Over the years there has been a lot of debate regarding the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms/Foods (GMO’s/GMF’s). It is one of the most contentious areas of science, where although genetic engineering is being used for medical applications such as in GM Insulin, the use of the same in the case of agriculture and foods is debated to be detrimental. This article will discuss the viewpoints of the authors based on a “for” and “against” argument.
On average, genetically modified foods increases yield by 22 percent, which helps to reduce pesticide use by 37 percent, and increases farmer profits by 68 percent. The new varieties of genetically modified crops offer nutritional benefits which are not present in the conventional types of crops, for example, Golden Rice. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, some genetically modified foods have been engineered to become more nutritious with regards to its vitamin and mineral content. The GM foods can not only help people to get the required nutrients which they need but can also play a significant role to eliminate malnutrition in third-world countries. Genetic modifications to food, not only improves the nutrition content but can also add pest or weather resistance at the same time, so that people in the future could gain the same nutrition from the lower levels of the food pyramid as well.
New types of crops are being developed to be grown in extreme climates, such as in dry or freezing environments, for example, scientists have developed a new kind of tomato that grows in soil with high mineral contents. As more plants and crops are being raised in areas that were previously unsuitable for farming, the oxygen levels in the environment are increased which in turn decreases the proportion of carbon dioxide and helps to reduce global warming in the future years to come. In fact, British economists noted in a study that genetically modified crops have made a significant contribution in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 10 million tons, which is an equivalent to removing around 6 million cars from the road each year.
GM foods can produce more crops with less land which can help predict how much food supplies would be gained from a particular crop yield and for how long will that particular crop yield sustain. The primary goal of GM crops was to tackle the food deserts situation which can help feed around 9.2 billion people around the world with the added advantage of longer shelf life. This improvement gives us the possibility to take excess food products from one community and deliver it to another. One of the most prominent effects of genetically modified foods on our everyday life would be the prices of food products, as a higher crop yield would help reduce its price.
Why not GMFs?
Although Genetically Modified Foods/Crops might have its perks, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has cited that studies on animals have shown the ill effects of GM foods. Some of these include, organ damage, immune system disorders, intestinal damage, accelerated aging and infertility.
There have also been reports by scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, of finding toxic pesticides in pregnant mothers, and eventually in the unborn baby. The researchers implied that the chemicals entered the body through eating farm foods from livestock that have been fed GM crops. This has to lead the previous claims of the GM industry, that all the harmful chemicals added to crops would pass safely through the human body, but instead, it has led to a possible biomagnification effect.
Another cause of concern with GM foods would be the side effects that can promote cancer. As we know that GM crops have certain pesticide properties which are able to kill certain pests. This would mean that over a certain duration of years it would lead to the formation of cancer cells which could affect the human body. The WHO characterizes the safety of GMF’s as unlikely to pose a risk, even though there are concerns with regards to the cross-pollination or the outcrossing that occurs between GM and non-GM crops.
|According to the WHO, “… are not likely to present risks for human health”.
WHO in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has developed standards for assessing the safety and risks of GMF’s – Codex Alimentarius. These standards, however, do not take into account all aspects of safety, such as modern methods of cooking, like induction based devices, microwaves, and air fryers.
Unlike Europe, the United States of America had no laws regarding the labeling of GM foods. Back in July 2016, former US President Barack Obama approved a bill that would make the labeling of GM foods mandatory. Food products that abide by this law, will finally be available to consumers in the Summer of 2018. Prior to this people had no choice or idea if the foods they consumed on a daily basis was genetically modified or not. Now that labeling issue has been resolved, there have been reports of GM crops approved for industrial use and animal feed to be found in low levels in products intended for human consumption. This is a huge affair, as this cross contamination could lead to allergic reactions in humans, potential allergens or allergies which science is not aware of yet.
Multinational companies such as Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, and BASF have been the backbone of the Agricultural Biotechnological Council, helping it to promote GM crops to the world. In recent years, Monsanto has been suing independent farmers in the US due to its patent rights, wherein farmers are made to sign an agreement which states that they are not allowed to replant seeds which have been stored after harvesting or sell the seeds to other farmers, resulting in increasing farmer suicides due to high costs of GM seeds.
From the discussion above, it is essential to reflect on how GMFs can affect us in our lives, if whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages or vice-versa, based on each individual.
To summarize, GMFs can be useful during the times of wars and on lands having extreme climates, but at the same time, we also need to take into account the ill effects of GMFs. We believe that genetically modified foods still need further research and development, so they can get to a point where it makes it easy to convince the masses with sufficient information, to help them make a decision if whether GMFs are actually a boon or a bane.