The era of modern technology has brought a promising addition to the food production and nutrition industry: GMOs. GMOs, genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals in which we as humans have altered the sequence of its DNA to produce desired results. For instance, some plants are modified to be resistant to pesticides, able to grow in certain environments, or even taste differently. As this trend has increased in the world, however, there has been growing opposition to its implementation. 85% of US corn is genetically modified along with 95% of sugar beets and many different crops used in everyday foods. “Non-GMO” has become another fad in the health community on a list that includes “organic” and “gluten-free,” but are GMOs proven to be bad for our health?
On nonGMOproject.org (anti-GMO), it states that any scientific consensus on GMOs is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated by the media.” Even those who wish to see the disappearance of GMOs cannot truthfully claim any scientific backing to their negative effects. Though there have been no conclusive tests that prove negative effects from GMOs (and some that prove the opposite), in one survey 57% of the public states they would not buy genetically modified food (though a vast majority of those likely have). The natural fear of “science hocus pocus” in our foods prevents people of the world from accurately realizing the positive truth behind modern biotechnology. Not only are there no proven scientific negatives to modern genetic modification, but humans have been doing similar processes through artificial selection for centuries. Neil Degrasse Tyson on GMOs:
“What most people don’t know but they should is that practically every food they buy in the store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food. There are no wild seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows, there’s no long stem roses growing in the wild – even though we don’t eat roses. You list all the fruit and all the vegetables and ask yourself is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is it’s not as large it’s not as sweet it’s not as juicy and it has way more seeds in it.
We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables, and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated. It’s called artificial selection. That’s how we genetically modify. Now we can do it in a lab and all of a sudden you’re gonna complain? If you’re the complainer type go back and eat the apples that grow in the wild.”
The negative stigma surrounding GMOs must be stopped; not just because it is incorrect, but because the potential benefits of improved genetic modification are astounding. The first benefit is the significantly increased efficiency of GMO farms. Between 1996 and 2012, crop biotechnology (including genetic modification) was responsible for an additional 122 million tonnes of soybeans and 231 million tonnes of corn. GM crops are allowing farmers to grow more without using additional land. Without this technology in 2012, the same level of global production would have required addition plantings of a total of 15.1 million hectares of land, equivalent to 9% of the arable land in the US or 24% of the arable land in Brazil. Population is rapidly increasing, and we will soon direly need maximum efficiency out of our arable land that only GMOs can provide. This increased efficiency is also extremely beneficial to the environment. A UK report stated:
Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (1996-2012) by 503 million kg (-8.8%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU 27 for nearly two crop years. As a result, this has decreased the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on the area planted to biotech crops by 18.7%.
As our environment is in dire need of assistance that our country is currently not offering (see: https://www.specsjs.com/2018/01/17/environmental-issues-are-heating-up/), improved GMOs are essential for the future of our planet. Furthermore, through a process called biofortification, crops can actually be made more nutritious and containing certain vitamins necessary for survival in impoverished areas. One of the worst cases of malnutrition comes from a lack of vitamin A. 250,000-500,000 children a year go blind from vitamin A deficiency, and half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight. We have developed a genetically modified strain of rice called “golden rice” that could counteract this tragic trend in areas where rice is a stable food. Partially due to GMO opposition, this rice has not been totally distributed. Though it was ready for distribution in 2002, Scientific American calculates that delays caused by an anti-GMO sentiment have cost 1,440,000 years of potential life (most of the deaths have been small, malnourished children).
GMOs are the totally beneficial, necessary wave of the future. Though I think it is fine for us to label them as we would any other nutritional information, we need to take steps as a society to ensure the correct information is understood by the public rather than fear-mongering at vege co-ops saying that scientists are messing up our broccoli’s DNA. I believe that embracing advancements in technology is essential to the well-being of the people of the world, and GMOs are no different.
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