Genetically Modified Organisms: Pros and Cons of GMO Food

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Home / Genetically Modified Organisms: Pros and Cons of GMO Food

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2009 map of countries that allow and ban GMO products. Photo by: Zhitelew

2009 map of countries that allow and ban GMO products. Image by Zhitelew

Negative Side Effects of GMOs

One of the potential health risks of genetically modified food is allergies. To genetically modify a food, scientists take genes from one food to put into another food. This can cause allergic reactions and other side effects when people consume the modified foods.

For example, in 1996 soybeans were genetically engineered to have the same protein components as Brazil nuts. The problem researchers found was that the soybeans also contained the allergic properties of the nuts.

Thankfully, this was discovered before they were released to the public.

However, not all instances of potential adverse effects have been discovered before being released to the public. For example, in 1989 a genetically modified dietary supplement of tryptophan allegedly killed 37 people, permanently disabled 1,500 people, and caused 5,000 people to develop a blood disorder before the FDA was able to recall the product.

Another serious concern is that GM foods contain antibiotic markers, which is thought to be one of the reasons that the effectiveness of treatments are decreasing. This means that more powerful drugs are going to be needed to treat infections and diseases in the future.

Humans health is not all that’s at risk. Damery reports that GM plants allow farmers to increase the amount of pesticides and herbicides used on their land, which will increase the amount of chemicals finding their way into the water system and damaging the soil.

GMOs: Weighing the Pros and Cons

These are just some of the pros and cons of genetically modified foods – with such a controversy, it’s no wonder that the fight for Proposition 37 in California was so hard-fought on both sides. Understanding the laws and what GMOs are and how they are made will allow consumers to make an informed decision about purchasing and consuming foods that are genetically modified.

Resources:

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. Genetically Modified Food and Organisms. (2012). Human Genome Project. Accessed December 29, 2012.

Damery, P, et al. The Debate on Labeling Genetically Modified Food. (2011). Accessed December 29, 2012.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Weighing the GMO Arguments. (2003). Accessed December 29, 2012.

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Home / Genetically Modified Organisms: Pros and Cons of GMO Food

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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.

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.

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