Since most of our “food” is genetically modified, why not label it as such and give us the choice of eating it or not?
In his critically acclaimed documentary GMO OMG, Director Jeremy Seifert investigates Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and the dangers they bring by exploring their relationship to his 3 young children and the world around him. In the plot summary on IMDb, written by anonymous, we learn that:
“Today, in the United States, by the simple act of feeding ourselves, we are unwittingly participating in the largest experiment ever conducted on human beings. Each of us unknowingly consumes genetically engineered food on a daily basis. The risks and effects to our health and environment are largely unknown. Yet more and more studies are being conducted around the world, which only provide even more reason for concern. We are the oblivious guinea pigs for wide-scale experimentation of modern technology.”
GMOs are a controversial and hot topic. The issues raised, however, are not new. Many of the fruits, vegetables, and even animals we eat have been crossbred or cross pollinated (same species only) by farmers for thousands of years. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is a very different ball of wax. We now introduce genes from different species (including animal and human genes), into vegetables and fruit. This can help with resistance to drought, infestations and frost as well as allow for larger yields with less chemicals, which is very attractive to food producers. However, if we have fruits and vegetables with their own internal foreign genes and pesticides to better handle the elements and prevent insects from eating the “food,” what does it do to us, humans, when we eat then them?
And just what are the Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods?
Main benefits of GMOs
1. Better overall quality and taste.
We can now manipulate flavors through genetic modifications to make them sweeter or spicier as well as difficult flavors more palatable.
2. More resistant to disease.
Since we are manipulating their genetic codes, plants and animals can become more resistant to disease by having the “vaccine” built into the genetic code.
3. More nutritious.
We can now add vitamins and minerals to GMO foods by genetic modifications and provide greater nutritional benefits to those who eat them. How that changes the nature of these foods and the long term impact on us is not known.
Main detriments of GMOs
1. Damage to the environment.
When you grow plants or animals in environmental conditions that would not normally support them, you run the risk of altering them irrevocably in ways that will damage both them and the environment. These genetic manipulations create plants resistant to herbicides that then require more GMOs and more pesticides, which further pollutes animals and plants, our bodies and the environment.
2. No real economic benefit.
Since growing GMOs takes as long and requires as much effort as growing non-GMOs, there’s no real economic benefit here, although there are cases of better yield.
3. Growth in allergic reactions in the human population.
Consumption of GMO foods increases the risk of food-based allergies in people. This happens when people eat genetically modified plants as well as the animals that feed on them.
4. Growing resistance to pesticides and medicines.
When you manipulate the genes of plants and animals to be pesticide and disease resistant, you also create bacteria, viruses and insects that are resistant to pesticide and chemical medicine (i.e. antibiotics). That requires the development of stronger and stronger pesticides and drugs, resulting in super bugs that cannot be defeated easily (if at all).
As in any evaluation of a complicated issue, a risk utility analysis is the smart way to go. And this is exactly where we should be with GMOs. This analysis must have at least three components:
1. Meaningful and complete disclosure of all relevant information on the genetic modifications involved, why they are necessary, and the effects of these modifications on the products and environment.
2. Detailed and explicit labels to inform people exactly what it is they will be consuming if they buy and eat these “foods.”
3. Clinical trials and studies with humans to determine the precise risks and benefits of consuming these genetically modified foods, both short term and long term.
Clearly, we cannot make intelligent decisions and choices about anything in our lives without factual and proper information. GMOs have the potential of solving food production, malnutrition and hunger challenges in a world with an exploding human population and an ever-increasing need for food. Since there are serious dangers that come with manipulating genetic codes of plants and animals (that do and can harm humans as well as the animals, plants and environment we depend on to produce them), we must make sure this process is safe. We must also give people the choice of whether they wish to eat these foods or not. The only sensible solution is to make sure we have well-informed consumers that are able to make smart choices.