SUMMARY: Scientists are just trying to help. Want less pesticides? Fine. Want more food to feed the world? Fine. But you can’t protest the methods and expect those results. Read the actual evidence, stop the fear-mongering, and sort yourselves out.
What’s the truth about GMOs?
There are a lot of articles and posts on the internet today, each person expressing their own view on Genetically Modified Organisms and GM technology. It’s a big war between the scientists, and the alternative bunch of quacks. With so much screaming and arguing about, it’s difficult to really see what is going on, and what the truth behind the story is. I advise, for further information, for the reader to conduct quick searches on sites such as the British Medical Journal, and Pub Med. AVOID biased sites at all costs, stick to the evidence. Upon examining the evidence, you will be able to come up with your own mind about the safety of GMO use, but I implore you to do it based on rational thinking, not lie-based fear-mongering.
Now for those of you that still aren’t quite sure what GMOs are, I’ll provide a quick explanation. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms which have a gene in their DNA slightly altered to give them a more desirable characteristic. In short, scientists are now able to re-create what Mother Nature has been doing for millions of years. DNA change is a simple fact of life, and there is nothing ‘un-natural’ about it.
I would like to start with saying that I have yet to see any credible evidence that GMO food is unsafe. I can understand how people, who may not be involved in the world of science, can be scared by the thoughts of people changing their food. This is why there are very strict regulations on their consumption, and government bodies such as the FDA carry out extremely extensive testing on all of the products to determine their safety. In fact GM foods are tested a whole lot more than normal food, so that’s something to consider.
I am often surprised how many people are so vocally anti-GMO. With an ever-growing population, scientists are looking for new tools for how to feed the world and reduce starvation rates. They have developed disease resistant plants, to increase crop yields 1. They can produce high quality wine, with a lower ethanol concentration, making it less damaging to the liver 2. And key to the argument, they can produce crops which require far less pesticides to grow. Since the introduction of GM crops, there has been around an 8% decrease in pesticide use3. Anti-GMO lobbyists are quite often the same as the Anti-Pesticide group, which seems to form a nice little paradox. You can’t have everything guys, scientists produce a crop which requires less pesticide use and yet you’re still not happy.
There are serious concerns about GMO use, which are actually scientifically viable. Things like genetic drift, where an infection resistant plant gives it resistance to a weed, are serious worries. However it is important to note that these are things which have been identified and scientists are working on these problems, to come up with effective solutions. Something which no doubt would be easier without the anti-GMO movement.
And a final argument which many people use is that ‘Oh but look how much money the industry is making from it. Big Pharma just wants to profit from our poor health.’ In that case, I ask you – do you think that all the organic, non-GMO companies have sprung up purely out of the goodness of their hearts? No. They haven’t. They make millions selling organic and non-GMO food. So don’t base your argument off of who earns money where – look at the evidence yourself. The scientific evidence.
If you want to learn more, this page provided by the World Health Organization is a great place to start.
- Malnoy, M., Viola, R., Jung, M.-H., Koo, O.-J., Kim, S., Kim, J.-S., … Nagamangala Kanchiswamy, C. (2016). DNA-Free Genetically Edited Grapevine and Apple Protoplast Using CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoproteins.Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 1904. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.01904
- Cuello, R. A., Flores Montero, K. J., Mercado, L. A., Combina, M., & Ciklic, I. F. (2017). Construction of low-ethanol–wine yeasts through partial deletion of theSaccharomyces cerevisiae PDC2 AMB Express, 7, 67. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13568-017-0369-2
- Brookes, G. and Barfoot, P. (2017).Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2015: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions. 8th ed. GM Crops and Food, pp.117-147.