What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
Truth About Genetically Modified Foods: Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, are plants, animals, or bacteria that have been modified to have characteristics that allow them to survive in a specific environment or condition. In general, these include traits such as drought resistance, herbicide resistance, pest resistance, or insect resistance. These traits, and the related DNA changes, can cause risks and dangers for both the plants and the organisms themselves. GMO foods are produced in a lab. Their DNA can be manipulated, resulting in the genetic code being changed, causing various effects, such as sterility, increased growth, more nutrients, and increased resistance to herbicides. In general, GMOs are controversial and are generally only grown on test fields or indoors.
The Pros of GMO Crops:
The most commonly used GMOs in our food supply are corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and cotton. Each of these crops is engineered to produce a different protein. Some GMOs are associated with problems, including breast cancer in rats, infertility in humans, and infertility in animals. However, these issues have been attributed to the mutated proteins in the foods. The FDA considers GMOs to be “generally regarded as safe,” and the approval process generally runs in a stepwise manner. Approval means that the food contains at least minimal changes to the genetic code, DNA.
The Cons of GMO Crops:
While the future of GMO crops is uncertain, the companies that sell GMOs, such as Monsanto, insist that there have not been any effects on health. However, one review of 20 studies concluded that GMOs are not completely safe. Many health professionals, including doctors, have raised concerns that GMO crops may have a negative impact on health. While no direct links have been established, research indicates that the use of antibiotics and pesticides on GMO crops might accelerate antibiotic resistance. GMO crops have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides, making them harder to eradicate. Many weeds, such as the infamous “superweed” Palmer amaranth, have developed resistance to glyphosate, a common herbicide used on crops.
Moreover, the most common consumers of GMO foods are those over 65 years of age, people who do not exercise, or who eat the same amount of fruits and vegetables daily. However, some people make the connection between GMOs and diseases that are tied to health issues, such as Alzheimer’s. Recent research has shown that GMO foods increase susceptibility to dementia and ADHD. However, this link does not make sense when looking at the foods that these foods have been engineered to resemble. These foods have been intentionally made to resemble natural plants. When food companies patent a crop, they patent the genes that are inside the seed.
The Truth About Genetically Modified Foods:
GMO foods are now being labeled in the U.S., but there is still a long way to go before they’re labeled everywhere, as the recent history of Iceland shows. The country banned GMO foods in 2000 and in 2009. In 2013, however, Iceland elected a new government that reversed its ban. This movement against GMOs has increased worldwide, with many countries rejecting the crops due to environmental concerns. In March 2015, Russia announced that it would require all food imports to be GMO-free. It’s estimated that 15% of all food produced in the U.S. is GMO.
Possible Solutions to GMO’s:
If both the EPA and Monsanto didn’t agree on the safety of GMOs, there would be a proposal for a federal mandate for GMO labeling on food products. Most of the companies that produce GMOs make a profit from selling them. If the products are marketed as cheaper and more nutritious than non-GMO, their potential success will decrease, and people will choose to only buy the cheaper version of the product, thus creating a loss for the company that makes the GMO and a win for the customers who purchase it. Are GMOs safe? Those who oppose GMOs are likely based on the chemical pesticide resistance argument. Studies have shown that if chemicals are introduced into a plant’s genome through genetic engineering, they may potentially be passed on to the next generation.
How to make sure you don’t consume GMO foods?
The best way to avoid consuming genetically modified foods is to read labels. As much as we hate to admit it, the majority of processed foods, including the ones on your shopping list, contain at least one ingredient that is genetically modified. Eating at restaurants is also an option to avoid GMOs. You can eat at restaurants that use GMO-free ingredients or prepare your own at home. Cooking is the only way to truly avoid genetically modified foods.
Conclusion: The Truth About Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods are not something to take lightly and you should research the products yourself before eating them. The overall health of the earth is at stake and it is up to the consumers to fight back. As consumers, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the products that we are buying and if they contain GMOs. Only then can we have a say in the quality of the food that we eat.