Jimmy Kimmel Shows Most People Think GMOs Are Bad, Yet They Have No Idea What They Are

Most people at a local farmers market were unable to tell Jimmy Kimmel what GMOs were. Jimmy Kimmel Live

GMOs are bad for you, right? If you want to consider yourself health-conscious and forward-thinking, you probably think you should go ahead and assume that they’re bad. Most people do this, but the fact is, the debate about GMOs is complicated and difficult to decipher. The verdict is still out on whether or not they’re damaging to human health, though they may have the potential to carry health risks.

Unless you’ve done your homework on GMOs, you might belong to the majority of people who assume that anything containing GMOs is vaguely “bad for you,” while being unsure of what exactly it stands for. In a new segment, Jimmy Kimmel does some man-on-the-street interviews to prove his point: most people don’t know anything about GMOs. The people he interviews at a local farmers market are asked what GMO stands for, and they’re unable to tell him — they still assume they’re bad for you.

GMO stands for genetically modified organism. Genetic engineering allows scientists to introduce genes from one species into another species in order to improve agriculture or pharmaceutical products; according to Nature, “[c]rop plants, farm animals, and soil bacteria are some of the more prominent examples of organisms that have been subject to genetic engineering.” So, if they’re possibly bad for us, why do farmers use GMOs? The fact is, inserting new genes into a crop like corn or soybeans can protect them from destructive environmental factors like drought or frost, or pests and diseases; and it allows farmers to plant larger quantities of food for much cheaper. Proponents of GMOs cite food security and even a positive impact in developing countries, where food sources are scarce.

That doesn’t sound so bad. So why are activists up in arms about it? While studies show ambivalent results, and further research will need to be done, it’s currently more about the implication or potential of GMOs to carry health risks. Though genes being transferred from one species to another often happens naturally, doing it through gene expression has unknown effects. “After all, such alterations can change the organism’s metabolism, growth rate, and/or response to external environmental factors,” Nature writes. “These consequences influence not only the GMO itself, but also the natural environment in which that organism is allowed to proliferate. Potential health risks to humans include the possibility of exposure to new allergens in genetically modified foods, as well as the transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes to gut flora.” Activists also argue that GMOs may ultimately have a negative impact on the economy and environment overall.

Some studies have pointed to potential health risks of GMOs, while others dispute them, noting that any risk from GMOs is extremely low. However, if you’re going to avoid GMO products at the supermarket, it’s best to do your homework. Or you could be like the one guy Jimmy Kimmel interviewed, who takes an indifferent approach: “I don’t know, so I really don’t care,” the laissez-faire man answers in the video. “It doesn’t affect me, I’m not sick, I’m fine.”

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