Most nutrition-conscious consumers hear the exhortation to “eat clean” on a regular basis. This phrase simply refers to an absence of artificial ingredients, added hormones and over-processing. Yet, as they say, the devil is in the details. Does clean eating reject all fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in agriculture? Does every application of science to the growing and raising of food constitute an assault on good health? Few subjects embrace these questions so completely as the issue of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Controversial as they are, GMOs are often undefined and misunderstood in the robust debates that surround food and nutrition.

What Exactly Are GMOs?

“Exactly” is the operative word in that question. As farmers and scientists employ breeding to grow a better ear of corn or raise a better pig, observers might call such efforts genetic modification. Yet these practices are hardly new. After all, growers have cross-pollinated corn and mated hogs for stock improvement for centuries. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) includes traditional means and modern technology in its explanation of GMOs.

GMO critics, however, are more specific in their understanding. They point to processes like mutagenesis, whereby crops are subject to chemical or radioactive alteration, as a glaring example of genetic modification. Polyploidy, i.e. directly adding the number of chromosomes in a plant to foster fertility, also counts as GMO activity among many scientists. What do these–and other technologies–share to classify them as unacceptable genetic modification?

Recombinant DNA

A major school of thought relative to what makes GMOs GMOs is recombinant DNA. These are molecules, created external to living cells by merging synthetic DNA to DNA that can reproduce inside living cells. Genome editing technology, for instance, can add, subtract or change DNA within an existing genome through the insertion of enzymes. In so doing, editing can prevent the inheritance of diseases among livestock and increase food production overall. Still, some researchers (at King’s College, London, for example) are antsy about exercising that much control over natural processes, pointing out that human applications will inevitably follow agricultural ones.

The worries about recombinant DNA technology are numerous. Concerning food production, there is a question about whether genetically modified foods will build up a resistance to antibiotics. Another variable is whether GMOs will inhibit health-promoting microbes in the gut. Health-conscious clean-eaters would share those apprehensions. At present, however, the safety of GMO food is largely supported by scientists.

What Does It All Mean for Ketogenic Dieters?

An overwhelming number of scientific scholars–nearly 90 percent by some counts–attest to the health and safety of genetically engineered foods. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, moreover, could discover no harmful effects from such foodstuffs for either human health or for the environment. No harm, that is, when compared to conventionally bred crops and livestock.

For ketogenic dieters, who seek to burn fat as the primary energy source, this should come as a positive development. Those producers going the extra distance to get “non-GMO” on their labels will charge consumers for the effort. Keto meal prep time requires enough in terms of thought and time to be more expensive in the process. Thus, dieters need not labor under the costly burden of nutritional purity. GMO meats and vegetables are safe and nourishing.

For all who are blessed with the vibrant health, weight loss and mental clarity that dietary ketosis endows, there are a number of foods that are musts to avoid. While this is sometimes inconvenient, it is worth it in the long run. Still, ketogenic staples are still allowable and affordable.