Genetically modified foods should be considered “as safe as conventional choices,” according to Timothy Griffin, associate professor at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program.

Griffin and 20 other scientists reviewed 900 research publications and concluded in their 398-page report that “genetically engineered crops are as safe as conventionally grown crops.”

The extensive two-year review found no apparent health risk or environmental impact of growing and consuming genetically modified crops.

Most Americans are familiar with the term genetically modified, or GMOs. Many producers now mark their products with a “GMO-free” label.

“Claiming that a food is made without GMOs doesn’t mean that particular food is healthy, and I think that’s where some consumers get hung up,” says  Lindsey Stevenson, nutrition and health education specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

A genetically modified crop has been altered so it will express a desirable trait. This can be accomplished by moving genes from one organism to another or by changing genes in an organism that are already present.

Genetic modification assists food growers and manufacturers in many ways by improving crop yields, reducing insecticide use or increasing the nutritional value of foods.

“I like to compare genetic modification of crops to vaccines for humans. In many cases, altering the genes helps the crops fight off certain diseases and pests. Without GMOs, we wouldn’t be able to produce this volume of food that feeds the world,” says Jill Scheidt, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

The research team that compiled this recent report also looked at the incidence of many chronic conditions that GMOs are often blamed for contributing to, like cancer, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, autism, food allergies and celiac disease in North America.

Then they took that data and compared it to that in Western Europe, where the use of genetically modified organisms is restricted. GMOs have been part of the American diet since 1996.

The comparison found no significant difference in the prevalence of these chronic conditions between North America and Western Europe.

“Consumers often see and even specifically look for products with a 'GMO-free' label. I’m glad these scientists have done this review. It’s a controversial issue that I think Americans deserve reliable information on,” says  Stevenson.