So what is GMO? GMO is genetically modified organism. GMO is an organism which is changed or modified by using genetic engineering. Mostly, GMOs are altered with DNA from another organism, now that can be bacterium, a plant, a virus or an animal. Commonly these organisms are called transgenic organisms.
For example, a gene from the spider that helps in producing silk can be mixed with the DNA of a goat. This may be a bit over exaggerating to you but it’s a fact that similar processes were carried out to breed goats that produced silk protein in their milk. As a result, an ultra-strong silk is reaped and then used in medical and industrial areas.
Genetically modified food:
There are a wide variety of GMOs in food. Some of them are pretty interesting as there is a type of genetically bred pigs that glow in the dark. Yes, they made it possible by mixing the genes of jellyfish with pigs. Recently drug and food administration has approved apples that don’t brown and potatoes that will be safe from bruises. Non-frost and anti-freezing tomatoes have been bred by experimenting with the genes of a cold water fish called winter flounder.
Advantages of GMOs:
The possible advantages of Genetically modified foods are that they have more nutrition and are challenging to diseases. Another advantage is that these foods are tastier than non GMOs. Genes from other plants and animals are used to genetically engineer the genetically modified organisms.
Drawbacks of GMOs:
There are some possible drawbacks to the GMO as they can lead to a possible extension of the original organisms if they are inbred with the natural organisms.
Use of GMOs in agriculture industry:
The agriculture industry is the one which is using the GMO technology on a large scale. According to facts, almost ninety percent of crops in the United States have been genetically engineered. These include Corn, sugar Beets, Soy, Canola, and Cotton. According to the US Department of agriculture in 2014-15 herbicide-resistant corn accelerated to 89% of the total production of corn in the United States.
According to world health organization, the toxic production present in bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is one of the most used methods to breed insect-resistant plants. A proven insect resistant record of the genetically modified crops with bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis leads to very less synthetic pesticide sprays.
Are GMOs safe?
There are two major groups when GMOs are viewed from the health point of view one is the ones that believe that GMOs are harmful and others that are supporting GMOs this includes some of the leading industries as well.
The co-founder of better health store Mary Vandewiele indicates that the long-term consequences of GMOs are not known. If you read the literature you will find that most of the myths are science is tangled and uncertain. The problem is that genetically modified organisms have impacted the food industry in a big way but the amount of damage and if it can prolong to be long-term damage is not clear.
According to center for food and safety, the greatest and most difficult environmental challenges of the 21st century is the genetic engineering of plants and animals. This organization is pretty vocal and is considered an anti-GMO organization. They claim that genetically modified foods can cause its consumers health problems.
Most of the developed countries more than 60 including countries like European Union, Japan, and Australia don’t consider GMOs safe and there is a restriction and sometimes ban on creating and selling genetically modified organisms.
Institute for responsible technology states that genetically changed foods are involved in allergic reactions and dead livestock, according to their studies, almost every organ of genetically engineered animals were harmed. They are considered an active anti-GMO organization.
There are other organizations that are supportive of GMO foods. In 2012 American Association of advancement of science presented a statement in which they believe that science is certainly very clear and using genetic modifications to improve crop is safe. According to them the ones that fear of genetically modified foods are more emotional than factual.
According to American Association of advancement of science many organizations including The American medical association, British royal society, World health organization and United States national academy science studies and examined data have concluded that eating genetically modified foods is not riskier than eating crops improved with conventional technology.
Monosanto the world’s largest maker of GMOs claims in a statement that genetically modified crops are known for better and higher output. This reduces the expenses of the farmers on fuels and pesticide sprays and provides them higher gains for same crops with greater nutritional improvements.
Should GMOs be labelled:
FDA can call for extra information to be added to the label of the product if its safety meaning changes in ingredients or nutrition of a genetically modified food.
If there is a meaningful difference in the safety, composition or nutrition of the crop from which the ingredients were derived, the FDA could require additional information be added to the label.
A ruling from FDA was issued in November 2015 which forced additional labeling for foods that were derived from genetically engineered sources. The difference in nutrition of GMO and non-GMO food needs to be listed on the label of the product. A salmon considered to mature faster than non-GMO one was also permitted by this organization.
GMO Answers is a website that is financed by Council for biotechnology information that includes Bayer CropScience, Dupont, Dow Agrosciences, BASF, Syngenta, and Monsanto. According to this website the GMOs are highly tested and regulated in the agriculture product history.
There are several independent organizations and scientists in the world that have studied thousands of scientific researchers to come to a conclusion that GMO foods are not more harmful to humans animals and environment than normal foods. The list of these organizations includes World health organization, United Nations food and agriculture organization, American Association of advancement of science, U.S National Academy of sciences and American Medical Association.
In recent years the debate of making and marketing GMO foods has become a sizzling political subject.
The politics over GMO foods:
The GMO foods have become a political debate in recent years and are pretty hot topic in politics.
