A Balanced Case Against GMO’s
The best way to make an educated decision about whether to eat the products of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) is to consider the arguments made by all sides and ultimately make a decision that best fits your values and lifestyle. When creating a view that is considerate of all parties involved, you must include the people, the land, and the business. It can be difficult to do because humans love to get their information from sources that complement their own, pre-existing beliefs and ignore or disregard information that opposes them.
The protest that GMO’s are harmful to our health is a dominant force. GMO corn and soybeans are the two most commonly modified crops, and they’ve only been in our food system for less than 20 years (Dupont, 2013). For many scientists, that’s not enough time to say, without a shred of doubt, that they are entirely safe for human consumption (Porterfield, 2016).
Furthermore, there’s a lot of conflicted research (and I use that term lightly in this case as any results haven’t been reviewed or replicated), with one side saying that GMO’s are allergenic if not toxic (Smith, 2011), and the other side saying that simple rules of gene expression prove that they are harmless (Borel, 2014).
GMO crops also harm the environment. It’s not hard to imagine a movie where a biotechnology lab shuffles Mother Nature around and experiences some dire, unwanted, unforeseen consequences.
When crops are bred to be
(insects and weeds) resistant, that means that farms can spray more and more pesticides without affecting the yield. Pesticides may not harm the crop, but they do hurt everything around it. Overuse of pesticides creates “superweeds” (Koebler, 2012), destroy soil quality, soak into the fields and poison our groundwater (Gammon, 2009).
All of this is terrible: the unknown side effects of GMOs, the possibility of mutated genes that lead to terrifying disease, the evolution of weeds that don’t die, and poisonous pesticides making their way into our drinking water. But to me, the best case against GMO’s is the company who manufactures them.
There are 282 acres of genetically modified crops in the world owned by one company, Monsanto. That’s 41% of all genetically modified crops in the world and 80% of all corn grown in the U.S. (Organic Consumers Association, 2013)
If Monsanto were on a mission to use their biotechnology for the good of the world, things might be different. The reality is that they developed seeds in a lab that are resistant to a pesticide, that only they sell, which causes you to need more and more pesticide to protect the crop. Monsanto is creating a virus and selling it to the market that only responds to their cure, which they also sell to the market.
Oh, and both the virus and the cure may be hazardous to our health.
As if that weren’t bad enough, many genetically modified crops are near or adjacent to organic, family-owned crops, and when the modified seeds land on the organic soil, the whole farm is contaminated forever. If Monsanto can prove that small, family-owned farm has modified seeds on their land that they didn’t purchase, Monsanto sues them, takes everything they own, and closes down the competition (Parker, 2013).
The bottom line is that we can’t say with absolute certainty that GMO crops are harmful to our health or not. What we do know is the negative impact they have on our already fragile environment and the greed that drives the manufacturer of the seeds. As with most things in nutrition and lifestyle, it’s up to you to take in the information, weight it against your values and principals, and make the informed decision that best fits the needs of you and your family.
Borel, B. (2014, July 11). Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked. Retrieved from Popular Science: http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked
Dupont, V. (2013, June 4). GMO corn, soybeans dominate US market. Retrieved from Phys.org: http://phys.org/news/2013-06-gmo-corn-soybeans-dominate.html
Gammon, C. (2009, June 23). Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/
Koebler, J. (2012, October 19). Herbicide-Resistant ‘Super Weeds’ Increasingly Plaguing Farmers. Retrieved from U.S. News: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/10/19/herbicide-resistant-super-weeds-increasingly-plaguing-farmers
Organic Consumers Association. (2013, August 7). U.S. and Monsanto Dominate Global Market for GM Seeds. Retrieved from Organic Consumers Association: https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/us-and-monsanto-dominate-global-market-gm-seeds
Parker, C. (2013, July 25). How Monsanto Is Terrifying the Farming World. Retrieved from Miami New Times: http://www.miaminewtimes.com/restaurants/how-monsanto-is-terrifying-the-farming-world-6392824
Porterfield, A. (2016, April 5). For studies on GMO food safety, does length matter? Retrieved from Genetic Literacy Project: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/04/05/studies-gmo-food-safety-length-matter/
Smith, J. (2011, August 25). 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs. Retrieved from Institute for Responsible Technology: http://responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/