By: Alysa Rogers
Fear surrounds GMOs. People often don’t know exactly why they hate and avoid them, or what would happen to them if they were to eat them. Initially, concerns are completely understandable. However, science has shown that GMOs are perfectly safe and a potentially useful tool in the future of feeding out planet. However, knowing both sides in an argument is, I believe, incredibly important. So I decided to respond to an article against GMOs, and quell those fears.
1) “GMOs are unhealthy”
GMOs are perfectly healthy. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine “found no substantiated evidence that foods from G[M] crops were less safe than foods from non-G[M] crops.” Many of the health concerns, including an increase in chronic illnesses, autism, food allergies, and others do show a correlation with an increase in GMOs consumption. However, there isn’t any causation between the two, and research hasn’t backed up any claims that GMOs cause disease. In fact, most studies have supported GMO safety.
2) “GMOs contaminate–forever”
The idea behind this claim is that GMOs’ seeds could potentially contaminate other species, damaging life for millennia. First of all, this is not how biology works. Species reproduce separately and generally can’t produce viable, fertile offspring, meaning that GMOs’ genes won’t rampantly be reproduced in plants everywhere. For the sake of argument, , though, let’s assume that a GMO is planted within proximity of a non-GMO version of the same species or can reproduce with a different species. In this case, this is exactly how biology works. Genes get modified, and passed on. Natural selection has been doing this for millennia.
3) “GMOs increase herbicide use”
This point is a more valid argument; however, it isn’t as bad as it seems. GM crops that have been modified to be resistant to herbicides, called “Roundup Ready,” have been shown to increase herbicide use. However, that isn’t as bad as it seems. Farmers have been enabled to switch to a safer herbicide than they’ve use before. And pesticide use has been decreased with the use of GM crops modified to produce natural pesticides. GM crops certainly aren’t perfect, and herbicides certainly aren’t the best thing for us to ingest, but in this situation this is really our best option.
4) “Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects”
No, it doesn’t. Again, this is not how biology works. With new technology, editing the genetic codes of organisms has never been easier. Inserting a gene into a new organism’s DNA doesn’t “result in massive collateral damage that produces new toxins, allergens, carcinogens, and nutritional deficiencies.” It simply enables that organism to express that gene. GMOs aren’t carcinogenic Frankencrops, they’re just like any other crops that have been genetically modified by nature over hundreds of years by random mutations and natural selection. This process has simply been sped up and streamlined by science, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
5) “Government oversight is dangerously lax”
Apparently, “most of the health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored by governments’ superficial regulations and safety assessments.” The health and environmental risks of GMOs are ignored because there hasn’t been any science to back them up. And the FDA does regulate GM crops: any food that has been genetically modified has to be assessed during production and before being put on the market. The government isn’t simply letting anything onto supermarket shelves. In reality, regulations surrounding GMOs are about the same as any other food you can buy, “natural” or no.
6) “The biotech industry uses ‘tobacco science’ to claim product safety”
Independent, publicly-funded studies have shown that GMOs are totally safe. On the contrary, studies showing GMOs to be harmful have been more akin to “tobacco science.” The science is not really debatable: GMOs aren’t harmful. Most respected, prestigious scientific bodies, including already-mentioned National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, have declared them to be completely safe for human consumption.
7) “Independent research and reporting is attacked and suppressed”
Independent research is widely accepted, and is really the best source of unbiased, supported data, as long as it’s also independently funded and peer reviewed. It may be true that independent research and reporting against GMOs could be subjected to people refuting it angrily in comments sections or reporting it, but there isn’t a big, conspiratorial cover-up by The Man. Any struggles that independent research or reporting against GMOs has in getting spread is likely simply because it’s patently untrue.
8) “GMOs harm the environment”
GMOs haven’t been shown to harm the environment any more than any other crop, and have actually been shown to make agriculture more sustainable. There has been increase of herbicide use, but there has also been a decrease in pesticide use with insect-resistant crops. Concerns surrounding the decrease in biodiversity due to the use of these crops can be eased by a federal regulation protecting insects: fields planted with the insect-resistant crops have to have a safe-haven with non-GM crops, preserving the biodiversity.
9) “GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world”
This is half-true: GMOs do not significantly increase overall crop yield. With improved agricultural methods, crops yields have been increasing steadily even without the use of GMOs. However, GMOs absolutely do not work against feeding a hungry world. Genetic modification is an important tool we can use in the future as the population grows and the world warms. This technology has helped save communities from collapse around agriculture, and preserved livelihoods. GMOs may not be the cure-all for world hunger, but it is an important asset we have facing the crises we have heading our way.
10) “By avoiding GMOs, you contribute to the coming tipping point of consumer rejection, forcing them out of our food supply”
GMOs are in our food supply, pretty much permanently. Arguably, much of what we eat and consider natural is in reality genetically modified. And forcing them out is unnecessary and, quite frankly, a bad idea. GMOs are an important tool we have in fighting world hunger and problems that come with global warming. They are surrounded by misinformation and fear-mongering, turning much of the world’s population against them in favor of organic food. While there isn’t anything wrong with organic food, and it can be advantageous in some cases, GMOs have their place as well. Science has shown that they are entirely safe and often solve problems we couldn’t solve with traditional agricultural methods. People simply have to get educated from reliable sources on the truth: GMOs are totally safe, and merit no real fear.
Blancke, Stefaan. “Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 18 Aug. 2015, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-oppose-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/.
“Food from Genetically Engineered Plants – How FDA Regulates Food from Genetically Engineered Plants.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, 4 Jan. 2018, http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GEPlants/ucm461831.htm.
Hsaio, Jennifer. “GMOs and Pesticides: Helpful or Harmful?” Science in the News, 29 Sept. 2017, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/gmos-and-pesticides/.
Lynas, Mark. “GMO Safety Debate Is Over.” Alliance for Science, 23 May 2016, allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/2016/05/gmo-safety-debate-is-over/.
Newman, Caroline. “Largest-Ever Study Reveals Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified Crops.” UVA Today, 25 May 2017, http://www.news.virginia.edu/content/largest-ever-study-reveals-environmental-impact-genetically-modified-crops.
Smith, Jeffrey. “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs.” Institute for Responsible Technology, 16 Jan. 2017, responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/.