Monday, November 2, 2009

Healthy Monday: Genetically Modified Foods

Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a restaurant where one of the dishes included the vegetable broccoflower. It looked like a tasty pasta dish, but "Broccoflower," I questioned? Personally, I'm not a fan of either broccoli or cauliflower, so I couldn't imagine why someone would want to merge these two relatively unpopular veggies. But as it turns out, genetically altering foods is not an uncommon practice.

Before I start berating the practice, let me get some things out of the way. Genetic modification is complicated, widespread and controversial, but I'll be the first to admit it sometimes yields tasty results. (Pluots, for example, are a cross between plums and apricots and they are yummy!) But it also allows farmers to produce a more substantial crop which is naturally resistant to pests. Although potentially hazardous, if the FDA says it's safe (and for the most part, they do), you can understand why this would be an appealing option to certain farmers.

But there are a few reasons we should be wary of genetically modified foods. One is due to inadequate and scarce safety testing. According to, genetically modified foods potentially contain a variety of toxins, which our bodies can't process. And the other is due to environmental concerns. These genetically modified organisms can spread through the environment, and once they do, there's no turning back. writes that they learn to interbreed with other natural organisms and can permanently alter "future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way."

Unfortunately, genetically modified foods are everywhere. The only way to protect yourself is to buy organic, assuming your paycheck can handle it. Otherwise, you're already ahead of the game just by maintaining an awareness of the foods you ingest and the impact they have on your surroundings.

Note: Thank you to my readers who have so graciously pointed out that broccoflower and pluots are a result of cross pollination, a less questionable process than genetic modification.

Other sources: Action Bioscience

photo credit: Suzedge


orange sparrow said...

broccoflower is actually just cross-pollination which happens naturally, and sometimes just green cauliflower. It's been around for a really long time.

Jennifer said...

Oh really!? I always thought it was genetically engineered. Oh well, I'm still not inclined to eat it lol.

Marisa said...

have you seen that pbs documentary the botany of desire....there is a lot about monsanto in it.... big scary company, and what is scarier is we don't even know if we are eating genetically modified foods! ....genetically modified foods=not something I'm for after watching that documentary :)

Amy said...

According to Idea Bite (and, like a good librarian, I confirmed it at the International Federation for Produce Coding website), you can actually tell when fruits and veggies are genetically modified by looking at the PLU code (on the stickers on the fruit): an 8 in front of the 5 digit code means GMO. Here's the link:!

p.s.pluots are also just a hybrid, so no worries there! Cross breeding cool new things is different from the splicing of genes in a lab from different organisms altogether (i.e. fish genes into tomatoes to keep them fresh longer).

Caroline Ghetes said...

Interesting post : ) Thanks to you, I am now craving broccoflower, LOL.

dining room set said...

I believe that there is really nothing wrong with those kind of vegetables as long as it is organic. But I also doubt if it affects the nutrition value of the vegetables.

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Blah said...

I think you have cross pollination confused with GMOs... cross pollination has been done for centuries and can occur naturally even. Brocoflower and pluots are cross pollinated, not genetically modified.

Jennifer said...

Thank you everyone for filling me in on the difference between cross pollination and genetically modified. I appreciate the insight!

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