Food, or lack thereof, is one of the largest dilemmas of earth’s growing population.
With more people and animals being born every year, it is getting more and more difficult to feed everyone. Clive James states that in 1946 scientists found that they can transfer DNA between different organisms, and in 1983 the first genetically modified plant was created, an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant (as cited in Bawa & Anilakumar, 2012). This plant’s genes had been altered through biotechnology to make it resistant to antibiotics.
This plant is now called a GMO: a Genetically Modified Organism. Since 1983, many more GMO crops have been made, although the subject of whether or not GMOs are safe to eat remains a great controversy. Many people dislike the idea of genetically modified crops because they are afraid of potentially hazardous chemicals in them (Clair, Mesnage, Travert, & Seralini, 2012), because of their assumptions based off of their emotions and intuitions (Blancke, Breusegem, Jaeger, Braeckman, & Montagu, 2015), and because of possible health risks that accompany GMOs (“Health Risks”, 2015). However, many scientists believe that GM crops are good because they are beneficial in the long run: they are good for the environment, and they can help prevent the arising starvation due to the population growth (“Benefits Of GM Food”, n.d.). Although genetically modified plants can potentially be harmful, the positive far outweighs the negative in terms of agriculture and food in the long run because they have not been proven harmful, they are beneficial to the environment, and they can possibly prevent food shortages in the future.
One of the reasons why people are afraid of ingesting GMOs is because of glyphosate – an herbicide which may or may not be harmful for humans. Scientific studies have proven that glyphosate is bad for animals – scientists exposed female rats to glyphosate herbicide, and the glyphosate disrupted the uterus of the rats when they are exposed for 7 days after birth (Schimpf, Milesi, Ingaramo, Luque, & Varayoud, 2017). Another study showed that rats fed glyphosate-resistant corn developed tumors, and many died early (Vendomois, Roullier, Cellier, & Seralini, 2009). However, scientists do not know if glyphosate is bad for humans as well, or if it is safe to ingest. As a result, many people do not want to eat any GMOs.They are afraid that glyphosate may affect them the same as the rats in the test, and are understandably wary.This study, however, was specifically done on animals, so although it could prove fatal for them, they have not been able to prove that genetically modified foods with glyphosate are hazardous for humans.
Richard Goodman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and biotechnology editor at FCT (Food and Chemical Toxicology) states that “to his knowledge, no-one has demonstrated that a two-year feeding study of rats has uncovered any hazard that actually poses a risk to human or farm-animal health” (as cited in Casassus, 2014). Although Glyphosate may be a poison for rats, humans have shown no symptoms or reactions to the glyphosate in GM crops.Despite numerous studies demonstrating that GM crops are safe (Nicolia, Mazo, Veronesi, & Rosellini, 2013), and good for sustaining agriculture (Mannion, & Morse, 2012), people are still opposed to them because of their lack of understanding of GMOs, and their intuitions and emotions that are against them. People automatically assume that GMOs are bad because of their use of common sense, and they will generally support the opinions of those who negatively represent GMOs, rather than when they are represented positively. This is why people are more opposed to transgenic (different species) modification, than cisgenic (same species) modification. It sounds wrong to the average person that two different species should have parts of their DNA mixed, so they are against it. The anti-GMO media also plays a role in convincing the public that GMOs are bad, by playing on their emotions and telling the public how “companies modify corn with scorpion DNA to make crispier cereals” (Blancke et al.
, 2015), and other derogatory statements.However, even if a person’s intuition tells them that genetically modified crops may be bad, it does not mean that they are actually harmful. People should listen to and trust what is scientifically proven, that GMOs are better for people than non-GMOs, before jumping to emotional conclusions that modifying genes is wrong. People often ignore these proven facts in arguments against GMOs but, as stated previously, many scientific tests have proven GMOs to not be linked to any significant hazards, and to even be beneficial for people (Nicolia, Manzo, Veronesi, & Rosellini, 2013).Some people are afraid of GM crops because they fear the GMOs will cause some serious health endangerment – such as allergies, liver problems, reproductive problems, infant mortality, and even death.
A few tests done on many different kinds of animals caused them to have these various health deficits, so humans fear that if they eat the same genetically modified foods, they will suffer from the same symptoms. There is also a correlation between some GM crops – soy, cotton etc – and allergies in people for each specific crop, and no scientific test can guarantee that the GMO will not cause allergies. As of now, there is also no way of knowing if humans will experience the same dangerous symptoms as animals when ingesting a GMO, and people do not want to take the risk of eating something which was genetically modified without knowing if it could cause serious damage to their bodies (“Health Risks”, 2015).While it is true that there is no way for people to know if they will come to serious harm through eating genetically modified crops, it has never yet been proven harmful for humans, even though many studies and tests have been done. Additionally, there are so many positive aspects of GMOs, like how they can alleviate third world hunger, since GMOs use less herbicides to produce weed and pest resistant foods that contain more nutrition, flavor, and life (“Benefits Of GM Food”, n.
d.). Since the crops’ genes were changed with biotechnology, scientists were able to make them more improved versions of the original crop for humans, so they are worth the risk.People should not worry too much when buying and eating genetically modified food because GMOs are often better quality, cheaper, and more nutritious than non-GMOs.
However, foods that are genetically modified should be labeled as a GMO so that people, even if they are not against them, can see that they were genetically modified. Although GM plants can be potentially harmful, the positive far outweighs the negative in terms of agriculture and food in the long run because they have not been proven harmful, they are beneficial to the environment, and they can possibly prevent food shortages in the future.