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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