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Is Gene-Altered Food Safe?

Consumers overseas have raised concerns over some American crops that have been altered genetically to provide resistance to insects or disease, reports CBS This Morning Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

Currently, there is no evidence that genetically modified food is unsafe for humans. The companies that make the foods say they are tested rigorously for safety before they are sold.

The Food and Drug Administration does not do mandatory testing of genetically-modified foods. The government has put the companies who engineer the foods on an honor system, in which they self-test their products. But some consumers say there are potential health risks ahead that warrant a closer look at each new product before it hits the supermarket shelf.

There's no clear way to know what foods have been genetically modified because labeling not required by the government. Consumer Reports magazine recently tested a variety of products for genetically engineered ingredients. Among those that did contain them were powdered baby formula, drink mixes, tortilla chips, veggie burgers and muffin mix.

One concern is that the genetic alteration of fruit and vegetables might cause an allergic reaction. Another concern is that the pesticides that some plants are engineered to produce may also be poisonous to people. There are also concerns that the nutritional content might be unintentionally affected.

Although no genetically modified food has shown adverse effects in humans, there are no answers to questions about possible long-term effects because the technology is so new. The hope for the future is that this kind of technology will provide foods that will actually be better for people -- such as vitamin-enhanced or cholesterol-lowering foods.

[For more information related to this story, see Amber Waves Of Altered Genes.]

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