Are GMO’s Really That Evil?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 11 • 1/30 sec
A cursory Google search will return pages upon pages of arguments for organic produce and fears against GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Why is that? Most debates in the public sector have had equal representation of both sides of the argument, but in this one, only one side is well heard. For the sake of discourse, I thought I would write this blog from the other side.
Disclaimer: I have nothing against organics or the people who encourage others to grow them. One of the great things about living in the USA is our freedom of choice, including being able to choose what we eat. This blog, however, is about other places around the world.
GMO’s were originally developed with the world’s good in mind. Scientists saw problems such as famine in Africa, malnutrition in Asia, and children dying of preventable causes in many areas, and they wanted to do something about it. Using what they knew best, they began to develop agricultural solutions to these problems. For example, the poor in Asia eat rice as their staple diet, but often do not have access to other essential nutrients needed for healthy development. To improve their overall health, scientists spent years working on “golden rice” – a crop with additional vitamin A. Meanwhile, in Africa, strong weeds or a drought could cost a family their entire crop for the year. So they dealt with both a lack of food and a lack of income. Some even had to sell off children they couldn’t feed. As a result, several crops were developed to be more resistant to weeds, insects, and drought. There are many more examples.
Much of the concern has been over the health risks of GMO’s. Does playing with the genetic code cause cancers or other health issues? Thousands of other scientists have worked to answer these questions, and many regulations have been put in place. While there are occasional mistakes that aren’t foreseen, most testing will find any problems long before a product makes it to the market.
Regulations also limit the amount of work that can go into this research in the first place. For example, those who work with the genetic code of plants are limited to only changing certain amino acids in a strand of DNA. In nature, entire sections of DNA can be moved, cut out, or duplicated, causing major changes. It’s like the difference between people of different nationalities. Naturally, they have different hair and skin colors, different bone structures, and even different susceptibility to health issues. Using this comparison, a GMO would be like changing people’s eye colors.
Some companies have become known for shady business practices, but not all operate that way. Some people are allergic to certain food additives, but that doesn’t mean they are bad for everyone. The excuse “I won’t eat anything I can’t pronounce” often forgets the fact that any substance on earth can have a long complicated scientific name, and that certain natural ingredients are extremely toxic. The point is: proper balance is needed. We need to evaluate things one at a time based on their own merit, not paint the entire thing with a broad brush.
Are you particular about where your food comes from? What are your eating habits?