I grew up believing that GMOs caused cancer and made people zombies. I guess parents aren’t right about everything, but the eccentric stories about evil mutant vegetables and their link to the Illuminati captivated me, and the consideration of this supposed reality horrified me.
It’s fair to feel uneasy about food that is genetically altered by corporate scientists. Food is expected be grown outside on great beautiful farms with cows and horses and big red barns, not by people in lab coats splicing up our tomatoes like a virus.
I’ve always been politically vocal since I was in elementary school about many topics that concerned me, genetic engineering was a big one. I was strongly against eating GMO foods (something I never thought that I’d change my mind on) because I thought they were bad, and the lack of tests done to say whether or not they were, was suspicious. It looked as though the government and FDA were hiding something from us. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of studies instead means that maybe there isn’t anything for them to hide at all.
We tend not to fact check ourselves on the things we think we know best. But I’m a big believer in knowing when you’re wrong, and growing from it.
After looking at the evidence, my concerns over the safety of genetically modified foods dissolved away to reveal the hidden core of evil that lived, glossed over by the inflated concern over it’s health. GMOs aren’t bad, but the companies making them are.
Let’s look at how often people polled negative views on GMOs.
9 percent of Americans polled in this survey believed that GMOs are bad for your health, a claim made by nearly half of the sample, but totally unsupported by science. In that same survey done by Pew Research, roughly 9 out of 10 scientists from the American Association for the Advancement of Science say GMOs are “generally safe” to eat. There is no divide, however, between Republicans and Democrats on the issue, who polled 39 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
The great divide here is between the general American public, and the scientists who actually understand the process of genetic modification in foods, and their effects on the bodies of those who eat them.
I’m going to pick apart a handful of arguments that I once used to justify the anti-GMO movement.
“GMOs Hurt Farmers”
Transgenic crop varieties help farmers deal with issues of disease, pest, and environmental burdens. Genetic Engineers take genes from living organisms, and splice them directly into the genetic codes of other, possibly entirely unrelated organisms, which is much simpler than cross-breeding; taxed by the exaction of similar species, and the resulting consequence of the hundreds of other genes outside of the desired genes that get mixed in as well. The age-old practice of cross-breeding is slow and messy and doesn’t come close to the prospects of what genetic engineering can accomplish in a fraction of the time.
For example; engineers take genes from the cecropia moth and put them into apple plants, transferring their protection from fire blight, a bacterial disease that damages apples and pears. It’s a quick solution, and it has absolutely no known negative effect on human health.
Take into consideration; the potential that this science has is outstanding. Enriching crops like wheat, soy, corn and canola with more vitamins and essential nutrients would transform these widely and cheaply available food sources into freight loads of nutrition, supplemented with genes to make plants more hardy to different climate regions, to aid in helping the issue of malnutrition in the world, making our society healthier and helping end world hunger. The argument that GMOs are hurting farmers and consumers is deeply flawed and ignores the facts that genetically modified or engineered crops use less water, fewer pesticides, produce more yield, grow faster and in harsher environments, and are supported by 98 percent of farmers, who believe that GMOs are the most important factor in their ability to lessen environmental impact.
By Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.
Although these show that gm crops are only beneficial to farmers, many raise the very real issue of GMO companies hurting farmers.
Monsanto particularly gets a lot of well-deserved heat for its dangerous monopolization over the agricultural industry as well as its consistent legal punishment of small farmers who trade seeds, replant saved seeds from previous harvests and other unauthorized uses of the companies patented gm seeds, and punishing farmers for fixing their own equipment without permission. They devote $10 million of its annual budget to investigate approximately 500 farmers each year who are suspected of patent infringement. As of November 2012, 410 farmers and 56 small businesses and farming operations have been involved in court cases involving alleged patent infringement. Monsanto sues farmers for “stealing patented technology”, referring to pollen that comes off of GMO plants and naturally transmits through the air onto non-GMO plants, where the investigation would find that farmer as a thief for simply owning plants that contained distributed pollen from distant fields. The idea of such a “criminal offense” is absurd and illogical, yet the company uses this tool to reap money and land from small farmers, a demographic that is already in extreme economic decline.
It is correct to address GMO companies as hurtful and dangerous to American farmers, but attributing this danger to GMO foods themselves is a far and incorrect stretch of the issue. The science of genetic engineering isn’t the issue, the irresponsible companies wielding them are.
“GMOs are Causing Food Allergies”
The argument that gm foods have caused the dramatic increase in gluten intolerance, celiac disease is widely considered but has absolutely no scientific support.
The increase in gluten-related illnesses correlates with the rise in the production and consumption of GMOs, but correlation does not mean causation, and this mistake seems to have spread the false idea that the anti-GMO argument has finally found roots in real, scientific evidence.
However, the rise in gluten also correlates with a proportional rise in wheat consumption and offers a realistic approach to the rise in celiac disease. GMO wheat shows no increased causation for the illness in the human body, as this part of the genetic make-up is untouched during engineering.
“GMOs Cause Cancer”
GMO foods have shown to be no different than ‘conventional’ foods in their general make-up, aside from the specific genes entered to affect things like immunity and nutrient supply. The idea that these foods cause cancer is founded in the conspiracy of their apparent danger and bears not only a lack of rationality but the supposed scientific evidence for it as well. There is absolutely no evidence that it causes cancer in the many living organisms its been tested on, including, in economic distribution, the consumer. In the case of Seralini’s rats, the flawed, two-year-long experiment showed unconvincing ‘evidence’ that Monsanto’s GMO Maize caused cancer in the rats. Even several European studies have overturned the experiment.
“Interestingly, in the groups of animals fed with the NK603 [Roundup Ready corn] without R[oundup] application, similar effects with respect to enhanced tumor incidence and mortality rates were observed.”
The rats showed similar tumor formation in both groups (control and experimental) and therefore show no causation between the genetically modified corn and cancer. Although the rat groups consisted of 10, the study can still testify to the fact that no evidence supports the argument that GMOs cause cancer. It is nothing more than an uninformed hypothesis.
Mitigating Climate Change and Solving World Hunger at the Same Time
Biotech cropland made up 10% of all arable land on Earth in 2011, an 8% increase from the previous year.
GM crops’ programmed abilities to better withstand extreme weather events such as extreme temperatures and more varied precipitation levels means that farms better withstand climate change; this halts the effect of changing climate on our ability to produce food in a world with growing populations.
Farmers in Africa, where the climate crisis is hitting hardest, can use this science to fight desertification ruining their yeilds, and the same with areas that are experiencing way more rainfall than normal.
It’s all common sense, but the process is much harder than it should be. Expensive seeds aren’t easy to find their way into poor countries unless companies start giving more away like they did in Haiti in 2010.
The increase in genetically engineered varieties in Africa is looking extremely promising. The progress with GMO corn in South Africa has already shown how much greater the biotech corn fares against weather changes than conventional corn, and this trend could save millions of lives in the long run should it be adopted across the continent.
The world is seeing GMOs grown to combat climate change, and in the process, it’s producing more yield than possible before, feeding more people and saving lives. Way to kill two birds with one stone!
The anti-GMO movement has been strong for decades and shows that many people aren’t aware of the facts of science. There is no evidence to support that GMOs are harmful to human health.
The negative impacts of huge corporations on small farms and the environment are completely the companies faults, not the science of the food they are growing.
The issues of malnutrition, climate change, and world hunger can all be helped with the aid of genetically modified organisms designed to fix these major cracks in our economic and climatological systems.
Don’t let the wrath and smearing of anti-GMO activists and irresponsible corporations make you turn your eyes from the evidence. The world depends on it.