You may ask, “what exactly is a GMO”? GMO is defined as any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. It typically involves insertion or deletion of one or more genes to get a desired effect or remove an undesirable trait. For example: a crop could be modified to be more drought tolerant. There is no doubt that GMOs are a highly controversial topic whenever brought up in conversation.  Patients often say “GMOs are poison, they cause cancer”, or “they are just unsafe to eat”, all the while some report their safety and benefits.

So what gives?  There is no doubt that marketing plays a big role in how we feel about GMO’s. The non-GMO verified label has become increasingly more popular, almost more so than the fat-free craze.  If you didn’t stress out about picking up the wrong food at the grocery story before, I’m sure you have questioned your choice lately; making your shopping and meal planning more of a challenge.  These labels make you question if genetically modified organisms are in everything at the store. Believe it or not, there are only 11 commercial GMO foods in the US; the unfortunate thing is that there are hundreds of food products that use those 11 foods.

The remaining question that is yet to be answered, is “are GMO’s safe”? Some people believe that altering the DNA of a plant or animal has a significant effect on a person’s chances of developing cancer. But the current research on the health risks of GMOs is inconclusive. In other words, researchers have not yet confirmed whether or not GMOs increase cancer risks.

If you are concerned, follow these guidelines from MD Anderson on ways to curb your intake of GM foods.

Know the most commonly modified crops.   ( )

Buy organic foods. Organic foods are grown from non-GMO seeds.

Buy meat that was grass-fed or pasture-fed. Cows, chickens, pigs and even farmed fish are often on a diet of genetically modified corn or alfalfa. Check that your meat is from animals that are grass-fed or pasture-fed.

Read the labels. The top two genetically modified crops are corn and soy. They’re also the most widely used ingredients. Avoid products that contain ingredients like corn syrup and soy lecithin.

Buy brands labeled non-GM or GMO-free. Some products are labeled as non-GM or GMO-free, meaning, they do not use genetically modified ingredients. GMO-free food sources are listed on the Non-GMO Project website. ( )

Shop at local farmers markets. Most GM foods come from large industrial farms. Shop at local farmers markets or sign up for a co-op.

Eat a healthy diet to reduce cancer risk.  The most important thing to remember is that sticking with a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains will outweigh any GMO health concerns.