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The Vitality of Genetically Modified Organisms

As some may know, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) dominate the retail food industry in America. However, many do not know what has been done to the food products they are consuming, or they just do not care enough to find out. Read more to learn about GMOs.

As some may know, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) dominate the retail food industry in America. Stores, restaurants, and supermarkets that sell items that have not been genetically altered by humans are scarce, so consumers are easily able to purchase GMOs. However, many do not know what has been done to the food products they are consuming, or they just do not care enough to find out.

97-genetically-modify-food-debate
Photo by Intelligence Squared

Using recombinant DNA technology, scientists have been able to alter an organism’s DNA by extracting outside DNA and artificially placing it into the organism. This is done for a plethora of reasons, most of which are beneficial to the food supply of America. By increasing the vitality of each crop, scientists have increased crop yield, resistance to insects, levels of nutrients, and tolerance to herbicides.  Other pros of GMOs include longer “shelf life” and the elimination of seeds (seen in seedless grapes and watermelons) [1]. These modifications have since allowed the US to grow millions of crops to sustain the growing population. Advocates for GMOs also argue that the cultivation and commercialization of the foods can benefit third-world countries through providing nutrient-rich crops to those in need. Since the cost of GM foods is seemingly much less than organic foods, they also reap economic benefits [2].

However, many are wary of GM foodsand for good reason. Some wonder if they are safe to consume, healthy for the body, and/or environmentally friendly. Due to this type of biotechnology being in its infancy, we will not have answers to the proposed questions for a long time. As we progress, scientists will be able to conduct long-term research and experimentation on the effects of GMOs on humans. For now, research on animals concludes that GM foods are slightly harmful. They have been linked to allergic reactions, sick/sterile livestock, and damaged organs. Other cons of GMO techniques are that foreign genes can potentially disrupt DNA at the insertion site, there could be a stealthy increase in genetic mutations, changes in proteins can alter thousands of chemicals in plants, and the foods can have unknown, unintended effects on the human body [4].

The most common GMOs include corn, soy, squash/zucchini, alfalfa, canola, sugar beets, and milk. In fact, nearly 85% of the corn and 90% of canola crops grown in the US were genetically modified [5]. As technology continues to evolve, the quality and vitality of GMOs will change, as will regulations from the FDA. For example, in 2010 a company called Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc. developed apple varieties that don’t turn brown for two weeks after slicing. Since then, GM apples have been under review.

While GMOs have various pros and cons, they will remain a staple in American society and probably the rest of the world. There are organic food stores that offer non-GM products, easily identifiable with a “non-GMO project verified” sticker. Although more expensive, these foods may prove to be healthier for the human body in the long run.

organic-vs-non-gmo
Photo from MadisonParkFoods

References

[1] “GMOs: Pros and Cons.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/gmos-pros-and-cons#pros.

[2] “The Impact GMOs Have on the Society.” GMO Answers, 5 Jan. 2016, gmoanswers.com/ask/impact-gmos-have-society.

[3] “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Transgenic Crops and Recombinant DNA Technology.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/genetically-modified-organisms-gmos-transgenic-crops-and-732.

[4] “GMO Education.” Institute for Responsible Technology, responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/.

[5] “The 7 Most Common Genetically Modified Foods.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/builtlean/diet-and-nutrition_b_4323937.html.

 

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