Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

What Are Genetically Modified Organisms?

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.

Why are ingredients from Genetically Modified Organisms used in cosmetic and personal care products?

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.

Are ingredients from Genetically Modified Organisms safe in cosmetic and personal care products?

The FDA has concluded there is no evidence that bioengineered food or plant ingredients are less safe than those produced through conventional methods. 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.

More Information:

Find out more about Genetically Modified Organisms. FDA: Are bioengineered foods safe? UK Health and Safety Executive: Genetically modified organisms. Genetically Modified Organisms (Contained Use) – health and safety at work: New Scientist bibliography of publications. Special Report on GM Organisms - New Scientist: