The term "frankenfoods" couldn't be more appropriate. It's the nickname given to genetically modified foods. And many Americans are scared and worried that bioengineered food is causing more problems than it's solving.

To create genetically altered (GA) or genetically modified (GM) foods, scientists change the genetic structure of plants and animals to increase production and resistance to natural elements, such as bad weather or pests. However, many consumer and advocacy groups argue that the real goal is more basic — to make more money.

When biotech companies genetically alter seeds they can patent them. Farmers are forced to buy the seeds annually, or pay royalties for reusing any leftover seeds. Some international organizations have linked this practice to dwindling seed supply around the globe, which affects crops here, but also in places such as Africa and the Middle East .

Furthermore, the Council of Europe has pointed out that genetic structures are complex and bioengineering can affect the productivity and viability of modified plants and animals. Also, these foods require increasing amounts of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers for cultivation, which puts soil, groundwater and our health in danger.

Genetically altered crops also introduce new proteins into the human and animal food chains, explains EarthSave International. This raises concerns about the effects these foods will have on illnesses such as cancer or allergies. For instance, shortly after modified soy was introduced into the United Kingdom , soy allergies shot up by 50 percent. Plus, a new small study suggests that diet can alter human DNA. The obvious question is, "How will bioengineered food affect our DNA?"

Another major problem facing the food supply is that GA crops cannot be contained. Pollen from these plants spread far and wide and there is evidence that altered DNA is showing up in crops when they shouldn't be. In one case, genetically altered DNA was found in non-altered native varieties of corn in Mexico .

Can You Avoid Frankenfoods?

According to EarthSave, it's a tall order. Even if you eat mostly vegetarian meals, most vegetables have been genetically altered. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid GM foods:

  • Buy organic. One hundred percent organic foods are completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. Organic products have to be at least 95 percent organic. Products in these two groups usually carry the USDA Organic seal.

    Products made with organic ingredients contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. However, there's no guarantee that the remaining ingredients aren't genetically modified. The organic seal cannot be used on these packages
  • Grow your own food. Homegrown food is a growing trend in North America . It's due to the recent global food shortages and increasing concern about growth and production methods of local crops. Buy organic seeds and plant your own herb and vegetable gardens. Use green pesticides and herbicides to protect your plants
  • Avoid foods most likely to be altered. EarthSave points out that 50 percent of all soybean and 39 percent of corn, and most canola seeds in America are genetically modified. Beef, dairy and egg products are also likely suspects
  • Cook your own food. Prepackaged foods often contain GM ingredients. Buy your own ingredients, preferably organic, and cook your own meals at home
  • Become an advocate. Some groups are lobbying Washington to insist on labeling for genetically altered foods. With hundreds of GM foods waiting in the wings, your best defence may be to join the millions of other concerned consumers to force government to create stricter legislation that protects small and organic farmers, and our food supply.