What Is Bioengineered Food? And What Are the Pros and Cons?

There is all kinds of food on the market today, but what does it mean when that food is bioengineered? Is it safe to eat and how can we spot it?

Kori Williams - Author

May 8 2023, Published 12:08 p.m. ET

A man is getting produce at a supermarket.
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Over the years, several innovations have been made to the agricultural industry, to better supply grocery stores. Food scientists and farmers are constantly working behind the scenes to develop new things, and now, we have something called bioengineered food.

But what exactly is that and what does it mean for food safety? Bioengineered food is actually more common than you might think, and you can buy it right now.

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What is bioengineered food?

Put simply, bioengineered food is any food that's been genetically modified, aka genetically modified organisms or GMOs. They have become an everyday part of food in grocery stores worldwide.

According to National Geographic, not all GMOs are made in a lab. In fact, people have been breeding certain foods together to make new things for thousands of years. For example, corn, salmon, soybeans, and more have all been produced through genetic modification.

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Pros to bioengineered food, aka GMOs:

There are many benefits to bioengineered food — they can last longer on shelves, and they are resistant to pests and different diseases. Plus they can grow bigger and faster so they hit store shelves sooner. Now, GMOs can be created in large-scale operations in labs as opposed to one person trying to create a fusion between an apple and an orange in their backyard.

Of course, there are some positives to GMOs. They can remove certain things that are harmful to human health, such as mycotoxins which are linked to higher rates of liver cancer. And the more resistant these crops are to diseases and pests, the fewer chemicals like pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides need to be used.

Unfortunately, there are some dangers when it comes to GMOs and they can outweigh the benefits involved.

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Why are GMOs dangerous?

Per the National Library of Medicine, genetically modified foods can negatively impact the human body. For one, they can cause diseases that are immune to antibiotics, which puts your health at risk with no way to fight off the illnesses.

Plus, there's no way to be sure how GMOs' DNA will react to DNA in people, animals, or the environment. Unforeseen allergies in people and animals and consequences to the food chain of a particular ecosystem are just two examples.

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The Center of Food Safety also points out that genetically modified food is "inherently unstable." The companies making GMOs may not understand enough about how to put different genes together and this could have all kinds of consequences over time. Foods once considered safe could become toxic once they become unsteady and that could cause any number of problems. This is especially true when you consider how widely these foods are distributed.

On top of this, GMOs are a particular danger to the environment because they could cause a decrease in biodiversity. The World Health Organization states that if the altered gene were to escape into the wild, it could eradicate species that are not intended targets leaving ecosystems vulnerable to diseases they can't fight off.

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