As we progress as a society, so too does our technology. Innovation and invention are cohesive, and our species has a natural instinct to create and improve. At some point humans drew their attention towards improving something else, the very food that we consume. Genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) are nothing new, “Humans began genetically modifying plants to provide food more than 10,000 years ago. For the past hundred years or so plant breeders have used radiation and chemicals to speed up the production of genetic changes.” (Nina Fedoroff). GM foods are important in today’s society because of the necessity of food due to the large population of people on the planet. Some places have harder times growing food than others, and GM plants can be “reprogrammed” to grow in areas with unproductive soil.
With the ability to alter and change the very genetic code of an organism, there are sure to be benefits and drawbacks as a result. There are many positive aspects of GM foods such as resistance to disease, high nutritional value, environmental benefits, and even health boosts. On the other hand, there are negative effects as well. “Most GMOs tolerate the pesticide glyphosate, but this genetic alteration remains controversial because this pesticide might cause cancer.” and “The GMO side effects on humans also remain a concern. New genetic technologies have the unwanted effect of the added gene possibly entering the host’s genome causing a permanent alteration in its basic genetic structure.” (Janet Renee). Whether GMOs are good or bad can be open to interpretation but there are definitely both valid arguments for either side.
There is a stigma associated with GM foods; many people are gullible to rumors and false information which makes people believe they are awful. I do believe GMOs are unnatural, as is anything that’s man-made, but I do not believe they are dangerous. Of course, there are some negative side effects but GMOs can provide a source of food to places previously unable to grow.
Both conventional crop breeding and GMOs share the same goal, “to produce crops with improved characteristics by changing their genetic makeup. GM achieves this by adding a new gene or genes to the genome of a crop plant. Conventional breeding achieves it by crossing together plants with relevant characteristics, and selecting the offspring with the desired combination of characteristics, as a result of particular combinations of genes inherited from the two parents.” However, with conventional breeding there are a couple of downsides such as the amount of time it takes to cross breed and also some of the characteristics and genes desired may not be available. GM is more time effective and desired genes and traits can be engineered, but we still don’t fully understand all of the side effects. If the same result can be desire from both methods which one is the better option? I side with the conventional method because it is a more natural approach.
I feel as though GMOs is such a divisive topic because of tradition and lack of understanding. For many conventional breeding is the “back in my day” method and people tend to be stuck in their ways. Also, GM foods are relatively new and we learn more about them every day, and the lack of understanding scares some people. When people envision food, they want to see farmers behind them, not men in lab coats.
Nina Fedoroff (Links to an external site.)
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we-trust-monsanto-with-our-food/ (Links to an external site.)
http://benefitof.net/benefits-of-gmos/ (Links to an external site.)
https://www.livestrong.com/article/417880-risks-side-effects-of-genetically-modified-food/ (Links to an external site.)
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