The debate about whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe to eat or not has been going on ever since their appearance in 1994. GMOs are foods that had received changes in their genetic structure in order to make them more resistant to herbicides, improve the crops, and add nutrition value (Ruishalme, 2015). It is done not through conventional crossbreeding but rather through the procedure known as gene-splicing.
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The word itself sounds rather unsettling for many and is associated with the macabre monsters and creatures from modern sci-fi movies. The society has divided itself into numerous camps based on studies and a religious belief. Some studies say that GMOs are safe, while the others state they are not. While careless gene-splicing could warrant in unwanted and dangerous side effects, genetically modified foods are not as dangerous as they are portrayed to be because the practice involving improvement of the animals and crops has been around for a long while, the qualities introduced by the DNA modifications could potentially solve world hunger, and studies showed they are safe for consumption.
A lot of speculation about the GMOs stems from the lack of official research on the subject. There were numerous types of research done with controversial results. Typically, research conducted by company-funded institutes concluded that the genetically modified products are safe, while research made with the point to prove them wrong succeed in doing so (GMO Facts, 2016). There was obvious bias to each approach.
Recently, a large research was published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Containing over 400 pages, it goes over the issues of safety of the GMOs both to the consumer and to the environment. The important thing about this particular research is that it was done by non-commercial government agencies, and the experts involved in it were not directly affiliated with any of the large companies that promote GMOs. This adds to the credibility of the research, as it can no longer be declared bought or biased. The study concluded that bioengineered crops are largely safe (Pollack, 2016).
In light of the recent researches, the opponents of GMOs were forced to change their position considerably. It went from claiming that the entire practice is malicious to demanding certification and labeling in order to give the consumer an informed choice. As it currently stands, the customer remains suspicious of the GMOs despite all the tests conducted by the scientists. They would prefer a product without such a label, despite it often being more expensive. It is said that careless splicing could warrant dangerous side effects. These include food allergies, increased toxicity, and antibiotic resistances (Genetically Modified Organisms, 2003).
However, most of these issues are being addressed. There are several measures of government control in place to make sure none of the newly created genetically modified products are dangerous. The reports of GMOs causing unwanted reactions are very rare and sometimes fabricated (Saletan, 2015). The scope of the incidents is often overinflated in order to induce fear and mistrust among the population that rarely chooses to check the information offered to them.
The use of gene-splicing in agriculture opens many doors that conventional crossbreeding could not. Many GMOs are known for a higher resistance to insects and herbicides as well as having a higher crop rate. This is important to humanity in general (Ruishalme, 2015). Traditional crops are much more vulnerable and are significantly harder to improve. The Earth’s population right now is 7.4 billion people, and that number continues to grow.
In order to feed all these people, significant advances need to be made in agriculture. With the traditional crossbreeding having exhausted its potential, gene splicing might just be capable of picking up the torch. In addition, extra resistances to the pollution, quality of soil, and harmful insects mean that bioengineered crops reduce the use of fertilizer, herbicides and other chemicals required to protect the crops. These substances are often a lot more dangerous than whatever side effects genetic splicing might induce. Herbicides and pesticides often used in modern agriculture could cause endocrine disruptions, cancer, and autism or ADHD (Jackson-Michel, 2013).
GMOs had received similar backlash that the conventional crossbreeding did back when it was first introduced to agriculture. However, as time passes and the practice becomes more commonplace, the issue of certain products being genetically enhanced is likely to ebb away. With the Earth’s population rapidly increasing, extra-efficient genetically-modified crops could become the way o keeping the provisional crisis at bay.
Progress can be only slowed down, but not completely stopped. Those skeptical of the concept of creating more resistant crops should consider what is more harmful to their health – a “completely natural” fruit or a vegetable sprinkled with three layers of herbicide in order to save it from various insects and parasites, or a product that has countermeasures already included in its genetic structure. To quote one of the researchers on the subject, professor Wayne Parrot: “The inescapable conclusion, after reading the report, is the G.E. crops are pretty much just crops” (Pollack, 2016, para. 25).
Genetically Modified Organisms. (2003). Web.
GMO Facts. (2016). Web.
Jackson-Michel, S. (2013). The Effects of Herbicides & Pesticides on Humans. Web.
Pollack, A. (2016). Genetically Engineered Crops are Safe, Analysis Finds. Web.
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Ruishalme, I. (2015). Are GMOs increasing profits of farmers and biotech companies at environment’s expense? Web.
Saletan, W. (2015). Unhealthy Fixation. Web.