The history of producing genetically modified food can be traced back to mid 19th century, when Gregor Mendel – an Austrian monk and botanist, carried out an experiment wherein he crossbred tall pea species with short pea species to show that certain traits in one species were inherited by other in this process. Even though Mendel is considered to be the founder of science of genetics today, his efforts were not acknowledged until 20th century. Mendel’s observations paved way for the development of first genetically modified plant – an antibiotic resistant tobacco plant, in 1983.After the 1983 breakthrough, it took the scientists another ten years to grow the first genetically modified food product for commercial use. This transgenic crop was a tomato created by a California based company – Calegne. The new species of tomato – which was named FlavrSavr by the company, was made available commercially in 1994. It was genetically modified in such a manner that its shelf-life increased i.e. it took longer for this variety of tomato to decompose after being picked as compared to a normal tomato. Even though consumers showed keen interest in the same, the company stopped its production in 1997 owing to the fact that its characteristic longer shelf-life made it less profitable for the company.
Some sources also cite that the actual reason for stopping the production of this crop was the competition it had to face from its conventional counterpart as well as some production problems that the company was subjected to. In the meanwhile, another European company manufactured a tomato paste from a genetically modified tomato species and made it available in the market in 1996. The controversies surrounding this practice began with some scientists claiming that these genetically modified products were harmful for animals and humans alike. One such scientist was Arpad Pusztai – a Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist, who revealed that he had observed some harmful effects of these food on the stomach lining and immune system of rats whom he fed genetically modified potatoes in 1998.
A 2012 French study showed that rats fed GMO-corn developed tumors, organ damage, and were more likely to die prematurely compared to those who were fed non-GMO corn. But the results were not well received from the scientific community and did not collect the full support of all experts.
GMO foods require being sprayed with toxic chemicals. If you wanted to go GMO-free, it’s not that easy. Currently, the U.S. does not require brands to label foods that contain GMOs (European nations do and Whole Foods will require any brand in their store to do so by 2018.There are the health concerns of being exposed to foods treated with highly toxic pesticides — that include allergies, infertility, birth defects, digestive issues, imbalances in gut bacteria, and even certain cancers and tumors.
Right now there isn’t a large amount of conclusive scientific evidence showing that GMOs are unhealthy.