Genetically modifying organisms is a hotly debated topic right now. On one side are people who are concerned about scientists playing with the building blocks of life. The other side is trying to make it illegal to tell people whether they are putting genetically modified food into their body. Sometimes it seems more like an argument than a debate, with the two sides disagreeing on everything and not listening to each other. What’s clear is that GMOs are going to be a big part of our future and the sooner we figure everything out, the better off we’ll be.
Many popular crops have been modified. Ninety four percent (94%) of soybeans and cottom grown have been genetically modified. Modified corn is ubiquitous as well at 92%. There is one main reason why crops are genetically modified – to make them easier to grow. Crops that are resistant to herbicide means that it’s easier to avoid killing the crops when killing weeds that suck water and nutrients from the soil. Monsanto is known for their popular genetically modified crops that are resistant to the herbicide RoundUp. Insecticide resistance means that farmers spend less money on insecticide. Maybe the future will bring genetically modified crops that are healthier and taste better, but that clearly isn’t the priority.
People in favor of GMOs say they’re completely safe and necessary. It’s a common claim that GMO foods are required to feed the global population of 7.4 billion people that’s growing. Scientists say that genetically modifying food is not any different than what people have done for centuries by choosing which seeds to plant. Replanting the seeds of large crops is essentially the same as modifying the plant to be larger.
There have been many studies that indicate GMO crops are 100% safe, but this hasn’t ended the argument. The Center for Food Safety found that the scientific community hasn’t reached a consensus. Then there are some more questionable actions. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599 to prevent states from requiring GMO foods to be labelled as containing GMOs, but this bill did not become law. Opponents have called this the “DARK Act”, saying that it keeps consumers in dark and prevents them from knowing what they’re eating. Finally, there are arguments other than safety about why GMOs are bad. Planting so many GMO crops eliminates the variety and flavor of the local crops they replace. It also makes our food supply more susceptible to disease, similar to the situation that the Cavendish banana is in right now.
It’s pretty safe to say that everyone in the USA has eaten genetically modified food. They’re extremely prevalent in today’s food supply. Many people are uncomfortable with this situation and are looking to change it. There’s one thing for certain: GMO foods are a part of our immediate future. Maybe they will be improved and stick around, or maybe they will be found unsafe or unwanted and will go away. Let’s hope we get to a situation where everybody is comfortable.
Thanks to James Emory on Flickr for the photo.