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Pros and Cons of GMO Foods

GMO foods

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to organisms that have been modified by engineers to make them more resistant against illnesses, to be more nutritious, and even to taste better.

People interested to keep the environment in its original form, are not very happy to see farmers that are growing genetically modified plants and animals, which are then used to feed the population because they consider that GMO foods could affect the public health and also the environment. Let’s see what are the pros and cons of GMO foods.

What is a GMO? – Definition

GMOs stand for genetically modified organisms such as plants and animals that are created using biotechnology to insert genes from one species into the DNA of another species.

GMOs do not refer to simply manipulating traits of plants through crossbreeding (which humans have done since ancient times).

The first GMO, the flavor saver tomato (Flavr Savr) was created in 1994, and was the first GMO accepted for human consumption.

Since then, the amount of GMO products in our food supply has been steadily increasing, and today the most common GMOs can be found in crops like corn. soy, cotton and rapeseed.

GMOs can also be found in sugar beets, alfalfa, canola, papaya, apples, potatoes, squash and many others.

Actually, more than 90% of the crops produced today in the United States are genetically modified organisms.

Pros of GMOs

1. GMOs represent organisms with improved properties

Scientists have created these modified organisms to achieve specific desired properties such as fruits that don’t brown when exposed to air, rice containing beta-carotene (which combats deficiencies in vitamin A in countries where rice is a main part of their diet), salmon that grows faster, etc.

2. GMOs help combat world hunger

Many people consider today that GMOs are beneficial for mankind because by using them on a large scale, we can combat global hunger (by producing food quickly and in a more efficient way).

3. GMOs help to reduce the use of pesticides

Some studies have shown that the overall use of genetically modified organisms has reduced pesticide use because some GMO crops have been engineered to resist insects, so farmers don’t have to use insecticides on them.

However, in some cases, creating GMOs resistant to a certain herbicide, has actually increased the use of pesticides because farmers considered that they can use more pesticide to kill the weeds anyway, because the crop is resistant.

4. The use of GMOs has helped to fight diseases that commonly affect certain crops

Hawaii’s papaya industry was seriously affected in 1992 by the ringspot virus (PRSV), which threatened to wipe-out the entire production of papaya in the country.

However, the creation of ringspot resistant papayas, farmers managed to save this important crop, and Hawaii remained the main U.S. producer of papaya even today.

5. New pharmaceuticals

Biologically active compounds created by genetically modified crops can be used to produce new pharmaceuticals to fight disease.

6. Using GMOs ensures a higher crop yield

Genetically modified crops produce higher yields and extra production because these foods aren’t susceptible to insect damage, are more resistant to a large number of diseases, and produce more fruit bodies.

7. Many GMO foods stay fresh longer

Genetically modified foods such as fruits and veggies can be shipped on long distances because they remain fresh many days after harvesting.

8. GMO foods are better looking foods

GMO foods look better because they stay fresh longer and due to this fact, they sell better in supermarkets (produce less waste).

Cons of GMOs

In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), released an extensive report, in which they’ve stated that they found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between GMO and conventionally bred crops.

They also stated that they didn’t find cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the genetically engineered crops.

1. Genetic manipulation could lead to bacteria and viruses that are resistant to drugs

Recent studies have shown that the creation of genetically modified insect and weed resistant crops, has only increased the population of another type of pests, and created insects and weeds that have also developed resistance to insecticides and herbicides.

2. Medical/Health concerns raised by GMO foods

Consuming GMO foods could produce unknown allergies to individuals.

Foods that have been genetically modified could cause people with certain allergies to different foods, an allergic reaction to a food that they have never been allergic to.

This could happen because creating GMO foods involves taking DNA from one species and put it into the DNA of another species to create a new organism.

If the DNA sequence taken from a species contains genes that we are allergic to, by introducing those genes into the DNA of the modified food, will produce an allergic reaction in our body.

These are some of the concerns that individuals might have about GMOs, especially genetically modified foods that are sold in supermarkets, but are not labeled as GMOs.

3. Gene escape or invasive species

Escaped into the wild, genetically modified organisms (genes) can survive better and could out-compete native species because they grow faster and stronger.

GMOs have several advantages in the wild over native species and by escaping in the ecosystem they could spread so quickly that they could eventually replace all native species in that area.

4. Consuming GMO foods could lead to cancer

Some researchers consider that consuming GMO foods can contribute to the development of cancer.
They say that introducing in the body new genes (genetically modified organisms) could cause mutations in DNA, which could lead to cancer.

5. GMO foods could affect the ability to defend against illness

Consuming crops that have been genetically modified to resist certain diseases or to be more tolerant to herbicides could affect people’s ability to defend against illness.

How to Get Non-GMO Food?

Because more than 90 percent of the crops in the United States are GMOs, and because these foods have no special label attached to make the supermarket buyers aware of the fact that they are actually buying a GMO, it is pretty hard to find food that is 100% GMO free.

You can get non-GMO food by producing your own food using controlled sources of seeds and livestock.

To do this you need to use selected seeds (organic products that are required to be non-GMO) and rely on native species of animals.

The food used to feed your livestock also needs to be free of GMOs.

Final conclusion

GM crops are pretty new in the field (they started in 1994 with the first modified tomato that was accepted for human consumption), and this is the reason why we haven’t had enough time to properly assess the long-term effects on the human life or on the ecosystem.

There is not enough evidence today to show that the potential dangers of GMO foods outweigh the benefits, but who knows what the future could reveal us.

If there are GMO foods available on the market today because they are considered safe, this does not mean that all genetically modified organisms are safe.

However, as mankind evolves, it is more than sure that the future will bring not only genetically modified crops or animals, but also improved …humans.

Article written by:

I write about the renewable energy sector, electric cars and climate change issues. I love nature and good food, so I travel all over the world to see new places and meet new people. Magda Savin

1 Comment

  1. Tyrell

    There is still some controversy over the benefits and risks of GMO foods.
    The problem with these genetically created plants and even animals is not new, and we can’t do anything to stop it because when visiting any major city of any city, the GMOs are almost everywhere, and you can’t buy different food.

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