GMO’s in Personal Care Items

GMO’s in Personal Care Items

Genetically Modified Organisms are plants and other living organisms derived from modern molecular biotechnology techniques that alter the genetics of the organism. Humans have indirectly changed traits in plants and animals since prehistoric times, but new techniques of molecular biotechnology have resulted in the ability to target specific traits for alteration. Biotechnology has allowed the introduction of proteins, for example, that are not native to a given species. The United States Department of Agriculture defines biotechnology as “the use of biological processes of microbes, and of plants and animal cells for the benefit of humans.” Genetically modified foods were first introduced in 1996. A large portion of the food supply in North and South America is now produced with this technology. In the United States, over one-half of the soybean crop and a large percentage of corn and cotton are genetically modified and have been since the late 1990s. No adverse health effects associated with the consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms have been demonstrated, and these crops may have important benefits to farmers and consumers. For example, plants have been modified to produce soybeans with less saturated fat than conventional soybeans, offer significant consumer health benefits.

Plant-derived (botanical) ingredients were among the very first cosmetics, and, as noted above, large percentages of many agricultural commodities have been genetically modified. This use of biotechnology in agriculture has occurred largely to assist farmers in the production of crops for food and other uses. In some cases, however, Genetically Modified Organisms have been developed to assist in the production of cosmetic ingredients. For example, canola has been modified to produce high levels of lauric acid, a key ingredient in soaps and detergents, at a reduced cost to consumers. Cosmetic ingredients potentially derived from Genetically Modified Organisms include ingredients such as corn oil, corn flour, soybean oil, lecithin and proteins produced by yeast.

While the FDA has concluded there is no evidence that bioengineered food or plant ingredients are less safe than those produced through conventional methods, many organizations are of a different opinion. Similarly, ingredients derived from Genetically Modified Organisms that are now found in cosmetic and personal care products are considered to be as safe as those produced through conventional means.


According to the National Center for Health Statistics, food allergies in children under 18 years of age jumped from 3.4 percent in 1997 to 1999 to 5.1 percent in 2009 to 2011. No conclusive scientific evidence links the food allergy spike to GMO foods, but further study is needed to measure any relationship.

 Antibiotic Resistance

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotic-resistant germs infect two million people each year. These infections kill at least 23,000 people each year. Because antibiotic-resistant genes are injected into GMO corn and soy crops, there are concerns that there could be a link. However, no studies confirm this claim.

Other Claims

In 2013, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted a paper that linked genetically modified corn and the herbicide Roundup to cancer and premature death in rats, saying that results were inconclusive. The journal’s editor said that the study had used too few rats, and that the specific strain of rats used was prone to cancer.

Know Before You Eat

Unlike Europe, there is no federal mandate that requires GMO foods be labeled so that consumers know what they are buying and eating. However, some states do require labels. In May 2014, Vermont became the first to pass a law that requires labels on any foods produced entirely or partially with genetic engineering.  Maine and Connecticut are also on their way, but bills that mandate GMO labels can only take effect until related bills are passed, which could take years. GMO labeling legislation is pending in 28 other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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