GMOs and the American Diet


I am proposing to research the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the American diet. I want to find out about any potential health impacts on obesity in order to help my readers understand whether GMOs should continue to be actively included in food production. Despite the benefits of biotechnology to combat crop disease and food shortage, GMOs have been associated with a number of health risks over the decades, including the increased prevalence of obesity. This makes GMOs and their presence in the daily American diet a viable topic for deeper investigation and discussion.

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GMOs were initially created in the 1970s, but their popularity did not rise significantly within the agricultural industry until the mid-1990s. Corn is a staple of the American diet, present in various forms such as cornstarch, corn syrup, oil, and most processed foods. The link between GMOs and obesity was established primarily in the period between the 1990s and late 2000s, which saw a rapid parallel growth in GM corn usage and national obesity rates. Furthermore, a relationship between GM corn consumption and demographic data, such as gender or race, was examined. It was found that obesity trends and the adoption of GM corn were similar for all categories, suggesting that the correlation is independent of race or gender.1

However, despite this correlation being noted by several researchers and highly cited by critics of GMO food technology, a large portion of the scientific community disagrees with such conclusions. There is a majority scientific consensus, supported by medical organizations such as the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the World Health Organization, that GMOs are safe for consumption. No direct evidence has been found to demonstrate a risk to human health from GMO foods.2 It is important to note that it is inherently difficult to determine if a food product is safe or does influence a health factor such as obesity. Usually, testing can only determine that there is no immediate hazard from GMO practices.

It can be argued that both the safety and fear of GMOs are largely theoretical, based on correlations and anecdotal data. There have been no comprehensive long-term studies to determine such parameters, nor are there tools available to isolate the relationship between the presence of GMOs in a diet and health factors such as obesity. It creates a puzzle for investigation and challenges genetic research with regard to future food production.

Discourse Analysis

The central theme of these discourses is as described above; a worrying trend of an obesity epidemic, which has been on the rise for close to three decades since the introduction of GMO foods into the staple American diet. All the discourses analyzed are focused on finding the root of the issue and attempt to advocate a different path away from the genetic modification of foods or more research to ensure its safety.

The first primary source is a report from 2001 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which seeks to investigate the effects of GMO corn on human health. It was published in the context that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation of human illnesses associated with the consumption of GMO foods. It follows a neutral expository style of communication, providing background on the incident, the specified product, and the investigation. Further, a research protocol is outlined, the research described, and the data thoroughly analyzed. The agents involved in this discourse include government agencies, such as the CDC and FDA, the general public, and the scientific community to whom this report is addressed.3

The second source is a PBS interview conducted in 2000 with Jane Rissler, a senior member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which voiced concerns about the rapid introduction of GMOs during that time. The context of this interview is based on the fact that bioengineered crops were introduced without substantive testing or adequate regulation from government agencies. The content of the interview is extensive, describing everything from the development of GMOs to their production, regulation, and impact on human health.

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The interview consists of a basic introduction and background and a deep exploration of the differences between GMO and crossbreeding. It also explores the growth and impact of the technology and its regulation and concludes with the effects of GMOs on human safety and the environment. The actors involved include the interviewer, who is part of the news organization, the interviewee, who is considered an expert in the field, and the general public to which this is addressed.4

The third primary source is a report from 2010 by the news organization Russia Today. The purpose of this report is to determine the relationship between GMOs and growing obesity rates in the US. The content consists of providing historical background, anthropological and social perspectives, expert inputs, and medical data. The report unfolds in a logical progression, setting a foundation and historical background and slowly expanding on the issue, then describing nutrition, government regulations, and the food supply. There are a number of actors involved, including the news organization, the viewing public, participating experts, and medical or government organizations whose data is cited.5

Discussion and Research Question

A significantly large group of independent researchers and scholars have challenged the consensus of medical and government health organizations that GMOs are considered to be safe for health. The outcomes are contradictory, mostly due to a lack of unity in research methods and procedures, with differences in analyses and data interpretation. Furthermore, there is a lack of funding for research that is independent of the proprietary interests of organizations that may have a conflict of interest on this controversial issue.6 The research question should state, “To what extent does the evidence demonstrate the impact the growing consumption of GMO has on the obesity epidemic in America?”


The evidence examined in this proposal identifies both empirical and anecdotal associations between the presence of GMOs in the daily American diet with the increase of obesity rates and its subsequent health risks. The analyzed discourses suggest an inherent link that warrants further research on the topic. It is important to note the complexity of the issue since a combination of factors has influenced the widespread adoption of GMOs, as well as the rise in obesity rates.


GMOs making Americans fat?” YouTube video, 6:11. Posted by RT America. 2010. Web.

Gostin, Lawrence O. “Genetically Modified Food Labeling: A ‘Right to Know’?” JAMA 316, no. 22 (2016): 2345-2346. Web.

Hilbeck, Angelika, Rosa Binimelis, Nicolas Defarge, Ricarda Steinbrecher, András Székács, Fern Wickson, Michael Antoniou, Philip L. Bereano, Ethel Ann Clark, Michael Hansen, Eva Novotny, Jack Heinemann, Hartmut Meyer, Vandana Shiva, and Brian Wynne. “No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety.” Environmental Sciences Europe 27, no. 1 (2015): 1-6. Web.

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Investigation of Human Health Effects Associated with Potential Exposure to Genetically Modified Corn.CDC. Web.

Rissler, Jane. “Harvest of Fear.PBS. Web.

Shao, Qin, and Khew-Voon Chin. “Survey of American Food Trends and The Growing Obesity Epidemic.” Nutrition Research and Practice 5, no. 3 (2011): 253-259. Web.


  1. Qin Shao, and Khew-Voon Chin. “Survey of American food trends and the growing obesity epidemic.” Nutrition Research and Practice 5, no. 3 (2011): 257. Web.
  2. Lawrence O. Gostin. “Genetically Modified Food Labeling: A ‘Right to Know?” JAMA 316, no. 22 (2016): 2345. Web.
  3. “Investigation of Human Health Effects Associated with Potential Exposure to Genetically Modified Corn.” CDC. Web.
  4. Jane Rissler. “Harvest of Fear.” PBS. Web.
  5. “GMOs making Americans fat?” YouTube video, 6:11. Posted by RT America. 2010. Web.
  6. Angelika Hilbeck et al. “No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety.” Environmental Sciences Europe 27, no. 1 (2015): 1. Web.
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