GMO Pros and Cons: (14 Crucial Facts to Know)
Recently, there has been an influx of healthy and organic products in the grocery stores. Consumers are beginning to see the negative impacts that genetically modified foods are having on their bodies. As a result, there have been products that claim they are GMO-free and completely natural. There is a good and a bad side to GMO products, so we have put together a full list of GMO pros and cons.
What is GMO?
The acronym stands for genetically modified organism. GMOs are found mostly in foods. The foods are usually generated from soy, corn, or other crops that have been grown from a modified seed. About 90% of the corn, soybeans, and cotton grown in the United States are from modified seeds. The GMO process includes altering the DNA structure of the seed to make it stronger. Genes are extracted from one species and artificially forced into another plant or animal. The genes being implanted are often from viruses, bacteria, insects, plants, animals, and even humans. The GMO seeds become resistant to disease, bug proof, resistant to herbicides, tolerate unnatural heat, cold, or drought, and increase the amount of yield. It is found that GMO foods have brighter colors and last longer on the food shelves. We covered GMOs briefly earlier, but this article with go much more in-depth into GMOs pros and cons.
How Are GMO Seeds Made?
There are a few steps to making a genetically modified seed. To begin, a trait must be found. The scientist must decide which trait they want the GM seed to have and find an organism that already possesses that gene. Next, the gene must be extracted from the other organism. In the past scientists would need to plant, grow, and sample a clipping to see if the gene they are looking for is in a certain plant. Due to this taking a lot of time and resources, scientists are finding that they can test the seed. There are machines that chip off little bits of the seeds and grind it into a powder. The powder is examined with a genome-mapping technology.The scientist will determine if the plant they are examining contains the specific gene they require.
Once the gene is found, inserting it into the other seed is the next step. Many different ways of inserting DNA into an organism are used, such as a“gene gun” and a bug. A .22 caliber charge with a metal particle coated with the desired gene is fired into the plant tissue. Then the seeds are heated and placed under stress; this makes the seed more vulnerable to a bug called Agrobacterium Tumefaciens. This organism invades the DNA of the host plant and tricks it into producing sugars that it will live off of. Scientists are using the bacteria as a new way of inserting DNA into plant’s chromosomes. The plant recognizes the foreign protein as one of its own and continues to replicate it.
After the new gene is inserted into the DNA of the seed, they are placed in a growth chamber. Growth chambers house thousands of seedlings that are being tested. The seedlings are put through numerous tests, such as drought, wind, heat, cold, and so on. Seedlings are photographed, noted, root checked, and constantly monitored throughout the process. The tests will help to establish which seedlings are the stronger ones, which will further aid in finding the most extreme GM seed. When the seedling has been picked, it is time to plant more.
Harvest and Research
It is important to maintain soil pH, keep the soil moist, and plant the seeds with correct spacing. This will ensure that the GM plant will grow well and produce. Once the plants have started to grow, it is on to step six. This is the step where genes will express themselves. When the plants are growing well, it is time to harvest and research. Through the growing process, scientists will watch to see how the plants do on their own. They will watch to see how they withstand elements, bugs, and chemicals. The harvest will also determine if the seed was a winner. GM seeds are created to be stronger and produce more yields. Harvesting will determine just that.
The GMO process can be pretty complicated. It can be very helpful in some circumstances and many believe it can be harmful. GMO pros and cons both exist, so let’s get started with the list.
GMO Pros and Cons
Pros of GMOs
Genetically modified organisms have some positive potential. To view the first side of the GMO scale, let us examine the GMO pros.
To begin, GMO foods have the ability to help consumers who have allergies. Food allergies have increased from 3.4% to 5.1% between 2009 and 2011. Since allergies are increasing among consumers, it is getting difficult to find food that they can eat. Some believe that the increase in allergies is due to the food being modified, but there is no scientific evidence that can show a correlation between allergic reactions and GMO foods. In fact, it has been noted that there is less reaction to foods with GMO ingredients than to those without. The companies that manufacture GMO foods are required to test their products and are allowed to sell their products as long as they do not cause allergic reactions. So, all of the foods on the market with GMO ingredients are not going to cause allergic reactions.
Food that is modified has proven to be better in many ways. To begin, the food tastes better. Their DNA has been modified and they are stronger. The taste and color have been enhanced as a result of the modification. GM foods are lasting longer on the shelves and in our homes, making them desirable to consumers and companies alike. The enhancements save the company and the consumer money.
Food is lasting longer, which means fewer trips to the grocery store for vegetables and fruits. Third world hunger could be reduced thanks to GMO. The food is lasting longer, so the long distance trips to countries in need are no concern. Shipping companies have found that even when the foods were being picked before their prime, by the time they reached their destination it was rotten. With modified foods, this will not be a concern. The seeds are made to resist diseases and bugs, making the plant grow better and stronger. Plants are stronger, so the use of herbicides and pesticides is reduced. In turn, the chemicals that are found in runoff water is being reduced.
