GMOs: Making Informed Decisions
With any subject, you need to understand the information currently available in order to make informed choices, while keeping in mind that five years from now the information could be quite different. With regards to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) the information is vast and contradictory. According to The Human Genome Project the definition of a genetically modified organism (GMO) is: “Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered,” or “transgenic.”
Examples of common GMO foods are soybeans that contain bacterial DNA that make them resistant to a weed killing herbicide and corn that produces its own insecticide. 90 percent of the corn, soybeans, rapeseed (the source of canola oil) and sugar beets grown in the United States are GMO.
Those in support of GM crops state that:
- There is enhanced taste and quality
- Reduced maturation time
- Increased nutrients, yields and stress tolerance
- Improved resistance to disease, pests and herbicides
- New products and growing techniques
- Increased food security for growing populations
Those against GM crops state that:
- According to The National Academy of Sciences reports that widespread cultivation of genetically modified crops resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, used in many commercial weed killers, could stimulate weeds to develop their own resistance to glyphosate.
- GM crops produce a bacterial toxin (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is deadly when consumed by susceptible insect pests. Two insect species have already developed resistance to it.
- Potential human health impacts, including allergens and transfer of antibiotic resistance markers.
- Potential environmental impacts, including: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity.
- Domination of world food production by a few companies.
- Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries.
There are other salient points that you need to consider. First the FDA relies on the scientific studies from the companies that will be manufacturing the seeds/product to determine whether or not the developed product is safe. Second, Mother Nature generally has the last word, and developing organisms—tampering with nature— that are not part of the natural world can be seen as playing Russian Roulette with the natural world and our food supply. In 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that the loss of biodiversity would have “major impact on the ability of humankind to feed itself in the future.” Lastly, once you have decided for yourself to support GM or Non-GMO foods, you should have the right to read a food label and find out if the product is indeed non-GMO. Labeling should be mandatory.
The long-term effects of genetically modified foods on our health and the environment are not fully understood. I believe that any potential benefits are not worth the risks. As consumers, you can make all the difference in whether or not gmo crops are developed and approved. If you look for and don’t purchase products that contain gmo ingredients, they won’t be developed or else their production will be stopped. Vote with your forks!