Genetically Modified Food (GMF)

DEFINITION of 'Genetically Modified Food (GMF)'

Food that is produced from organisms that have had their genes engineered to introduce traits that have not been created through natural selection. Genetically modified foods have been commercially available since the 1990s, and is most often associated with fruits and vegetables. Genetically modifying a food involves introducing a gene into a fruit, vegetable, or animal from another organism. Broad scientific consensus suggests that genetically modified foods present no more danger than conventional food.

BREAKING DOWN 'Genetically Modified Food (GMF)'

Proponents of genetically modified foods point to the benefits of introducing desirable genetic traits into food. For example, scientists may engineer fruits and vegetables to have higher yields, to resist certain diseases or pests, or to be able to tolerate pesticides or herbicides.  The 20th century Green Revolution owed much of its success to the introduction of plants that could produce higher yields in more adverse conditions, such as in the presence of less water. Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Prize for his work with wheat, and helped drastically improve wheat yields in Mexico, India, and Pakistan since the 1950s.

Critics of genetically modified foods have argued that this type of food should be labeled differently than food produced conventionally. They argue that there is uncertainty as to the effect of genetically modified organisms on the health of consumers, as well as to the impact of such organisms on the environment. For example, genetically modified organisms may squeeze out conventional fruits and vegetables from the environment, which may impact the animals, insects, and other organisms that have traditionally used those plants to survive. Other theoretical threats are that genes from genetically modified organisms may move to conventional crops (outcrossing), or may be transferred from food to the consumer.

Several countries have passed or proposed legislation regulating the development and use of genetically modified organisms in the food supply.