Genetically Modified Foods
Planet Earth is home to over seven billion people. With the world’s growing population changes in agriculture were needed. Agriculture has changed more over the last 50 years then in the last 10,000. One of those changes was genetically modified foods. Common arguments made over genetically modified organisms or GMOs are health safety, environmental safety, and economic reactions.
A genetically modified organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. GMOs are used in food to make crops more resistant to factors such as disease, pesticides, and drought (Blackwood, 2004). GMOs are made when the DNA of the organism is changed. One example is corn. Over 80 percent of corn in the United States is genetically modified. Scientists can insert a gene into corn DNA to make it resistant to weed killer. Weed killer can then be sprayed on the crops to kill weeds, but not the corn (Young, 2012).
One way supporters believe that GMOs are safe and healthy is because they can supply food more abundantly. Crops can be engineered to yield harvest three times a year versus one. Supporters of GMOs claim that this could end starvation (Blackwood, 2004). Over ten percent of the world’s population suffers from malnutrition. Some believe that genetically modified organisms could lower starvation statistics (Brandon, 2013). Crops can be modified to be tastier, last longer and contain more nutrients; yielding health benefits. Supporters believe that this can increase health to people in both developing and developed countries. For example, many people in third world countries go blind due to malnutrition. To combat this, scientists have developed a strand of rice that contains extra vitamin A (Brandon, 2013). If third world countries could get access to Vitamin A enriched rice, blindness could be prevented. Another case would be the ability to grow corn in environments with little rain fall. Scientists have developed a species of corn that can survive on limited water. This advancement could bring much needed calories to starving villages in third world countries (Brandon, 2013). An increased shelf life can also bring health benefits to people all over the world, supporters argue. If apples can last two weeks instead of one, they can reach more remote regions in need of nutrients. Increased shelf life can also benefit the developed world. If an apple stays fresh for a longer period of time then people will be more likely to eat such food. Supporters claim GMOs make people healthier because they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables if they last longer. Supporters also argue that if fruits and vegetables can be modified to taste sweeter they’ll be eaten more, yielding health benefits. A common genetically modified organism today is the “Flavr Savr” brand of tomatoes. These tomatoes last a remarkably long time (Minoia et al, 2010). Again, supporters argue that if food last longer people will be more likely to eat it, and wreak the health benefits (Minoia et al, 2010). Supporters of genetically modified organisms also argue that the environment can benefit from GMOs. One way the environment can benefit from genetically modified organisms is the decreased use of pesticides and insecticides (Young, 2012). Scientists can engineer crops to be resistant to disease and insects. If they are genetically resistant to such factors, farmers do not need to spray such chemicals into the atmosphere to protect their crops. Also, shrubs and trees can be modified to have a larger root system. These larger root systems can prevent erosion by up to 90 percent (Blackwood, 2004). Finally, supporters argue that the economy can benefit from genetically modified organisms. Farmers who utilize GMOs are more likely to yield a stronger harvest than if they had planted traditional seeds. A stronger harvest means more profit, aiding the economy. Also, the foods can be made to taste better, increasing sales. With the aid of GMOs, foods have become cheaper. Today, many sweeteners are made from corn products. Artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup are manufactured from corn. Genetically modified corn could produce sweeter, more abundant fructose (Young, 2012). With more abundant sweeteners, many artificially sweetened foods will become cheaper. Challengers of genetically modified organisms claim that they have dangerous health hazards, injure the environment, and hurt the economy. Those who oppose GMOs argue that there are studies that show genetically modified organisms are dangerous to one’s health. The argument is that no long term studies have been performed on humans who regularly consume GMOs. This raises concern as to if they are dangerous or not. Another factor that leads some to find GMOs as dangerous is that animal trials have been performed with less than desirable effects. Lab rats fed a diet of GMOs have developed cancer, liver failure, obesity, and gastrointestinal problems more commonly than rats fed an organic diet (Young, 2012) Those who oppose GMOs also claim that they are hazardous to the environment. Small mammals such as birds and field mice eat seeds in crop fields. These genetically modified seeds have been known to cause illness in some of these animals. Also, many crops are engineered to be resistant to disease. These crops almost violate the laws of nature by avoiding natural selection. This can lead to the death of other natural species of plants. For example a genetically engineered tree could grow out of control and starve natural plants of nutrients (Blackwood, 2004). Finally, once a genetically engineered organism is introduced into the environment, it will cross pollinate with other plants and contaminate the gene pool. Once a gene pool is contaminated, it cannot become uncontaminated. Lastly, those weary of GMOs find GMOs to hurt the economy. Often times, companies that make GMOs require farmers to pay high tariffs for their service. If an organic farmer’s seeds cross pollinate with a GMO the super companies often times sue the organic farmers. With more and more farmers using GMOs small, local farms are struggling to survive (Young, 2012). This causes revenue to leave small communities and go to large corporations. Agriculture has revolutionized over the past half century. GMOs are one of the major revolutions. Some believe they can benefit society while others believe they are harmful and dangerous. One should educate themselves on GMOs as they are becoming more and more prevalent in society.
Brandon, H. (2013). EU science advisor: Opposition to GMO crops 'a form of madness'. Southeast Far Press, 40(25), 4.
Young, A. (2012). GMOs: friend or foe?. Natural Health, 42(4), 46-50. Blackwood, A. (2004). GMOs 101. Health (Time Inc. Health), 18(4), 168-173. Minoia, S., Petrozza, A., D'Onofrio, O., Piron, F., Mosca, G., Sozio, G., & ... Carriero, F. (2010). A new mutant genetic resource for tomato cropimprovement by TILLING technology. BMC Research Notes, 369-76.