GMO’s… What are they?

First off, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. According to Eat Right Ontario, a GMO is a “plant-based organism, like a seed, that: has its genes (DNA) altered to act in a way that does not happen naturally and/or, contains genes from another plant-based organism” (Eat Right Ontario, October 2016). Writers at Non-GMO Project agree with this definition, although they add that non -plant based organisms can be used in the altering process. Considering 2 different sides of the “are GMO’s good for you?” coin agree on a definition, we will use the same one.

Now that we have defined what they are, lets figure out the main arguments for and against the use of them.

Keep in mind, the amount of information, bias or otherwise, is staggering. I will try to give fair evaluation to both sides, and not draw any conclusions. This post, is merely meant to introduce the topic in an easy way to understand it, and provide links, and avenues to read further. It is important to know all sides of the story, and formulate your own opinion.

For:

Because they are Modified, they tend to grow more, in conditions that they normally would not be able to grow in, produce more food that lasts longer, require less pesticides, carry less diseases caused by insects or viruses, and carry more nutrients.

Against:

GMO’s are considered to be unsafe, or worth noting on packaging, many studies that have been conducted are claimed to either show bias towards the companies that develop the GMO foods, and the other treatments used in the growth of these plants, the use and production of these foods are harmful to the environment, and it is claimed to link to the development of things like asthma, allergies, infertility, and much more. (GMO-Awareness.com, 2013)

Wow, these are some BIG claims by both sides… Now that we have seen the arguments, lets take a look to see what is true, and what is speculation.

First, lets take a look at the For sides arguments. I’ll break them down below:

 

  1. They tend to grow faster, stay healthy longer, and produce more yield
    – Taking a look at almost any grocery story shelf will show you, produce is bigger and brighter, meat is meatier and tastier, and milk is plentiful. This is comparing to yields from years prior to the introduction of GMO’s.
  2. They can grow in sub-optimal conditions, that normally they would not be able to withstand
    – Looking at where food can be produced now, versus where the food was native from is a clear indicator that GMO’s do in fact assist in the growth of food in sub-optimal conditions. Banana’s are a good example of this, as they can now be grown in many places they are not native to, and in conditions that are not normally good for them. Normally native to South-East Asia, Bananas can now be grown in a wide range of places (Pacific Lutheran University, 2007).
  3. Resistant to pesticides and herbicides that are often used in the farming process
    – Even many anti-GMO’s bloggers, and articles (such as this one) agree that the food produced through GMO’s are indeed resistant to pesticides and herbicides (although the anti-GMO websites paint this information in a different light to the way displayed here).

Against:

  1. Harmful for humans to consume
    – Thousands of studies have been conducted with results that vary, but the general consensus is there is no direct link to a change in health of humans since the introduction of GMO’s. (Eenennaam A., Young, A., 2014)
  2. Negative impact on the environment
    – Some studies have tried to link the reduced population of bees to the introduction and use of GMO’s and the herbicides that come with it, but so far, no direct correlation or causation have been found. Although like with the use of antibiotics, some plants and insects are beginning to grow resistant to the current chemicals used in agriculture, and this may link to some environmental impacts.
  3. Bias because of an oligopoly held in the GMO and farming chemical production industries.
    – Although some studies have been funded, or conducted by the same companies that develop these products, many more studies that are unaffected by their influence have been published. There may be some truth here, but it holds true for both sides.

 

So, what are the conclusions from all of this?

Well, I think the main takeaways from all of this, is that if you feel like eating organic, local, in-season, or you feel like eating imported, GM foods, its all OK. No matter what you eat, how you eat it, or what you think, the food that you bought this week in your fridge, will not harm you (unless you under-cook some chicken… remember, you can’t eat a medium rare chicken breast!!). Perhaps in future years, when more information comes to light, and more advancements in this industry are made, this may change. But for now, Enjoy eating that non-organic Banana, or that 100% organic lettuce you grew in your back yard.

Thank you for reading, be sure to comment below any questions you may have. Talk about what you believe and listen to what others have to say.

Sources:

http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/

https://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Food-technology/Biotechnology/Novel-foods/Understanding-Genetically-Modified-Foods.aspx

GMO Facts

GMO Defined

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/#7e428a89ca93

http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/faculty/vaneenennaam/index.html

With 2000+ global studies affirming safety, GM foods among most analyzed subjects in science

https://community.plu.edu/~bananas/brief-history/

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