Genetically modified foods, commonly referred to as GMOs, are foods that have been implanted with genetic material from other species of plants or animals. While several major U.S. crops have been genetically modified, the number of genetically modified vegetables is limited.
The potential advantages of genetically engineered foods include improved nutrition and taste, decreased use of pesticides, increased tolerance to drought, increased yield and decreased production costs, according to MedlinePlus. However, modifying the genetic material in plants has certain risks. These may include unexpected or harmful genetic outcomes, less resistance to certain pests and cross-pollinating with traditional crops, which could potentially lead to the extinction of these organisms, as well as other unforeseen consequences.
High-Risk GMO Vegetables
A limited number of crops are genetically modified. According to the Non-GMO Project -- North America’s only nonprofit, third-party verification and labeling organization for non-GMO food and products -- nine crops are considered high risk for being genetically modified: alfalfa, cotton, canola, corn, soy, papaya, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash. In the United States, each of these crops is around 90 percent genetically modified. Of these high-risk crops, the vegetables include alfalfa, soy, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow summer squash. Many people mistakenly believe that corn is a vegetable, but it is actually a grain.
Low-Risk GMO Vegetables
In addition to the high-risk crops, there are crops that are monitored by the Non-GMO Project for genetic pollution, which can potentially result in genetically modified varieties. The Non-GMO Project notes that the vegetables in this group include chard, table beets, Siberian kale, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, turnips, acorn squash, delicata squash and patty pan.
Discontinued GMO Vegetables
Tomatoes and potatoes have had genetically modified varieties developed; however, they are no longer in production. Genetically modified tomatoes were discontinued in 1997 due to problems with shipping and flavor. Genetically modified potatoes were discontinued in 2001 due to rejection by fast-food chains. The Non-GMO Project considers both potatoes and tomatoes "low risk" for being genetically modified.