GMO stands for genetically modified organism. GMO foods are microorganisms or organisms with genetically altered material that contain a piece of DNA from another organism. Pieces of DNA that are stitched together are the work of modern recombinant DNA technology, and can be done regardless of the pieces' source. The technology has been around for decades. As early as the 1980's researchers have stitched pieces of DNA together to see what can be made. Some uses have been to determine gene function, make copies of proteins or genes, generate models for human illness, and study gene expression patterns.
Recent and prevalent application of this technology has been to create food crops modified in such a way that is beneficial to either the consumer or the producer or both. Today's GMO crops have had bacterial genes added into their genomes encoded for herbicide or pest resistance. This is supposed to allow the producer to use less chemicals on the crops. In practice however, the objective has not been realized as weed and pests become resistant to any chemicals used. The food crops in the United States that are most often found to be genetically modified are corn, canola, and soy.
While there is majority consensus that GM foods are safe, the public has its concerns. Those wishing to accept GMO foods as a main food source explain foods have been 'genetically modified' since humanity transitioned from the 'hunter gatherer' civilizations to agriculture. Those against it share their concern that such a technology is given a 'blanket approval' and can lead to overproduction of GMO foods. In a little over a decade, GMO crops have made their way to the majority of processed foods in the United States and in pantries and supermarkets. From those believing GMO foods can be a useful addition to agriculture to those pushing legislation to require food companies to label GMO ingredients, there is a tug of war on whether GMO food is harmful for people or not.
GMO foods have contributed greatly to growing crops faster and easier. "Public opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remains strong. By contrast, studies demonstrate again and again that GM crops make a valuable contribution to the development of a sustainable type of agriculture" (Blancke, Van Breusegem, De Jaeger, Braeckman, & Van Montagu, 2015, p. 414). Not only can GMO crops grow faster and are sturdier than non-GMO plants, but they can also be grown with additional nutrients they never had before. Canola plants for example, have been genetically engineered to synthesize DHA. Vegans that wish to take DHA and do not want to take anything derived from an animal can use this canola plant once they finish fine tuning it.
Furthermore, GMO food studies have revealed GMO foods do not affect people's health in a negative way. There is just no real evidence that shows GMO foods create health problems for individuals when eaten in the long-term.
Prominent scientists and policymakers assert with confidence that there is no scientific controversy over the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) -- that genetically modified crops currently in commercial use and those yet to be commercialized are inherently safe for human consumption and do not have to be tested (Krimsky, 2015, pp. 883).
If prominent scientists state GMO foods are safe, and there is growing research supporting the safety of these foods, then there must some truth to the claims of the harmlessness in GMO foods.
Another big advantage to using GMO foods is cost. It costs less to produce GMO foods, which means it will cost less for the consumer. GMO foods also require less fertilizers, less pesticide to grow and will help humanity strive towards a more sustainable agriculture practice. Everything in the agricultural business involves use of space, land, pesticides, and fertilizer. With GMO crops all of this use can be reduced, leading to more foods at cheaper prices for the public and less use of chemicals...
More and more people are being born each day and they all need to eat. GMO foods can provide food for a growing population and make it affordable and have less of an impact on the environment. It seems like a 'win, win' situation. The best part is, the public does not have to do anything other than allow the companies to continue genetically modifying foods. The technologies may even advance to include various other nutrients the human body needs like vitamin D and so forth.
While researchers and scientists say there is not enough evidence to state that GMO foods are bad for a person's health, several countries have banned the import of GMO foods. A recent article cited Iran's desire to ban importation of GMO foods and France has already placed a ban on GMO foods since 2008. "According to legislation in Iran, the importation of transgenic products should be banned due to the lack of strong evidence for the safety of genetically modified foods. Therefore, the detection of genetically modified on importing products should perform by food control laboratories" (Rezazadeh, Aghaiypour, & Heidari, 2013, p. 92). If GMO foods are not as dangerous as supporters of GMO foods claim, why are countries like Iran, France, and Russia looking to ban GMO foods from reaching their grocery stores?
GMO foods are not natural. They are made to keep pests from eating them and this could have a serious effect on the gut health of human beings. Yes, GMO foods have gained ground in terms of the public accepting it as a decent food source, but recent trends could spell disastrous for human consumption of these foods. "Genetically modified (GM) crops are increasingly gaining acceptance but concurrently consumers' concerns are also increasing. The introduction of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) genes into the plants has raised issues related to its risk assessment and biosafety" (Kamle, & Ali, 2013, p. 123). When cows that eat GMO foods begin developing problems, including increased rates of infection and obesity, and American obesity rates have soared in the last few decades, it begs to ask just how safe these GMO foods are.
While GMO foods can be made more cheaply, processed foods, the foods that contain the most GMO foods, are still fairly expensive. Some processed meals go for $5 or more for one package. If one of the reasons GMO foods should be widely accepted is to help drive down food costs, GMO foods should be much cheaper than the non-GMO counterpart. But often times, they are not. A good example of this is Coco Puffs cereal. Coco Puffs has GMO corn in it. However, it costs on average $4.99. An organic, non-GMO cereal around the same amount costs $4.99.
Proponents for GMO foods also say GMO foods do not have to be sprayed as much. Yet, MORE herbicide is being used on GMO craps than less. GMO foods cost about the same at times as regular or organic food. They use up more herbicides than less. They may also negatively impact human gut health. It seems GMO foods are not revolutionary as imagined.
The pro-side of GMO foods have a lot of studies suggesting GMO foods are not harmful to consume. However, in practice, there seems to be a lot of problems that arise when consuming a lot of GMO foods. Furthermore, the herbicides used on GMO foods are quite strong and are used more than anticipated. So, while there is 'evidence' that GMO foods are safe to consume, the growing obesity epidemic in the United States and the emergence of GMO foods as a main food in America seems suspicious and adds to the idea that GMO foods may not be as safe to consume after all.
The con side of GMO foods has a lot of passion and shows the hypocrisy of the ones making GMO foods, however, there is no evidence linking anything. Obesity rates have climbed in the United States and it has coincided with the introduction of GMO foods. However, that could all be due to overeating and consumption of too many processed foods not GMO foods themselves. Had the con side have studies and evidence suggesting GMO foods affect human gut health and promote obesity, then they would have a more solid foundation.
Which side has the strongest supporting evidence?
Obviously the pro-side has the strongest supporting evidence that GMO foods are not harmful. They have scientists backing their claims as well as much of the research that is done on GMO foods. No real evidence stands against the safety of GMO foods. Most of it seems more opinion than fact over on the con side. The pro-side has studies spanning years, decades showing the lack of negative effects when consuming GMO foods. Therefore, the pro-side wins the evidence contest hands down.
What I learned
I have learned a lot about GMO foods. One of the things…
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