The Truth Behind GMOs
We live in a world where feats in science and technology are being made, and accepted, in a variety of fields on a daily basis, so it surprises me that such a large amount of people remain so opposed to food bioengineering. We allow the phone in our pocket to emit electromagnetic radiation against our body everyday, yet when we see our tomatoes are labeled GMO, all bets are off the table. Most of this resistance is due to the fact that we aren’t given enough information to make the correct choice. When the microwave first came out, many of our grandparents refused to get within 500 feet of them, let alone cook with them in their own home. Modified foods and their sources may sound unfamiliar and scary, but their creators aim to engineer food that provides health benefits, is naturally pest resistant, and end famine by creating greater yields with less space. The most common issues leaving people reluctant against biotech foods is that they are worse for your health and the environment than their organic counterparts, neither of which being true.
As stated earlier, a majority of non-GMO bias simply comes from people’s lack of understanding on the subject. Evidence points to the fact that adults who are educated about genetically-modified foods (GMOs) not only accept their safety but consume them without hesitation. In fact, based on a 2018 Pew Research Poll, 65% of respondents who eat a fair amount of GMO food report that they have read a great deal on the subject and feel well-informed. Those who admit ignorance about GMOs, on the other hand, fear and avoid them. Among GMO-abstainers, many of whom admit to having “health concerns” about the products, a whopping 75% also admit they have read nothing about genetic modification or GMO foods. In another poll conducted by the New York Times, they asked people on Facebook about their opinion on gm foods, their results as follows:
Would you buy food with genetically modified ingredients if you knew they were in there?
Need More Information: 24
This survey revealed that 82.5% of people would not purchase foods if they knew they contained gm ingredients. Considering approximately three-fourths of foods in supermarkets are GMO, you may have a hard time getting around them, and have probably already purchased countless gm products without knowing so. Do not fear, however, this doesn’t mean you’ve killed the planet or will turn ill overnight.
Clearly, a large majority of people who reject biotech foods are so against them because they believe they pose a health risk to themselves or the animals consuming them. This is simply not the case. Thousands of studies have been done researching the long term effects of eating GMO versus organic foods, and many, if not all, of the results conclude that the subjects’ health were unaffected in either circumstance. As for animals, the same rings true. Researchers at the University of California looked at the health of over 100 billion animals after switching their diet from non-GMO to GMO and found no difference in their health. Many people believe that since non-organic foods are sprayed with pesticides, we’ll contract disease if we consume them. Also untrue. If anything, genetically modified foods are actually better for your health than organic. Many crops are being engineered to provide health benefits such as increased nutrient levels or aid in disease resistance. In one article by The Food Dialogues, they elaborate on this stating, “Today we have GMO soybean seeds that produce healthier soybean oils, eliminating trans fats and containing increased levels of Omega 3. Tomorrow we hope to have bananas in Uganda that have up to six times as much Vitamin A.” Some scientists are even working to develop foods infused with antioxidants that could prevent cancer. If anything, we should be greeting biotech foods with open arms, not turning against them.
As for the environment, don’t place the devil horns on gm crops for this issue either. Contrary to popular belief, genetically modified foods are working to help the environment, not hurt it. GMOs require a much smaller amount of land to farm than organic, produce a greater yield on top of it and requiring much less water consumption. In one article by “GMOanswers” the piece explained, “Between 1996 and 2015, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 180.3 million tons of soybeans, 357.7 million tons of corn, 25.2 million tons of cotton lint and 10.6 million tons of canola, without having to bring more land into production. To produce the same amount of crops without GM technology, farmers would have needed to cultivate 48 million additional acres of land.” Many crops are even engineered to become drought resistance, not only saving water, but helping foods grow in countries where lack of rainfall posed as a critical issue.
Although many believe with the production of all that food must come thousands of pesticides killing the planet, it simply isn’t true. Many believe that GMOs simply aren’t worth all the use of herbicides, as the NonGMO Project objects “More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced.” However, Brooke Borel explains in her article “The Pros and Cons of Herbicide-Tolerant GMOs” how with this Roundup system, “farmers could stop tilling, which prevented the associated environmental pitfalls.” Tilling actually causes a great deal of harm to the environment in many ways, from polluting waterways to killing nearby plants and animals. Borel continues in stating, “Glyphosate also has a low toxicity—lower than that of caffeine. ‘It’s probably one of the safest herbicides in terms of environment and human health,’ says Keith Solomon, an environmental toxicologist and pesticide toxicology expert at the University of Guelph in Ontario.”
Additionally, A great deal of gm crops are being engineered to already contain resistance to insects and diseases without the need of pesticide spray. Quinn Fucile in her article, “Is Genetically Modified Food Safe?” explains this in her statement, “One example is plants engineered to produce BT endotoxin, which is only harmful to insects and will only kill pests that try to feed on the crops. This protects other insects in the environment that may be useful, because farmers no longer have to spray and pesticide, it’s built into the plants.” Not only does this reduce harmful pesticide use that could otherwise damage surrounding land and rivers, but it also allows animal and insect biodiversity to remain abundant.
Hopefully I’ve been able to open the public eye, or at least one eye, to the countless benefits that genetically enhanced and biotech foods can bring to the table, and eliminated any prior misconceptions behind them. With all of these advantages that accompany these “new foods,” whether it concerns us or our environment, there is no reason they should be left in the dark any longer.
Bittman, M. (2011, February 24). GMO Poll Results (and More). Retrieved October 31, 2018, from https://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/gmo-poll-results-and-more/
Funk, C., & Kennedy, B. (2016, December 01). Public opinion about genetically modified foods and trust in scientists. Retrieved October 31, 2018, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/public-opinion-about-genetically-modified-foods-and-trust-in-scientists-connected-with-these-foods/
ModernAg. (2018, October 18). Searching for the Same Solution. Retrieved from https://modernag.org/innovation/gmo-solutions-benefit-environment/
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Borel, B. (2014, July 21). The Pros and Cons of Herbicide-Tolerant GMOs. Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/blog-network/our-modern-plagues/pros-and-cons-herbicide-tolerant-gmos
Fishel, F., Ferrell, J., & MacDonald, G. (2016, March 11). Herbicides: How Toxic Are They? Retrieved from http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi170