Genes are the building blocks of all living beings, and certain genes are more favorable than others for survival. Luckily, advances in science have allowed us to speed up this process for the foods we eat.
Humans can change the genetic makeup of food crops to select optimal characteristics, whether it’s to create plague-resistant wheat, giant oranges, or seedless watermelons.
We call these foods “genetically modified,” or GMO for short. While GMO food has faced some criticism, you might be surprised to learn that many foods are genetically modified.
Common GMO Foods
Below, you can find a list of the most common GMO foods.
Derived from various rapeseed varieties, Canola is one of the most pervasively used and oldest vegetable oils in the world. Canola oil has both edible and industrial uses.
Canola oil is one of the most accessible staples worldwide, and you can find it at any grocery or convenience store.
Rapeseed is naturally full of a harmful component called erucic acid, which damages the heart.
To make canola oil safe for consumption, canola oil uses genetically modified rapeseed varieties that collectively contain under 2% erucic acid.
Canola oil is a neutral oil that is cholesterol free, budget-friendly, and highly versatile. I use it for baking, popcorn, stir-frying, and salad dressings.
One of the New World’s greatest contributions, corn originated in Mexico and was domesticated by indigenous civilizations in Mexico and Central America thousands of years before the Spanish conquest.
It has since become the key ingredient in nearly every food product on earth. In fact, corn production far exceeds that of wheat or rice.
There are numerous corn varieties for consumption by humans and animals. Another use is as ethanol fuel.
A controversial byproduct of corn is corn syrup, used as a flavor enhancement, sweetening, and texture modification.
Another Central American and Mexican native, papaya is a large, tropical fruit with inedible, light orange skin and soft, juicy deep orange fruit.
It has a distinct smell and flavor that is off-putting to many. I’d describe the smell as somewhere between rotten fruit and vomit.
The flavor palate is sweet and floral with a texture similar to cantaloupe or honeydew.
Other cultures use green papaya for savory and spicy salads, as a fibrous, tangy foundation to absorb vinegar, fish sauce, chilies, and a sprinkle of peanuts.
If you can get past the smell, freshly cut papaya is a delicious and nutrient-rich fruit that is low in sugar and aids digestion.
Cultivated and domesticated in East Asia, soybeans are one of the most genetically modified cultivars in the world.
Touted for their high-protein content, soybeans have numerous uses in culinary cultures.
Sugar beets are a cold climate crop that northern countries use to substitute sugar cane.
If you’ve ever tried a beetroot, you know how sweet these root veggies taste. Sugar beets offer an even higher content of sucrose, akin to sugarcane.
Europeans and North Americans began cultivating sugar beet in the 18th century.
However, scientists and agriculturalists noted the potential for beets as a sweetening agent as far back as the 1500s. Today, sugar beets – not sugar cane – are used to make refined white sugar.
If you’ve ever baked a cake or added sugar to your coffee, it most likely came from sugar beets.
Alfalfa is a plant cultivated mostly for animal feed, but you’ve probably seen it as sprouts on salads or in sandwiches.
Alfalfa is rich in Vitamin K and a good source of other vitamins and minerals.
Alfalfa has a subtle herbaceous taste, valued more for its texture than its flavor. Sprouted bread recipes also use alfalfa as a key ingredient.
I love alfalfa as a slightly crunchy and fibrous sandwich topping to use instead of lettuce.
I like pairing it with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to infuse flavor and soften the sprouts before adding them to toasted bread with the rest of the fix-ins.
Cotton, like sugar cane, has a long and turbulent history in the slave trade.
Its puffy fibers that serve as a protective layer for cotton seeds required a lot of human labor to harvest, thus being the basis for slave labor around the world.
These fibers create yarn used in clothes, sheets, and textiles to name a few.
Manufacturers also process cottonseed for cottonseed oil, which is a popular vegetable oil you can use interchangeably with Canola or Soybean oil.
It’s also less expensive than canola oil. The most popular use of cottonseed oil is in potato chips as it’s one of the best oils for frying food.
While you might associate potatoes with Ireland, they actually come from the Americas.
Peru and Bolivia are the birthplace of potatoes. There are hundreds of varieties of this deliciously starchy tuber.
After corn, wheat, and rice, potatoes are the largest staple food crop in the world.
Considering the diversity of varieties, potatoes are my favorite carbohydrate. They have inspired the most diverse array of dishes as well.
Potatoes are rich in fiber and have fewer carbs and calories than wheat, rice, and corn.
While potatoes encompass hundreds of varieties, there are over 7500 types of apple cultivars!
Originating in Central Asia, apples have been a staple fruit in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for millennia.
They play a huge role in both culinary traditions and belief systems. Just consider the story of Adam and Eve, for example!
If you go to any grocery store in apple-growing countries, you’ll find at least five different types, ranging in color from yellow to red.
Flavors range from sweet to sour, and textures from crisp to dense. Some apples are meant for ciders, others for baking, but most are enjoyed as a snack.
My favorite apples are sweet, super crisp, and juicy Jazz apples.
Zucchini is a type of squash with a green peel and white, seeded interior.
Squash is yet another New World cultivar, and zucchini may be the most widespread of the bunch.
They’re low in calories and rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and potassium.
Zucchini has a fairly neutral flavor that lends well to sweet and savory recipes. You’ll see them in sweet recipes like muffins and breakfast bread.
You can also eat them raw. The latest trend is spiralized zucchini as a substitute for pasta. I like zucchini grilled or roasted with a bit of olive oil to bring out a savory nuttiness.
Common GMO Foods
- Sugar Beets
Did You Know These Crops are GMOs?
You might be surprised that these common foods are often genetically modified! GMOs are part of the future of foods, so tell us what you think in the comments!