Tuesday, March 30, 2010

GMO's

The use of Genetically Modified Organisms in food production has sparked large controversy.


A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) as defined by the EPA, “refers to plants that have had genes implanted to improve their performance by making them resistant to certain pesticides, diseases, or insects.” Supporters of GMO’s believe this to be a technological necessity, if we are to feed the growing world population. However, there are many concerns surrounding the use of GMO’s, which will be discussed in this blog.


The concerns surrounding GMO’s are health, societal, political, economical, and environmental related.


The first critique of GMO’s is that they won’t actually solve the world hunger crisis. Many people believe that there already exists more than enough food in the world to feed the current population, but that this food doesn’t reach poorer nations due to the current political issues surrounding food. For example, in the US, nearly 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year. However, this excess food doesn’t reach poor nations, or even the poor of this nation due to political and cultural constraints.


The second issue is that GM crops increase the use of pesticides. GMO's reduce biodiversity of crops, this actually makes them more susceptible to disease and insects.


This segue's into the third issue concerning the corporations which produce the GMO's. These same few companies are also often responsible for producing and promoting pesticide products. This link makes many wary of trusting the seemingly profit hungry corporations.


Speaking of economics, the fourth issue concerns the farmer's and their ability to purchase the GM seeds from these billion dollar corporations. For many crops, seed prices have been increasing. This, coupled with the fact that farmer's can no longer save their seeds, as they have done so traditionally for hundreds of years (due to new patent laws which allow corporations to patent their GM seeds) have left many farmers too poor to even feed themselves.


This brings us to the fifth issue: GM and non-GM cannot co-exist. For example, imagine two adjacent fields, one planing GM corn and one planing non-GM corn. The pollen from the GM corn blows in the wind and pollinates the non-GM corn. This not only kills off the non-GM crop, it allows these big corporations to sue the farmer for patent violation.


The sixth issue is that GMO foods are non known 100% to be safe. The topic of safety itself is highly debated, but many people do not want to eat them.


This leads to the final issue, labeling. Many foods containing GMO's are already on our market shelves, none of which are required to be labeled.


One of the biggest concerns, which encompasses many of those already mentioned, are the long-term effects of GMO's. The long-term effects on our health and the environment are not known, and probably cannot be precisely predicted through research. This leads to the fear and concerns listed above.


So, should we be using GMO's?

I believe that given the number of concerns surrounding GMO's they should be well researched before being implemented. However, as we know, GMO's have already been implemented, and many questions are still surrounding them. At this point, I would suggest putting more research money and energy into other food production technologies, specifically ones which can be easily implemented in poor nations. Hopefully, out of this will arise a better solution than GMO's, so that they can be weaned out of the system before any irreversible damage is done (if it hasn't been already.)


What are your thoughts?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Guys
    A few things I think you need to consider in this argument.

    GM and non-GM cannot co-exist. For example, imagine two adjacent fields, one planing GM corn and one planing non-GM corn. The pollen from the GM corn blows in the wind and pollinates the non-GM corn. This not only kills off the non-GM crop, it allows these big corporations to sue the farmer for patent violation.
    First I am unsure how GM pollen will kill a non-GM plant. It may cross-pollinate it and make any offspring from the cross non-GM, but it won’t kill it. Also, it is possible to have gm and non-GM co-exist if the proper protocols established by the science are followed. The risk, of course is that the protocols won’t be adhered to.
    GMO foods are not 100% safe. There is no way you can guarantee conventionally bred food to be 100% safe either. There are similar risks in the conventional breeding practices that you will introduce toxins, allergens or anti-nutrients. It is a known and documented risk that has required the recall of conventionally bred foods – celery and potatoes are two examples. So one needs to define for themselves what they mean by safe.
    What are the long-term effects of GMO's? The long-term effects on our health and the environment are not known. Can you tell me the long-term effects of eating or growing conventionally-bred crops? The answer is no. Every year new varieties of crops are released onto the market. In Australia last year there were about 15 new barley varieties and 3 canola. We have no way of knowing the long-term effects. And what is long-term? In any public engagement workshop I have run, long-term can mean 5 years or 10 generations. The acceptability of risk is different for each person

    Check the TechNyou site www.technyou.edu.au for more in-depth discussion of these arguments. Also see the new Academics Review site - http://academicsreview.org/ - that examines the scientific evidence for the arguments for and against the GM crops.

    Jason Major
    Manager, TechNyou

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  2. Hello and thank you for your comment.

    I agree my wording may have been poorly chosen. A GM crop will not "kill" a non-GM crop. What I meant by kill, was it will cross pollinate and eventually, the once non-GM crop, will become totally GM.

    I also agree that the long-term effects of GM, and as you said, many other things are unknown, and this may not be the strongest argument against GM crops. Since so many new technologies (not just foods) are introduced to us so often, the long-term effects are never fully understood until they can be seen first hand.

    I didn't want mean to come off as advocating for or against GM foods, I simply wanted to lay out some of the information I have on the subject (thus far, we will be getting more into this in class in the coming weeks) and hopefully spark a discussion, and learn more on the topic than I know already.

    So again, thank you for your comment it was helpful. I will check out that link.

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