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5 things everyone should know about GMO food labels

(NC) Canadian food products are increasingly decked out in a multitude of food labels about everything from allergens and fat to genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. It’s all meant to help consumers make healthy eating choices, but too much information can be overwhelming — especially about a topic like GMOs, where there are a lot of questions.

Here’s what you need to know about the GMOs in your food:

Most foods aren’t actually GMO at all. Yes, you can buy water or salt with a “No GMO” label, but since these items don’t have DNA in the first place, the label doesn’t actually mean anything.

There are only nine GMO crops sold commercially. They are alfalfa, canola, field and sweet corn, cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets. An apple variety that doesn’t brown when it’s cut has been approved but isn’t available on the market yet. Some of these crops like sugar beets, soybeans and field corn are processed into common food ingredients; others like alfalfa are used as livestock feed.

GMOs don’t cause allergies. The National Academy of Sciences hasn’t found a single sniffle, sneeze or upset stomach as a result of eating GMO foods. In fact, before a GMO is approved for use in food, researchers test it across more than 1,950 genes to see if there is a match with a known allergen. This process is overseen by Codex, an international food authority established by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Modifying crops isn’t new technology. Farmers have been improving crops for thousands of years using techniques like selective breeding or cross-breeding to change their genetic makeup. And just because a plant has been improved — think seedless watermelons, for example — doesn’t mean it’s a GMO; there are different tools farmers and plant breeders use to create new plant varieties.

There’s actually no need for a GMO label at all. This is because consumers don’t have to be afraid of them. Thousands of studies that have evaluated over 20 years of data have found that GMOs are safe, and that there is no evidence that GMO crops pose a greater risk to human health than their conventional counterparts.