design of the study was flawed and therefore its findings cannot be considered correct.

In most other studies, it has been concluded that GM foods and non-GM foods are both equally safe.

In May 2016, a research article from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which was published on behalf of the National Academy of Press (US), stated that there is no evidence that genetically modified food is linked to health or even environmental damage.

Another controversy surrounding GM Foods and health is the worry that these cause allergies.

Responding to this, Dr Setya said:

Currently, research is ongoing into whether eating genetically modified wheat can cause celiac disease - a disease that has a growing number of cases in India. But there is no conclusion yet that eating these foods will cause tumours or deaths, and messages that confirm this without proof amount to fear-mongering.
Dr Setya

Also Read : FIT WebQoof: Can Eating 1kg Mango, 1 Dozen Bananas Cure Diabetes?

Genetically Modified Crops In The World

(Photo: National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine)

Out of all the GM crops being grown in the world, maize, cotton, canola (mustard) constitute 99 percent of the total. These are the four major crops while the remaining 1 percent include the likes of potatoes, papaya and eggplant, which some countries are growing.

According to the American Food Agency FDA, Genetically Modified Food has been in the American food supply since 1990. Cotton, corn and soybean are the most common GE crops grown in America. Of the total soybean sown in 2012, 93 percent of GE was soybean and 88 percent of the total corn crop was GE.

FDA regulations for the safety of Genetically Modified Food items are same as that of regular food.

Also Read : FIT WebQoof: Can Eating Chicken Cause Cancer?

GM Foods in India

To know whether GM foods are present in Indian markets, the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) sampled 65 imported and domestically processed food samples. Among them were soya, corn, mustard or ingredient of cottonseed.

46 percent of imported food products were GM positive, which were imported from Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, UAE and the US. At the same time, 17 percent food samples prepared in India were found to be GM positive because they used cottonseed oil.

13 of the 20 GM positive samples did not mention it on the label. Some brands had said that there was no GM in products, but they were found to be GM positive.

Coming back to the viral claim, according to our research and the experts we spoke to, GM Foods are safe and any message that claims to link these to serious diseases without proof are misleading and fake.

(This story was originally published on Fit Hindi. It has been translated to English by Devina Buckshee)

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Also Read : FIT WebQoof: Is Drinking RO Water Harmful?

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