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GMOs: The Pros and Cons to Us and Our Environment


One of the most common genetically modified crops. Image: foodnavigator.com

If you have eaten throughout your day, chances are your food has included GMO’s. The acronym “GMO” stands for genetically modified organisms, and they are in almost all of the food that we eat daily. GMOs trace back to thousands of years ago when people were using simple selective breeding techniques, all the way to now where genetic engineering has enabled us to change the DNA of a crop to benefit its surroundings. Foods that we eat containing GMOs include corn, soybeans, papayas, potatoes, apples, and almost every other agricultural product on the market.

Now that we know that GMOs are in almost everything that we eat, how do they impact us and our environment?

Unfortunately, scientists at this point are still unsure. Although they are a great resource for the exponentially growing populations in the world, scientists are still questioning if there are any leading harmful effects caused by GMOs. GMOs help humans by increasing crop yield and giving crop resistance to pesticides and tolerance to environmental conditions. They also make our food look more “appealing” by making an apple look more red and a banana look more yellow or long. This causes many of us to question if the change in DNA sequences may impact us as well. Although there are no fully scientifically proven arguments to GMO’s, since the science of genetic engineering is relatively new, there are some lingering theories. As the GMOs used on crops are ingested by animals, that genetic modification could potentially impact them too. For example, Bt maize pollen was genetically engineered as a herbicide, but when tested on monarch butterfly larvae after questionable use, it was found to kill the larvae. Although a monarch butterfly is much different in comparison to a human, this leads us to question what will happen to humans who are ingesting GMOs over time. There is also a question on whether GMOs are reducing the diversification of certain organisms, causing frequent antibiotic resistance in the crops and potentially in humans as well. Since there are so many questions over GMOs, many people throughout the country have attempted to buy foods that say “no GMO’s” on the label. These labels can be misleading. Unless the labels have a USDA or FDA stamp, the “non-GMO” claim can be false or only partially true. That is why people taking on this lifestyle may need to be more careful than they have previously considered. Not all countries participate in genetically engineering GMO’s like the United States does. Many countries like France, Germany, Austria, and Greece do not like the idea of the uncertainty around GMO’s, thus they banned the sale or manufacturing of GMOs in their countries.

There are many pros and cons surrounding GMOs that make many wonder what they are going to do to us and our environment in the future. Although they have so many benefits to our increasingly growing population, they may harm the environment in the process. Through continual scientific research, ways to make sure GMOs are safer for humans and organisms who have to live with the food they intake becomes increasingly important. With your help by simply staying updated with laws passed and debunked involving GMOs, or even becoming proactive in the need for more research on GMOs, we can figure out how GMOs truly impact us and the environment.

Reference

http://www.fao.org/3/x9602e/x9602e07.htm

https://www.procon.org/headline.php?headlineID=00544

Photography by Sahil Sethi, Lucy Grossmann, and others
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