The Ups and Downs of GMOs

by Alexandria Chaitin on February 20, 2014

By Alexandria Chaitin

Feb 19 2014

gmo-tomato

Something that has stirred much controversy over the past few years is the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms. The World Health Organization defines GMOs as “foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally.” This meaning includes placing a gene into an organism that it does not already have in order to make it more environmentally competitive. Crops are modified to improve the plants’ growth and to make the plant disease resistant or more tolerant to herbicides in the field. These crops then become Genetically Modified Food (GM foods). Examples of GM foods include tomatoes that have improved ripening features, herbicide resistant soybeans, and cotton plants that are more resistant to pests.

Many argue that there are a lot of positive contributions GM foods can make. The most important positive influence they have is nutrition. Malnutrition is a common issue in developing countries, which many believe can be cured by GM foods. Oftentimes people in third-world countries are unable to buy a variety of crops and must rely on one staple crop for their diet.  This crop does not typically contain all of the nutrients needed by the consumer, and therefore they become malnourished because they have minimal access to other nutritious foods. If a crop, such as rice, could be genetically engineered to have higher vitamin contents, this would lead to decreased malnutrition in the impoverished communities.

Another positive attribute of GM foods is tolerance to climates that aren’t conducive to growing crops. Cold temperatures can destroy plants; therefore an antifreeze gene from cold-water fish has been introduced to plants such as tobacco. This enables the plant to survive the colder weather because of the newly injected gene. Additionally, GM foods are available internationally and have passed risk assessments and therefore are not likely to have risks on our health. No effects have been shown so far from GM plants, so currently they are considered safe.

Although there are many positive characteristics of GM food, there are also negatives. For example, there is a company named “The Non-GMO Project.” Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that wants to protect the non-GMO foods and also make consumers more informed about GMO vs. Non-GMO foods. Such an organization would not exist if a product contained absolutely no harmful effects. According to the Non-GMO project, most nations don’t consider GMOs a safe option. In more than 60 countries around the world, including all of the countries in the European Union, there are restrictions and bans on the production and sale of GM foods. Why are they restricted and why does the Non-GMO Project considered GMO’s safe?  What do they say to the risk assessments mentioned above?

Another negative aspect of GMO is the risk that the GMO escapes and introduces its engineered genes into a wild crop, therefore contaminating the natural plant. Environmental activists and government officials fear that the GM businesses are solely in it for the profitability and have no concern for potential hazards. Sustainability involves the use of a variety of crops and a multitude of crop protection practices. Environmental activists fear that the variety will be reduced to GM crops due to the high interest of the chemical companies.

So far, Genetically Modified Organisms have yet to be proven as a negative or a positive contribution. They could potentially solve the world hunger and malnutrition issue. It could also lead to higher yields of crops and less of a reliance on pesticides. On the other side of the spectrum, many believe that GMOs are potentially dangerous, but we are unaware of their side effects yet. The practice should continue, but farmers should proceed with caution because there could be harms that are being overshadowed by the technological advancements.

Sources:

http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/

http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

http://gmo-freephoenix.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/gmo-tomato.jpg


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Mitch February 21, 2014 at 5:37 am

GMO’s are bad. Otherwise why would Monsanto be so secretive? Why wuld Monsanto be paying off our government to protect them fromlawsuits? The danger is by the time studies showing what they can do are completeed, it will be too late for th ehuman race.

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Wendye February 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Don’t be fooled!!! GMO’s are bad!!! People are getting sick from GMO’s!!!
the laws as they stand now say that if a person poison’s you they can go to jail, however because a corporation is not a person they can not!!!

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Elena February 22, 2014 at 5:59 am

GREAT ARTICLE AL

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Amanda February 25, 2014 at 8:50 pm

AWESOME ARTICLE ALI!!!!

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Renee February 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm

interesting article!

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Hayley February 25, 2014 at 9:13 pm

SUCH AN AMAZING ARTICLE!

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Sophie February 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Great article!

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Besia February 25, 2014 at 10:25 pm

personally, I’m not a huge fan of GMOs, but awesome article!!

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Julia February 25, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Loved your article!

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Carly February 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Wow. Very interesting!

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Nicole February 26, 2014 at 1:00 am

Interesting article

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Nicole M February 26, 2014 at 1:02 am

I always just jumped to the conclusion that GMOs are purely bad. I never really considered the benefits. Interesting insight.

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Sophia February 26, 2014 at 4:11 pm

So interesting! Will definitely look more into GM foods!

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