Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) have become a hot topic over the last 20 years. As a society we’ve become more aware of our food, where it comes from, how it’s made, the impact it has on the environment, and what it can do to our bodies. So, when the food industry said, “Hey, we’re going to genetically engineer some new traits into our food supply so we can grow more of it,” everyone played my favorite “jump to conclusions” game. In a knee-jerk response we called on the food industry, at best, to be as transparent as possible with what they’re doing and, at worst, told them not do it. Why?
The initial fear was that traits altered on the genetic level with our food supply might impact our genetics. This logic seems sound until you realize two things. First, we have been genetically modifying foods and animals for thousands of year (our genetics haven’t changed in 70,000 years). So, most of the foods we eat today (along with some of the animals we eat or use) are already genetically modified organisms. Second, GMO’s today are more controlled with their outcomes than in the previous 5,000 to 10,000 years (all due to advanced technology). Instead of “hoping” for the proper genetic traits to appear in our food or animals we can specify and isolate these genese with modern technology. Traits such as larger plant from the same seed, resistant to pest infestation, climate change, and so on.
One of the common fears of GMOs is the crossbreeding GMOs might have on organic crops and produce unwanted characteristics. While this does happen it extremely minor and, so far, there have been no ill side effects on the soil, plants, or humans. This has been avoided by creating certain genes that allow the crops to pollinate themselves and buffer zones to separate GMOs from organic crops.
Due to the publics fear of GMO crops being intermixed with organic crops several agencies inspect and test GMOs for any possible traits that could be detrimental to human consumption (standards far more rigorous than what’s required for organic crops). After decades and thousands of studies the results are in: GMOs foods are NO DIFFERENT than organic foods. They have the same benefits/risks for human consumption.
Another fear is the introduction of “toxins” into our food supply. Many GMOs have a “poisonous” genetic trait imbedded into them in order to kill various pests that would destroy a crops yield. This fear is null and void because the genetic code that kills these pests is harmless to us. For example, billions of humans around the world consume coffee on a daily basis. There have been studies showing the consumption of coffee is good for our health. However, coffee is deadly to most insects. Does that mean we should stop drinking coffee? I didn’t think so.
This leads into another concern with GMOs: the environment. As I pointed out traits being added are meant to kill pests that otherwise would destroy crops. This means farmers don’t have to use pesticides to protect their produce. A result is an 80% decrease in pesticide use. Soil is healthier. Food is healthier.
A perfect example would be the destruction of eggplant crops in Bangladesh due to pests. Farmer’s were relying on a large amount of pesticides to protect their crops. This was not only expensive for the farmers but they became sick as well. When the pest resistant eggplant was introduced the pests died, eggplants flourished, farmers health improved, and they made more money since they had a larger crop to sell.
In some situations, GMOs are the only option that’s sustainable. For example, in the 1990s, a virus that would have all but destroyed the papaya supply threatened Hawaii’s papaya plants. A “vaccinated” version of the papaya was introduced and the papaya industry was saved in Hawaii.
As much progress as the food industry has made with GMOs were still just scratching the surface. Currently, companies are working on creating larger, more nutrient dense foods to aid in the feeding of 3rd world countries. More protein, vitamins, and minerals being added to large yielding crops like rice will be an extreme improvement in the diet for over a billion people living in poverty around the world. In addition, scientists are designing crops, which can grow in various climates where otherwise they could not grow. This is extraordinarily beneficial when factoring the impact of climate change around the world.
If none of this convinces you that GMOs are not only safe but very important in feeding the world population consider this: the world’s food supply will need to increase by 70% by 2050 in order to feed the additional 2 billion people that will be added to the population by that time (based on current estimates). Organically grown food will not cut it.
If you’d like to research these studies further here you go:
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!