GMO seeds are designed to be super seeds, strong and hardy, and they are able to grow in harsh environments. World hunger is an issue partially due to areas being infertile. When soil is toxic or unnourished, plants are unable to grow. Seeds that are GM will be able to grow in soils that would normally be impossible. Genetically modified seeds are making it possible to not only grow in harsh locations but also grow more on less land. Each seed is modified to be stronger and withstand more herbicides and pesticides, which guarantees a higher yield. If the amount of land that is being used now, is used to grow GM seeds, the harvest is going to be even larger.
The same goes for GM animals. The animals are “created” to have stronger genes, which will make them more tolerant to disease and will give them overall better health. As such, the animals are going to be able to produce more meat, eggs, or milk. The GMO, seed or animal, have altered DNA, they will be considered energy efficient because they will require less food, water, soil, and energy to survive.
GMOs are also more resistant to insects, so crops last longer and are more resilient. More crops survive which results in a higher yield for farmers. GMOs can also feed more people. In more remote areas, normal crops can be harder to grow and have a shorter shelf life.
Genetically modified organisms are being used for non-food related purposes. Edible vaccinations are one area that is being tested. GMOs have the potential to provide vaccinations that simply need to be eaten. The idea is to create food that has the potential to immunize against numerous different diseases without the need for medications and needles. These diseases range from cholera to AIDs. This idea has already begun to take flight. Recently, a transgenic potato has been a successful test. The potatoes had been altered to contain a medication that aided against diarrhea and it worked. Now let’s move on to the second half of the GMO pros and cons list.
Cons of GMOs
With continuing research being done on GMOs, there are concerns that GMO is having negative effects on people and animals. Let’s go over the GMO cons.
To begin, health is a major concern. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine is urging doctors to put their patients on GMO-free diets. Animal studies have shown that GMO foods are causing organ damage, immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. Since 1996, when GMOs were introduced, health problems have increased. Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in 9 years, allergies, digestive problems, infertility, and heart-related problems have also skyrocketed in number. Recent studies have linked GMO foods to gluten disorders. The Institute for Responsible Technology released data that relates GM foods to five conditions that can trigger or exacerbate gluten-related disorders. These disorders include intestinal permeability, imbalanced gut bacteria, immune and allergic response, impaired digestion, and damage to the walls of the intestines.
Contamination is also becoming a problem. Like all seeds, GMO seeds will cross-pollinate. This self-propagating population will be impossible to eradicate since they are constantly crossing paths with other plants. GMO seeds will outlive global warming and nuclear waste since it continues to establish new growth and future generations of GMO seedlings. This is creating huge economic losses for the farmers that are growing organic and non-GMO crops. Since their crops are growing outdoors, it is nearly impossible to keep their crops “pure,” due to the cross-pollination of GMO seeds with their organic crops.
Increase in Herbicide Use
Genetically modified organisms are proving the herbicide reduction to be a myth. Although it is true that the GMO seedlings are strong enough to reduce certain chemicals, thus reducing the necessity for herbicides, their cross-pollination is creating super weeds that are also resisting the effects of chemicals. Farmers are using more and more chemicals to kill the weeds that are being found in their fields because of the super weeds. Between 1996, when GMO was first introduced into the marketplace, and 2008, US farmers sprayed an extra 383 million pounds of herbicides on GMOs. Now, plants and weeds are becoming resistant to “Round Up” and other chemicals, so more toxic chemicals are being poured on crops each year. This results in GM foods contain higher toxic residue, which has been linked to sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancers.
Environmental issues are being linked to GMOs. Genetically modified organisms have reduced the biodiversity of ecosystems. GM seeds and their associated herbicides are harming birds, insects, marine life, and amphibians. The chemicals that are within the modified organisms are impacting the stability of our water. Genetically modified crops are eliminating habitat for the monarch butterfly. As a result, the number of monarch butterflies has dropped 50% in the US. Herbicides found in GM crops have proven to cause birth defects, embryonic death, endocrine disruption, and organ damage in amphibians and animals, even at low doses. When the rain falls onto the GM crops, their herbicides are washed into the streams, lakes, and rivers that later become oceans. As a result, death among marine life and unstable marine ecosystems are increasing, not to mention infecting the water that animals and humans drink.
Seed monopolies have started to pop up. Monsanto, the Agri-tech company that controls about 90% of the GMO seed market, has started taking over the seed market. Genetically modified seeds are a patented product, purchasers of GM seeds must sign an agreement for the use of the seeds and agree not to save or sell seeds to other growers. GM seeds are cross-pollinating with local small farmer’s crops, as a result, they must pay patent fees or risk being sued by Monsanto. Farmers that are growing locally cannot afford such risks, so they will buy GM seeds to avoid being charged further. This continues to put the local farmers out of more money since they are not able to save seeds to plant next year but must purchase a new batch of GM seeds for the next planting season.
Buying GM foods
Currently, labels for GMOs aren’t mandated in the United States. Often times, you may not know whether a certain product you buy contains them. Congress recently passed a law but it has yet to go into effect. No recall will be enforced if it is broken.
In The End
There are GMO pros and cons, and hopefully, we have covered them all for you here. The research will continue and the truth behind whether or not genetically modified foods and crops are really good or bad will be determined. Until then, it is up to us as consumers to decide which side of the line we sit on.