Since their development, genetically modified foods (GMOs) have been a hot subject of debates going on right now not just in the US, but in other countries. For some people, the idea of this technology is a good thing for many reasons, such as it allows crops to become resistant to infestations and drought, providing for more regular meals for us. In fact, research indicates that the world today is already producing more food than it needs to produce to provide each person with 3 squares each day.
But for others, this technology is regarded as a dangerous proposition, arguing that it carries many risks, from allergic reactions to potential intestinal damage. It is also said that many people try to avoid these types of food because of the findings of animal studies that show abnormal tumor growth, changes in internal cell structure and occurrence of unexpected deaths. To come up with a good idea whether GMOs are generally beneficial to society or not, it is best to have an in-depth look into their pros and cons.
List of Pros of Genetically Modified Foods
1. They offer better overall quality and taste.
By modifying food, its flavors can be enhanced. For instance, corn can become sweeter and pepper can become spicier. In fact, it can make difficult flavors become more palatable.
2. They come with lowered the risk of crop failure.
Seeds are being genetically altered for many reasons, including improved resistance to insects and better crop health. Genetically modified crops can also better resist extreme weather conditions. All these things mean lower risk of crop failure.
3. They are more resistant to disease.
Plants and animals that have been genetically modified for food can have better resistance to unexpected diseases. Like a vaccine, genetic enhancements are encoded into them to strengthen their immune system.
4. They have longer shelf life.
Typically, genetically modified foods have a longer shelf life than their traditional counterparts, which means that they can be safely transported to far-away regions that have no to nutritious food without the worry of them getting spoiled.
5. They can provide more nutritional benefits.
Through genetic modifications, these types of food are added with vitamins and minerals to ensure they offer greater nutritive benefits to consumers, which is really helpful in developing countries that do not always have the access to this basic need. Also, with nutrition-rich GMOs, companies will be able to supply more essential nutrients to the general population and help address worldwide malnutrition. For example, rice that is enhanced with vitamin A, known as the golden rice, now helps with reducing vitamin A deficiencies around the world.
6. They bring about environmental benefits.
In the production of GMO foods, less chemicals, machinery, time and land are being used, which means that it is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution and soil erosion. Also, with enhanced productivity, farmers will be able to dedicate less real estate to crops, plus they are already growing potatoes, corn and cotton without spraying the bacterial insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, as GMO crops already produce their own insecticides.
7. They are used in the creation of vaccines.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the use of molecular biology in vaccination development has been successful and is holding promise. Today, scientists have already engineered plants to produce vaccines, as well as proteins and other pharmaceutical products, through a method process called pharming.
List of Cons of Genetically Modified Foods
1. They can also cause environmental damage.
Though it is said that growing GMOs is beneficial to the environment, it also has a downside in this aspect. Genetically modified plants or livestock grown in environmental conditions that do not support them originally are believed to cause irrevocable damage to the environment. This is can be seen in the case of GMO cross-breading, where weeds that can be crossed with modified plants can often become resistant to herbicides, which necessitates the need for more modification efforts.
2. They can cause genes to migrate.
According to the FAO, “Through ‘gene escape,’ they can pass on to other members of the same species and perhaps other species. Genes introduced in GMOs are no exception, and interactions might occur at gene, cell, plant, and ecosystem level. Problems could result if, for example, herbicide-resistance genes got into weeds. So far, research on this is inconclusive, with scientists divided — often bitterly. But there is scientific consensus that once widely released, recalling transgenes or foreign DNA sequences, whose safety is still subject to scientific debate, will not be feasible.”
3. They actually offer no economic value.
As food products that are genetically modified typically take just as long to mature and just as much effort to cultivate and grow, they basically do not bring any economic value when compared to growing non-GMO foods.
4. They can pose significant allergy risks.
According to the findings of a study conducted by Brown University, genetic enhancements would often combine proteins that are not originally there in the organism, which can cause allergic reactions for people. In fact, GMOs were found to have caused an increase in allergic reactions in the general population. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, food allergies in children below 18 years old jumped from 3.4% in 1997-2999 to 5.1% in 2009-2011, though it is important to note that the center did not state any conclusive scientific link to these foods.
5. They have lowered resistance to antibiotics.
According to Iowa State University, some genetically modified foods have built-in antibiotic qualities that boost immunity, but when they are consumed, the effectiveness would be lessened, unlike actual antibiotics.
In conclusion, it is really important to evaluate the pros and cons of genetically modified foods, as we need to try to outweigh the risks when it comes to producing them in huge volumes. In some regions of the world where resources are thin and people are suffering from hunger, having access to these types of food definitely makes sense, but in other places, the risks may outweigh the benefits. Now, where do you stand on genetically modified foods?