A bill was passed by Mike pompeo restricting disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients on the food labeling. On the other hand, Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine approved a bill that required an indication of genetically engineered ingredients on food labels. According to sources almost 15 additional states are considering to impose similar regulations on food labeling.
According to Thomas Sullivan an attorney of Morgan Lewis it will be hard for the food industry to comply with the state by state laws and regulations of food and labeling, and on these grounds, they are advocating the Federal law to be prioritized on this issue to avoid challenges in regulations and compliance for GMO foods.
In 2012 companies like General Mills, Pepsico, Hershey,Dupont, Monsanto, Kellog Cargill, Mars, Kraft, Hormel, Ocean Spray, Nestle, and Goya spent millions of dollars on advertising to convince voters to vote against the regulations of GMO food labeling as such to defeat the initiative in California.
The opposition in many countries and states continue to pressurize for labels on GMO foods if they are not banned altogether. On the other hand, the science and industry are persistent in statements that GMO foods are safe and the labeling with only confuse the customers. One thing is for sure now that the battle for and against the GMO food components and crops is most likely to end soon.
In GMO crops the plants tend to make their own pesticides and the insects that attack it die but the same is harmless to humans. There are examples many foods that are poison to one species but are harmless to other. Coffee, for example, is poison for insects but is harmless to humans. Now take an example of chocolate its dangerous for dogs but a pleasure for humans. BT crops produce a protein that is tailored to the specific design of digestive trait of certain insects it is completely harmless to humans. There is also the opposite approach, plants that are engineered to be resistant to certain weed killers this way farmers can use the spray on other plants consuming the resources without harming the crop. Here we get to the dark under valley of GMOs. For the pesticide industry, they are a million dollar business. Over 90% of all cash crops in the US are herbicide resistant mostly to glyphosate. As a result, the use of the glyphosate has increased greatly. This isn’t only bad the glyphosate is much less harmful to humans than many other herbicides. Still, this means that farmers have a strong incentive to reply on this one method only, casting more balanced ways to manage weeds aside.
This is one of the most fundamental problems with the GMO debate. Much of the criticism of this technology is actually the criticism of modern agriculture and a business practice of the huge corporations that control our food supply. This criticism is not only valid, it’s also important. We need to change agriculture to a more sustainable model. GMOs as a technology are actually an ally and not an enemy in that fight, helping to save and protect nature and minimize our impact on the environment. Let’s look at some positive examples. Eggplant is an important crop in Bangladesh but often, whole harvests are destroyed by pests. Farmers had to rely heavily on pesticides. Not only was this very expensive, farmers also frequently got sick. The introduction of a new GMO eggplant in 2013 stopped this. The same BT protein we talked about before, an effective killer of insects but harmless to humans was engineered into them. This reduced insecticide use on eggplants by more than 80%. The health of farmers improved, and their income rose dramatically. And sometimes, the GMO approach is the only option. In the 1990s, the papaya industry in Hawaii was under attack from the “ringspot” virus which threatened to wipe out Hawaiian papaya. The solution was a papaya genetically modified to be vaccinated against the virus. Without it, the state’s papaya industry would have collapsed. All these stories show a very narrow application. 99% of all GMOs we use right now produce pesticides, or are resistant to them. There is so much more we could do. The scientists are working on GMOs that could improve our diet, plants that produce more or different nutrients, like fruit with higher antioxidant levels that help to fight diseases or rice with additional vitamins. On a larger scale, we’re trying to engineer plants more resilient to climate change, plants that can better adapt to erratic weather and adverse soil conditions, making them resistant to droughts or floods. GMOs could also not only reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment but actively help to protect it. Scientists are working on crops that can draw nitrogen from the air, like microbes, nitrogen is a common fertilizer, but its build-up pollutes the groundwater and speeds up climate change. The plants that collect their own nitrogen could fix two problems at once the overuse of fertilizers in the developed world as well as the shortage of it in developing countries. We could even modify plants to become super-effective carbon collectors, like the American chestnut tree, to mitigate and actually reverse climate change. With the tools we have today, our imagination is the limit. The world eats 11 million pounds of food every day. A United Nations estimate suggests we’ll need 70% more by the year 2050. We could grow that food by clearing more and more forests to create fields and pastures and by using more pesticides. Or we find a way to do it on the land we’ve got right now, with more effective methods like GMO crops. Intensifying farming instead of expanding it means GMOs could become the new organic. In a nutshell, GMOs have the potential to not only drastically change agriculture but to also dampen the effects of our own irresponsible behavior. GMOs could be our most powerful weapon to save our biosphere.
For those of you who are still not convinced and think that they should avoid GMO foods here is a list of foods that should be avoided.
Non-organic and Synthetic Vitamins
High Fructose Corn Syrup
These are the most common foods that contain genetic modifications. When in doubt then you should search for the foods that are labeled as non-GMO foods.
For all those who would like to view the beauty of non GMOs 😉