Vegetarian, vegan or carnivore, you eat more than 100 trillion genes every day. Every time you eat anything that was alive – bananas, eggs, Weetabix, carrots, fish or the peanut butter on toast I ate for breakfast this morning – you are also downing its DNA. Since humans have been eating food for, well, ever, this seems to be a fairly safe thing to do.

You can also be sure that the DNA in the food you eat has been modified – through centuries of farmers selecting the biggest, tastiest and most productive specimens and breeding only those. Since the 1990s, this has been done through careful insertion of particular genes to achieve the same result – a stronger and more useful food. Humans have been unravelling the intricacies of DNA since the 1860s when Swiss chemist Frederich Miescher first discovered it. For almost 100 years scientists learned more about what it was made from and how it worked until Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA in 1953. Since then we have mapped every gene in human DNA through the Human Genome Project as well as those of many other animals and plants.

It became clear in the 1970s that single genes could be swapped from one living thing to another and so scientists set about creating new medicines and new foods.

Genetically Modified (GM) foods, also known as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and Genetically Engineered (GE) foods have been one of the biggest science stories in recent times. The principal of GM foods is simple. You take a gene from another plant or a bacteria that has some benefit, such as resisting attack from a particular insect or being responsible for producing Vitamin A, and you insert it into the DNA of your desired crop. The regulation of GM foods is incredibly strict, so scientists have to be very specific and careful and undertake a huge array of tests before any GM Food will be given the okay. Of course this is exactly how it should be, with anything new we should be rigorous in our testing and gather as much evidence about safety as we can.

To date, there has not been a single documented case, anywhere on earth, where a human’s health has suffered as a result of eating GM food.

If anything, the evidence suggests that GM foods have made a massive contribution to global health. Like with any new technology, there will be people seeing nothing but dollar signs, but considering the potential health benefits of GM foods we need to tackle commercial abuse separately from the potential benefits and the safety considerations.

Golden rice is a great example. It has been developed by a charitable cooperative. Scientists have taken just two genes – one from the daffodil and the other from a harmless type of bacteria – that allow the rice to produce beta-carotene (the stuff that makes things like carrot and beetroot so beautifully coloured). When eaten, that beta-carotene gets converted into Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is the largest cause of blindness in between 140 and 250 million children under the age of five. Considering that rice is the main source of food for these children surely it is a no brainer.