October 04, 2013
What you need to know about GMOs
What you need to know about GMOsI’ve read a lot of articles recently about GMOs. Actually, I am being generous when I say ‘articles’- I should say, that I have seen a lot of boycott GMO lists being shared on social media networks. These lists are usually very long- for example Monsanto produces hundreds of products that contain GMOs. The company’s crops of corn, soy, sugar beets and cotton are all genetically modified. These lists are terrifying. These are products that we come in contact with everyday; products that our children come in contact with everyday. However, why exactly we should avoid them need to be addressed.
What are GMOs? Genetically Modified Organisms are plants that have had another plant’s genes merged into its DNA in order to acquire desirable traits through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. These crops were created to be pesticide and herbicide resistant to help farmer’s increase their yield. GMOs were bolstered as the solution to hunger. These plants make up about 90% of the crops grown in America. The GMO ControversyWeeds and bugs have become increasingly immune to herbicides and pesticides. This has meant that more chemicals are being sprayed on crops and farmers are using more resources to accomplish this task. It also means that there are increased environmental, and health concerns. David Suzuki does not approve. Farmer Debt Additionally, farmers are in huge debt over the cost of GMO crops. For example, Masipag (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura) a protestor of GMOs just released a book on the topic called: “Socio-economic Impact of Genetically Modified Corn in the Philippines.” The book shows how many farmers in the Philippines are now in major debt due to GMO crops. When the crops first appeared the seeds cost the same as regular, natural seeds. However, the cost of seeds ballooned and so did the herbicides and pesticides. The farmers borrowed money but the profit they made from GMO crops was only enough to cover the interest on the borrowed money. Health Concerns When it comes to health effects the starting point for many was a study done by a French scientist, Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, of the University of Caen. Rats that were fed Roundup Ready corn, known as NK603, for their entire lives (2 years) died sooner than rats on normal diets. The rats mostly died from mammary tumors, and liver or kidney damage. The study went viral around the world. Several other scientists looked into Seralini’s research and found that there were gaps in methods and interpretation of data. These scientists said: NK603 corn is harmless, this study is flawed. The World Health Organization then followed that up by saying: “no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” Recently, The American Association for the Advancement of Science added to that vein of thought. The Association said: “consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the European Commission seconded this. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a 20-year safety study on literature regarding GMOs and concluded that there is a long history of safety. Nature Biotechnology also noted that there are no negative long-term health effects at this point. GMO Labeling Yet, there is a state ballot pending that would require GMO labeling law. The agricultural industry has invested millions to defeat that initiative. They are also fighting for exemptions if the ballot is passed. These exemptions would be for animals that were fed genetically engineered food, restaurant food, and alcohol. There are currently 18 states that have pending GMO labeling legislation. So? GMOs have been in our food for years and it just now becoming a major national wide issue. There have been a lot of misunderstandings about the organisms if we are to believe these major scientific voices. Science seems to be proving that GMOs do not affect our health. Of course, there is the precautionary principle, which many who oppose GMOs believe in. These people believe it is better to wait and see if there are long (er)-term effects. Personally, I believe the major issue is that we do not know enough about what is being put in our food. I think that companies need to be more transparent about our food-and we as a nation need to be more aware about what we are eating. I do not think it is imperative that we boycott GMOs for our health; (especially if you can’t afford to-everything organic adds up) science seems to think we will be okay. Boycotting GMOs for the widespread effects on the agricultural industry and the environment is another matter altogether.