What Are GMO’s?: The Definitive Guide to GMO’s

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

What Are Gmo’s

Pop question: What are GMO’s? 

Answer: “GMO” stands for “Genetically Modified Organism.”

However what are GMO’s really (in layman’s terms)?And, moreover, how do GMO’s impact your health?


What Are Gmo’s

Technically speaking: GMOs are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering (“GE”) or technology.  

The GMO method of “creating food” creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. 

Similar to pumping up conventional beef and chicken with antibiotics and hormones to make them “bigger,” GMO’s are used to mass produce agriculture, livestock and breed non-seasonal foods and cross-breed, ultimately creating formerly non-existent fruits and veggies.

(For example: “Cotton Candy” grapes, those huge apples you see in the super market in the winter time—a non-apple season; or the “winter” squash you can buy in the summer time)

In Short: GMO’s are “high-risk foods” produced via chemicals, science and technologies”—that are NOT what Mother Nature intended for human consumption.

So the BIG question: Why are GMOs added to food in the first place?


The Grocery Manufactures Association (GMA) claims GMOs are necessary to maintain our country’s food supply:

“GMO technology has fueled an agricultural revolution in the United States that has helped us feed a growing world.  By 2050, we will need to expand food production by 70% just to keep pace with a global population that is expected to grow to nine billion.”

Agriculture advocates of GMO produced crops claim GMO’s are:

  • An extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops 
  • Safe to eat and “can be more nutritious” than naturally bred crops 
  • Strictly regulated for safety 
  • Save money
  • Benefit farmers and make their lives easier 
  • Solve problems caused by climate change 

However, with the consistent rise in the chronic disease epidemics plaguing modern day (1 in 2 adults currently has a chronic disease, and the rates continue to climb), and the increasing consumption of processed foods—more than 60% of the American diet (Steele, et al, 2016 ), GMO’s are not off the hook. 


In a 2015 Harvard report analyzing 10 different studies on GMO crops, researchers resolved the jury is still out on the safety of GMO’s to human health, raising the question: Are GMOs the new sugar, or smoking and tobacco industry of the 1950’s? (i.e. before we knew sugar and smoking was bad for us, and everyone was doing it with no thought to health risks).

It’s no secret that processed foods are not good for our health—including GMO’s. 

In addition, when we consume GMO-contaminated foods (like corn, soy and pesticide-sprayed produce and livestock fed grain-based diets) it creates an inflammatory response in the body and our gut. 

Since our digestive system and our liver was not designed to ingest or process these synthesized, man-made ingredients—especially in large amounts daily throughout our lifetimes, leaky gut is a common “phenomenon,” setting the stage for a host of other health conditions including:

  • Allergies
  • IBS & gastrointestinal disease
  • Skin breakouts
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Blood sugar and hormone imbalances
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Alzheimer’s 
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease and high cholesterol . 

(The gut is the gateway to health) (1, Sun & Chang, 2014) (2, Wang et al, 2017) (3, Li et al, 2016) (4, Martels et al, 2017). 

What Are GMO’s You are Eating?

Today, nearly 90 percent of planted acres of corn, soybeans, and cotton are genetically engineered crops, used in (1)—many of these GMO crops are found in the processed foods on shelves, including “healthy” foods like protein powders, frozen dinners, popcorn, soy sauce, hummus, almond milk and “gluten-free” products. 

Other popular GMO-containing crops include:

  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
  • Beets
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
  • Apples 
  • Potatoes 
  • Flax
  • Beta vulgaris (e.g., chard)
  • Brassica napa (e.g., rutabaga, kale)
  • Brassica rapa (e.g., bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, turnip)
  • Cucurbita (acorn squash, delicata squash)
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Sugar Cane
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Farm-Raised Salmon
  • Conventional Meats

Yup, even if you don’t eat packaged or processed foods with corn, soybeans, and cotton seed oils (like canola), GMO’s are ALSO used in the feed of many animals (i.e. “grain-fed” and conventionally raised meats and farmed fish).

Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize it. 


While more than 60 countries around the world – including Australia, Japan, and Europe– require GMOs to be labeled America does not.

In response, third-party labeling organizations—like the “Non-GMO Project and “certified organic”— have formed in the hopes of creating a means of transparency between producers and consumers.


No, you cannot live in a bubble, but the BEST way to avoid GMO consumption is to:

What Are Gmos

1. Buy “organic” produce and meats as much as possible.
Certified organic foods ban the use of GMO’s in production. (Note: NOT all “non-GMO” labeled foods are organic; ONLY “organic” foods SHOULD be “non-GMO” too).  

2. Check ingredient labels

As for packaged foods, read the label of any product on shelves in your grocery store, and if you find the names of any of these ingredients, you are consuming GMOs:

  • Amino Acids
  • Aspartame
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Canola
  • Corn (and corn derivatives like corn syrup and corn solids)
  • Sodium Ascorbate
  • Vitamin C
  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Citrate
    Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”)
    High-Fructose Corn Syrup
    Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
    Lactic Acid
    Monosodium Glutamate
    Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
    Xanthin Gum
    Yeast Products

3. Don’t believe you’re “safe” at a natural grocery store or Whole Foods
Just because you buy a food at Whole Foods does NOT mean it’s free of these additives or foods that contain GMO’s. Check the labels still, and opt for organic as much as possible. 

4. Use the EWG Food Scores App
There’s an app for that!

To bring awareness to the use of additives, toxins and GMOs in our food supply, the Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing consumers with informed choices. They’ve created an app to help you figure out what to eat and not eat based on toxic-free standards. They provide a guide on what are GMO’s.


Get it? Got it? Good!

The next time someone asks, “What are GMO’s?” you’ll be able to inform them too. 

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