GMOs? Yes or No?

by Mahesh Vasudevan on February 19, 2014



Genetically modified foods, or GMOs, are foods that are biologically altered for animal and human consumption to have some enhanced, desirable trait. GMO history begins in the 1900s, when plant scientists used Mendel’s theory of genetics to crossbread certain plant species for the purpose of enhancing desirable traits. With Watson and Crick’s publishing of the 3D model of DNA in 1953, scientists were able to splice a gene or take a gene from one organism and inserting it into another. In 1992 the tomato was modified genetically to remain firm over time, and in the same year the FDA stated that GMOs were not harmful (American RadioWorks). Since then, supporters and opposers have about whether genetically altering food can help humans or if the process is to risky to be tampered with.


Many argue that GMOs have a plethora of advantages and can help today’s society accommodate to a growing world. One plus is GMOS mean safer foods that have inherent pest resistance. The B.T. gene has been inserted into corn and other crops to produce a bacterium harmful to insects, and allows these crops to make their “natural pesticides.” According to supporters, this will reduce prices of paying for pesticides as well as a safer alternative for people to eat without worrying about possible pesticide side effects. In additon, scientists hope to produce GMOs to be able to resist harmful plant diseases themselves. Crops can suffer from fungal and viral disease, and the only ways to treat these are by fungicides while viruses have no chemical treatment. Disease resistant GMOs will reduce illness to humans. (GMO Compass). One global aim that scientisits have is to create certain GMOs that contain nutrients they would not otherwise have and then distribute these GMOs to third world nations where the population is malnourished. The most prominent campaign for GMOs is that of golden rice. Scientists hope to distribute “golden rice”-rice with beta-carotene which the body then can convert into vitamin A. This would combat vitamin A deficiency , which is a problem in developing countries for 250 million children in which 500,000 go blind and die within a year (Fraczek). GMOs promise to revolutoinize the way humans think about food, the point that its supporters are advocating.


Along with the positives of GMOs, there are criticisms. One is that biologically altered crops could cause harm to nonharmful organisms. A study was conducted and found that pollen from B. T.  modified corn was killing monarch butterflies, a species it isn’t intendedd to kill. However, if even the pollen from the crop was modified and blown away by the wind, it can cause damage to many organisms (Phillips). Another fear is that GMOs can crossbreed with weeds to pass their modified genes and create superweeds, which are resistant to pesticides (Phillips).

There are concerns that GMOs can cause harm to peoples’ health, although as of now the studies to prove this have not been validated. Some sources claim that the FDA was influenced by the companies producing GMOs to say that there is no harm from the altered foods. Those against the concept argue that GMOs amplify allergies, including lethal ones such as soybeans. They claim that mice that took GMOs had altered digestive systems and powerful immune responses to GMOs. A huge fear is that besides just weeds, the resistance genes of GMOs could be passed to pathogens that can harm humans. The risks associated with GMOs, or at least the claims, have offered a considerable obstacle to those wanting to go forward wth genetic engineering.


GMOS offer double-sided effects. They bring promise to change the world and potentially diminish world hunger, nutrient deficiencies and healthier foods. On the other hand, they bring a variety of risks and as of now, little result. Whether or not you are on one side or the other, genetically modified organisms will certainly be a topic to know about in the near future.


Works Cited


American RadioWorks. (2014) History of Genetic Engineering. Retrieved from website.


Fraczek, Jen. (2014). DW. Genetically modified golden rice variety stirs up controversy. Retrieved from website.


GMO Compass (2006). Disease Resistance. Retrieved from website.


Phillips, T. (2008) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): Transgenic crops and recombinant DNA technology. Nature Education 1(1):213




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