Genetically Modified Organisms: Pros and Cons of GMO Food

World production map of GMO. Photo by: pixeltoo

2005 world production map of GMOs. Solid orange represents countries that produce more than 95% of GMO products. Orange and gray stripes represent countries that produce commercialized GMO products. Orange dots represent countries participating in experimental GM crops. Image by pixeltoo

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) became a hot topic in 2012 when the people of California had the chance to vote on Proposition 37 in November.

Proposition 37 would have required labels on food that contained such products.

Let’s look at the facts about GMOs, whether they’re good or bad, so you can decide for yourself.

GMO Food: Benefits

So what are the benefits of GMOs? According to the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the pros of genetically modified crops is a better taste, increased nutrients, resistance to disease and pests, and faster output of crops.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also says that farmers can grow more food on less land with genetically modified crops.

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Genetically modified animals have certain genes inserted into their genomes so that they can produce ‘better’ milk, eggs, and meat. These animals also are expected to have a higher resistance to disease and overall better health, with better natural waste management. In theory, genetically modified crops and animals will also be more environmentally friendly because they conserve water, soil, and energy.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states that one of the positives of GMOs is that farmers can produce more nutritious food. Many foods are in the works for bio-fortification for this reason. Rice, for example, feeds 50 percent of the world’s population, so genetically modifying rice to have more vitamin A would reduce vitamin A deficiency in developing countries.

But what happens to these plants and animals that have been genetically modified? What happens when we eat these foods? Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what happens, though evidence is mounting that genetic modification may not be a good thing.

Genetically Modified Foods: Controversy

The Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy also lists some of the controversies associated with genetically modified foods. One of these controversies are the potential health risks, including allergies, antibiotic resistance, and unknown effects. Other negatives that stem from GMOs is that scientists are tampering with nature by mixing genes and no one knows what this is doing to the animals or the environment.

Phil Damery and colleagues at Iowa State University describe the risks of genetically modified foods to humans in their paper, “The Debate on Labeling Genetically Modified Foods.” Damery says that the agricultural food industry claims that GM foods are tested rigorously, but the food companies conduct all their own testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration never reviews the studies, just the conclusions that agricultural food companies provide to the FDA. Damery states that, when studies were conducted by non-agricultural  food organizations, they found serious health risks with GM foods and the way they tested for safety.

Click to Read Page Two: The Negative Side Effects of GMOs

© Copyright 2013 Janelle Vaesa, MPH, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Science
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  1. Draleru Monica Alimah, Uganda Martyrs University, organic student 3dr year under graduate. says

    My contribution on whether the GMOs be labeled or not is that; if the those who are advocating for GMOs are sure that the procedures and the their products have no bad effect on human health and the environment, they must publish the procedures, the input and what ever they have put in this product open and clear for every body to understand just like it is done in organic products so that the consumers go for them by choice not by chance. It will be unfair if they are advocating for the goodness of GMOs and yet are not willing to tell the end users what is in it, then they have a hidden agender of destroying humanity. Organic processes are clearly displayed for who ever needs them and the products are clearly labeled ORGANIC, those who do not need them are free to avoid them. What are the GMO pro-activists hiding behind “NO LABELS”? After all principle of chemical use says that never use chemicals that are not labeled and never keep chemicals in unlabeled containers.

    • Matt says

      So far as what they are hiding behind, I’d say they’re hiding from loss of profits from uninformed public opinion. The non-GMO camp has so effectively smeared the term GMO that, were producers forced to label their products, they would immediately lose marketshare and go belly up.
      In my opinion, rather than labeling the products as GMO, they should simply be required to include information on what other genes were spliced into the altered product. This could simply be stated as “May contain traces of peanuts and wheat,” or the like.
      There are so many potentially life saving applications for GMOs. See the following website for just one example:

      • Matt says

        As an aside, I grow as much of my own food as I can anyway, but just because I love being closer to my food.
        That doesn’t mean I can’t see the other side’s viewpoint, though.

  2. says

    GMO is still a topic nowadays. I still believe that people should have the right to know which is GMO and they have the right to choose.

  3. steven vollom says

    In a couple of weeks I will be 73 years old. I recently noticed that most of the processed foods contain health reducing contents, especially GMO ingredients.

    As a believer in GOD, I do not want to consume foods that have been tampered with genetically by non-believing scientists. GOD doesn’t need any help to improve HIS perfect creations. Since most people no longer grow their own foods, people should be made aware of the ingredients included in their food.

    I am not so smart to be able to discover these items without a little help. As a result, I never purchase but a few canned or processed foods. Additionally I purchase organic foods where possible, yet believe I am deceived many times by the use of tricky or deceptive advertising.

    I believe all commercially produced food should be boldly identified as GMO or non-GMO. There should be no way for producers by using trickery of words to include GMO organisms of any kind into food identified as non-GMO. I also believe that if GMO food producers have nothing to hide, this is a reasonable requirement.

    I personally believe that only people who are starving will agree to purchase GMO foods or, illiterate people who cannot read the contents.

    My food choices have reduced to a level that I have little choice anymore. Still I will eat the same foods over and over and over, before I will ever pay money for foods produced by lust and greed motivated producers.

    Any food with high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (or their many disguised names), GOM foods, or those that are injected with hormones or antibiotics should be required to be boldly advertised.

