Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Food
The Debate Over GMOs
The debate over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is fierce and ongoing. On the one hand, proponents argue that genetically modified foods, in addition to being perfectly safe, can make us healthier and reduce the reliance on pesticides. Opponents contend that not enough research has been done and that the long-term safety effects aren’t known.
This article will go over some of the common points of debate and discuss the claims that both sides make.
1. GMO Safety Research Has Been Limited
Proponents of bioengineered foods claim that there is a scientific consensus that such foods are safe. They point to a recent study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science, which reviewed over 30 years of livestock feeding studies to show no comparable health differences between livestock fed GE feed and livestock fed conventional feed. Similarly, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Medical Association, National Academies of Sciences, and Royal Society of Medicine have released statements declaring no link between genetically engineered foods and bad health outcomes in humans.
However, opponents point to a recent statement signed by over 300 scientists and published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, which disputes that consensus view. They point out that pro-GMO advocates often overstated both the support they received from organizations like the WHO and the results of studies claiming to prove GMO safety. One other thing to keep in mind: Prior to 2010, scientists were unable to conduct independent research on GM plants or seeds because of restrictive licensing practices. Many scientists also complained that, as a result, seed companies blocked the publication of any studies that showed results hostile to their business.
2. Genetically Modified Ingredients Are Carcinogenic
The claim that GMOs are linked to cancer comes from a 2012 study by Gilles-Eric Seralini. This study fed rats a diet of corn that had been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup.
According to the study, rats fed this diet were more likely to develop tumors than others. This study was very controversial and was criticized by many other scientists for its statistical analysis, its experimental design, and even the kinds of rats that were used as test subjects; the species of rat used is highly likely to develop tumors when fed an unrestricted diet, and there were too few rats in the control group for a meaningful comparison.
Eventually, the journal that published the study retracted it, and a number of national health and regulatory agencies concluded that the study was insufficiently rigorous to justify any change in policy.
3. GMOs Cause Allergic Outbreaks
One of the risks of GE food is that it could contain genes from foods that are known allergens and that consumers may not know what they’re eating. Imagine someone with a peanut allergy going into anaphylactic shock after eating an apple that contained peanut genes in it! In fact, something like this happened with a batch of soybeans that contained protein from the Brazil nut.
Opponents of GMOs claim that events like these show how unsafe GMOs can be. Proponents, however, point out that the company discovered the allergen during the testing phase and immediately stopped production on it, which shows that the current regulations and safety procedures work.
There have been a number of studies that show that GM crops have a potentially harmful effect on the immune system. These effects could cause autoimmune disorders and make consumers much more prone to allergies than they otherwise would be. Indeed, reports show that allergic reactions to soy shot up dramatically in the UK after the introduction of a genetically modified soy bean.
4. Dependency on Corporations Is Bad for Farmers
Many GMO supporters believe that bioengineered foods are a godsend to developing countries: that farmers using transgenic seeds use less synthetic pesticides that are harmful to the environment and have higher crop yields and more nutritious foods. In other words, GM crops offer farmers in developing countries an environmentally sustainable way to improve food security.
Opponents point out that introducing GE seeds to developing countries makes local farmers dependent upon large multinational corporations like Monsanto who could push those farmers into a cycle of debt, which is bad for food security and local farmers.
5. The Practice Can Results in Frankenfoods!
Genetic engineering allows introducing animal products in plants, which could raise issues for those with dietary restrictions, like vegetarian or vegans, or those who refrain from eating certain foods for religious reasons.
6. Bioengineered Foods Are Bad for the Environment
There will always be unknown long term effects to the ecosystem and biodiversity when inducing change in the natural traits of crops through unnatural means. Many worry that the pollen of genetically modified foods could have unintended consequences for animals that interact with the crops, such as monarch butterflies. They also worry that the introduction of GMOs may be bad for the genetic diversity of certain crops, as the "superior" GM strains crowd out other ones on the market, or that genes from a genetically modified crop could pass to another organism, which raises the possibility that weeds and other invasive species could get the same resistance to pesticides and herbicide that GMOs enjoy.
7. Pesticide-Resistant GMOs Can Lead to "Super" Pests
It’s not a joke: modified genes in engineered crops that resist pesticides can transfer to insects and pests, making them pesticide resistant. These super-organisms cannot be controlled easily, which will create problems in managing their numbers and for crop production in future.
More troublingly, pests and weeds have evolved and adapted to GM crops so that now they are stronger than ever, requiring farmers to use harsher and harsher pesticides—the very problem that GM crops were supposed to solve!
8. The Effects Are Irreversible
All the disadvantages mentioned above are probably irreversible, especially the harmful effects on the environment and human health that are inevitable outcomes to the fast-paced development of biotechnology and genetic engineering. Consuming nutritious food is the best option for a healthy lifestyle that can even reverse the adverse effects of GM food. This may come from organic food as well as supreme supplements that provide quality nutrients and antioxidants.