Genetically modified organisms (GMO) refers to any living thing that has had its DNA modified by genetic engineering techniques. GMO foods have been developed to be resistant to pests and herbicides, and/or for better nutritional content. With the introduction of GMO foods, we have seen a parallel rise in obesity rates. Could GMO foods have a role in this?
There is very little data on this issue. One study looking at American food trends and obesity found that consumption of corn products correlates with the rise in obesity. Most American corn that is grown is genetically modified – so is it an increased calorie intake from corn products, or that it is genetically modified, that may be responsible correlation? Or is the correlation purely coincidental? More research needs to be done.
A comprehensive review of dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity published in the journal Circulation in 2016 found that existing evidence does not support that GMO food causes harm, but that the data are limited. They point out that any potential effect of a GMO food on human health (positive or negative) would relate to specific compositional changes in the food, not to the GMO method itself.
As these authors state:
Based on current evidence, whether a food is organic or genetically modified appears to be of relatively small health relevance in comparison with the overall types of foods and diet patterns actually consumed.