    • Zachary says

      Have you ever eaten a banana? How about corn? I’m sure you have. Organic or not, those are some of the most heavily modified organisms, and the modifications have made them significantly healthier. This is such an ignorant remark on your part. There is absolutely no way the population could be as large as it is today if it weren’t for these organisms, since there would be a major shortage of food. Cull the population or increase production of GMO’s (which have not been proven to have ANY negative side effects from valid studies). Your choice, but I don’t think God would be too fond of culling the population just so you can eat your all natural foods. If you actually do research, you will come to the same conclusion as I have, as there are many false accusations against these harmless GMOs. All of these GMOs have come about because they are necessary, and the vast majority of them have positive health effects, such as “golden rice” which is a new variant of rice developed to help impoverished youth get the necessary vitamins that they would otherwise be deficient in, which would cause blindness. If it weren’t for GMOs, society would not be able to function the way it does today, regardless of whether or not you realize it. If you would like me to provide you with easy-to-understand links, I’d be more than happy to, I’m tired of the ignorance of today’s society, especially since there is so much knowledge to obtain just from one simple google search.

      • Vicki says


        For someone that has “researched” the issue, you fall short of the risks and the non-industrial scientists that do not agree that GMO’s are safe. I, myself, came across this article while in my fifth week of in-depth research of GMO’s.

        How do you come to your conclusion that we would have fallen short on food if not for GMO’s? Farming has existed for many, many years. Is this your opinion or what Monsanto addresses?

        In fact, GMO creates a loss of farmers. Because of GMO’s that thousand’s of India cotton farmers have committed suicide. (. ) The debt owed to the manufactures for seeds and chemicals and ill-producing crops was too much for them to bear..

        While GMO’s promise less chemicals, the overuse of glyphosate (Round-up) is contaminating our water and is ingested by insects, wild life, and humans alike. The herbicide is found in our urine and even a mother’s breast milk ( Here, let me pour you glass of herbicide and see how likely you are to drink it. It’s the same concept. Leaky-gut anyone?

        While you state that you have ‘researched’ the issue, I suggest you dig a little deeper at the real issues and not repeat the sales pitches that have been thrown out by the greedy manufacturers that want to control the world even if it comes with consequences of un-reversible, catastrophic consequences. I also suggest that you research how GMO’s have even made into legislation. You may be a bit shocked to see this sneaky tactic.

        The refusal to label GMO’s is because common sense tells people to avoid toxic contamination and humans err far too often than not. The GMO monopoly companies know they would no longer be able to literally force their technology down our throats which would hurt their precious profits.

        Buy organics, grow your own, support your local farmers and get health insurance! (Oh shoot, that’s government controlled now too.)

  4. says

    Whenever a group of people want something put into effect, it is amazing how many pros they can find and how few cons. Yet, frequently, when all is said and done, it is the cons we see and not so much the pros.

  5. Grant says

    From the reports I’ve read, that were not written by Monsanto, GMO foods were shown to have less nutritional value than organic foods. Insecticides such as Roundup & those that the produce grow themselves from the inside out are clearly shown to cause tumors, reproductive problems, autism, allergies, super bugs, soil depletion, use of stronger pesticides, etc. Monsanto’s shady business methods are putting farmers out of business worldwide with their bullying tactics & their products not living up to Monsanto’s claims.

    • YOU says

      The GM Foods can be changed to have more dietary value, although you are correct in stating that most do not, it is something they are currently working on.

    • Paul says

      Roundup is NOT insecticide but a very safe, short active herbicide. Kills anything green then microbes degrade it. GMO crops use this resistant trait to make food production easier. I had to hoe soybeans growing up, not fun. Organic and GMO free require 3rd party certification paid annually by the squeezed hard working produce grower. I grow using these principles and practices but “don’t subscribe” to the ridiculous fees required. Either you trust my local produced food or you don’t. A LABLE is a poor truth detector. Grow your own in your backyard!

    • Zachary says

      They are absolutely not shown to cause these things. In fact, the scientists that work with GMOs are specifically working to reduce allergens, and immediately stop working on a project if they find that a new allergen could come from the ge plant. No link has been provided between autism and anything else, so that is a 100% invalid statement. Reproductively speaking, I’m not aware of any studies that have been conducted and published, so that’s an ignorant statement. The study that claimed a link between GMO consumption and cancerous tumors in rats was fatally flawed, as they used too small of a sample size, neglected to do any sort of a statistical analysis, and used a breed of rats with an 80% chance of developing cancerous tumors. Soil depletion isn’t a factor, as that relies more on the farmers techniques (i.e. crop rotation). Also, stronger pesticides don’t have anything to do with GMOs, as they would be needed with any other variant of plant if it is needed for those ge plants.

  6. TotallyRandomName says

    Oh, wow. You really squirmed around to make it look like the negatives are legit. That “1989 a genetically modified dietary supplement of tryptophan” was not a genetically modified dietary supplement at all, for example. It was created, like tons of other things, using GM bacteria (like the way we create insulin to save the lives of diabetics). The batches of tryptophan that killed people contained KNOWN TOXINS from the way they were made, but they were not properly tested. There was not some strange unknown created by GM here… it was known, discoverable toxins. But proper testing wasn’t done. You know, how SPINACH has killed people when it was tainted with known toxins like e-coli. Your attempt to pretend to be even handed by opening with a weak defense of the benefits of GM is more than shown to be a lie by the way you handled the tryptophan incident. Shame on you.

  7. says

    Walk down the aisles of your local supermarket and you’ll find floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with food boasting nutritional benefits: whole grains in cereals, omega-3s in eggs, lycopene—that powerful antioxidant—in ketchup. But there are other ingredients hiding in these products, and most of us don’t even know they’re there. They’re called genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and they’re in 80% of the processed food on grocery store shelves—and a handful of whole foods as well, with perhaps more on the way soon.

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