12 September 2018
The Benefits of GMOs
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are used in plants, produce, factory farming, and even livestock. The opposition or Anti-GMO movement was started in Hawaii in the mid-1990s by Mark Lynas and spread globally. This movement argued that GMOs are the causes of illnesses such as cancer and tumors. In my paper, I will write about how GMOs are safe and beneficial to animals, humans, and the environment.
The Anti-GMO movement that started in Hawaii made consumers believe that GMOs led to cancers and tumors. Hawaii used GMOs mainly for the papaya plant. Without the GMOs they would not be able to yield as much papaya and have to use more toxic pesticides since the purpose of the GM foods are to decrease diseases and toxicity. In fact, when anti-GMO supporters claimed that these GM crops were “poisoning” the population and that school evacuations have occurred due to pesticide use, they left out the evidence that all studies conducted by state agencies “found no more than trace amounts far below threshold levels of pesticides in water and air near agricultural sites” (Joan Conrow). It was found that there were higher levels of pesticides in urban instead of rural areas. In an article by the Cornell Alliance for Science and stated by the State Department of Health in Hawaii, it was found that drugs not the pesticides accounted for around 93% of Hawaii’s poisoning cases. Furthermore, not even one school evacuation was connected to pesticide use in agricultural areas. The founder of this movement, Mark Lynas started it in the 1990s. He was a researcher at the Cornell Alliance of Science. However, in 2013 Mark Lynas apologized for damaging GM crops after switching sides back to science. He specifically stated, “I apologize for having spent several years ripping GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid-1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment”. Mark Lynas wrote in his final Anti-GMO piece that he was being, “intellectually incompetent and dishonest” and disregarding true science. In his New York Times piece, “How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food,” he wrote about how struggling farmers in developing countries lives have benefitted off of GMOs. Based on the fact that the leader of the Anti-GMO movement, Mark Lynas discredited his own organization, the “research” and points behind this group is automatically incorrect, invalid, and immoral.
Insecticides and pesticides are used to kill bugs that pose a threat to crops. Some instances that GMOs came in handy are in 2002, where China’s cotton was genetically modified to produce a substance that was poisonous to the cotton bollworm (a pest that destroyed many cotton crops). Previously the farmers directly applied toxic pesticides/insecticides on crops. The benefit of GM cotton is that there is a reduction in pesticide use, increase in yields and profits, and the application of pesticides without protective clothing. Furthermore, plants are modified to become resistant to viral, fungal, or bacterial infestations. For example, sweet potatoes have been genetically modified to improve viral resistance and bananas were modified to resist the Black Sigatoka fungus. This fungus can reduce yield by 70% and fungicides are expensive to get as well. So, developing countries must depend on GM bananas to feed their population. Thus proving that these GMOs are a necessity and benefit to the environment.
The most common GMO is glycogen, which is in corn as well as many other consumer products. It has no effect on a person’s health or well-being. An experiment lead by Gilles-Eric Seralini was retracted in 2013 due to weak evidence and misinterpretation. His experiment conducted the effects of GM corn on rats. He concluded that GM corn indeed did cause tumors and cancers in rats, but “the small number and types of animals used in the study meant that “no definitive conclusions can be reached” (Elsevier). This meant that even if the rats were given non-GMO food, the same responses would have occurred. Many Anti-GMO supporters use this experiment as evidence even though it has already been disproven. In an experiment conducted by the University of California- Davis Department of Animal Science, research assistant Amy E. Young and geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam reviewed the conditions of livestock for 29 years from both before and after GM animal feed existed. They found that GM feed is just as safe as non-GM feed. In a Forbes article the experiment found, “There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE food on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact” (Jon Entine). Comparing the two studies, the one conducted by the University of California was thoroughly and properly managed over a large group instead of Seralini’s experiment that was retracted due to faulty research and the few to none rats being thoroughly tested. Further proving that the claims of GMOs being toxic and harmful to animals, people, or the environment are incorrect assumptions and opinions with no factual evidence backing it up.
Developing countries need the aide of these GMOs to feed their populations. The chemicals that have been accused of being dangerous and toxic are actually preventing starvation and helping developing countries grow food in tough climates. Specifically, plants have been genetically modified to be resistant to drought, toxic herbicides, pathogens, and other abiotic stresses. In fact, the plants have increased nutritional qualities in food by adding more omega-3’s and omega-6’s in oil to prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Unsaturated fats such as butter is chemically built to stack and remain solid at room temperature. This means that the increased consumption of this fat will lead to strokes and heart attacks. By adding omega-3’s and omega-6’s, the oil will become liquid at room temp and go through the body instead of building up plaque in the arteries. Another example is Golden Rice, which has been modified to increase the B-carotene levels in order help prevent Vitamin A deficiency which causes childhood blindness.
Genetically modified organisms either help or do not affect animals, humans, and the environment globally. Whether it is through increasing the nutritional value in foods or lessening the toxicity of the pesticides/insecticide’s farmers use, GMOs have saved lives more than the anti-GMO movement claims. These improvements have led to insecticide/pesticide resistance which made China’s cotton resistant to the cotton bollworm, disease resistance to bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens by making sweet potatoes and bananas resistant to the Black Sigatoka fungus, making crops grow in even extremely harsh climates, and improving the nutritional value in foods by adding omega-3’s an omega-6s in unsaturated fat and more B-Carotene levels in Golden Rice to prevent childhood blindness. The experiments conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, The University of California-Davis Department of Animal Science, as well as Gilles-Eric Seralini’s retracted experiment of GM corn on rats all prove that the genetically modified organisms in our plants, food, and livestock are both beneficial and safe to the population. Over all, the scientific and factual evidence that prove GMOs are safe are more accurate than opinions from the discredited Anti-GMO movement.