GMOs: The Bad
I’ve seen the posts plastered across the internet on social media sites: GMOs cause cancer, immune problems, allergies and infertility, among other things. This fear-mongering reminds me of the vaccine and autism scare that led to the return of vaccine-preventable diseases.
GMOs have the potential for a lot of good. But people are scared of them and feel like they have been duped by big agriculture just trying to make a buck. GMOs are more prevalent than most people know and finding out your favorite food is GMO might be shocking to some. Here’s a list of some of the US crops with the highest GMO percentages:
GMO Crops in the US
- Approximately 80-90% of hard cheeses in the US are made with modified bacteria
- Many wines are made using modified yeast
- Our top 3 US crops are mostly harvested from GMO plants: 85% of corn; 93% of soy; and 82% of cotton
- About 50% of papaya and rapeseed (used in canola oil) crops are genetically modified
- 95% of sugar beets and 12% of squash are harvested from modified plants
I honestly did not know the extent to which our crops are genetically modified until I looked it up for this post. I can see how that would scare people.
But we need to make sure we separate our emotions from facts and figure out what the real concerns are.
Debunked: GMOs are Dangerous to Eat
I worry about what I put into my body and my children’s bodies, but the science does not support the claim that GMOs are dangerous to eat. GMOs have been studied extensively for safety. In fact, the World Health Organization, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all say these crops are at least as safe as, and maybe even safer than, foods altered through selective breeding.
Perhaps one of the most compelling studies regarding GMO safety came out just last year. It involved billions of subjects that eat GMOs almost exclusively: livestock. Researchers at the University of California at Davis studied the health data from more than 100 billion animals. They found absolutely no effect on animal health after switching to GMO feed.
We should be cautious, but reasonable
I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to evaluate GMO food for safety. We should. However, we should trust the results that come out of the evaluations.
Concerning: GMOs will Take Over the World (or at least the plants of the world)
A fear among farmers and others is that GMO crops will spread into and take over non-GMO crops and/or cross-pollinate with non-GMO crops causing unintended contamination. While it is unlikely that a GMO plant will pass on its modified gene(s) to unrelated plants, there is a distinct possibility that the plant can pass it on to wild-type plants. If the gene allows the plant to grow better, then it could spread readily.
There are several historical examples in which humans have made a mess of things when they were trying to improve their lives and it got out of control. Probably the best examples are the Africanized honeybees and the introduction of rabbits to Australia.
So instead of focusing our efforts on banning GMOs altogether because we think they are unsafe (and science has proven this to be unfounded), we should be working on finding measures that allow the simultaneous existence of both GMO and non-GMO crops.
How to Protect Native Plants from GMOs
This problem is starting to be addressed by recommendations for planting practices. Such as:
- Staggering planting schedules to reduce chance of cross-pollination (already undertaken by farmers with adjacent GMO and organic fields)
- Using isolated fields for crops pollinated by wind or insects (e.g. corn)
- Knowing the prevailing wind direction to determine where to plant crops
- Establishing physical barriers (e.g. hedgerows) to minimize pollen drift
As GMO use is increased, it will be important to monitor the spread of GMO crops. We should also focus on developing sterile plants or ones that possess smaller amounts of pollen.
Let’s use science and focus on the real issues concerning GMOs.
Photo courtesy of Margarita Persico @ www.thehealthydish.com.
Once again I am blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2015 April A to Z Challenge! Come blog through the alphabet with me!