One of the most debated topics is the safety of GMOs. Genetically modified organisms are not the death sentence portrayed by some outlets. Before this goes too far, and people stop reading in fear of being offended, let me tell you what this article is not…
First, this article is not about belittling organic farmers. Organic farms take a lot of work to maintain and individuals that are willing to put in that time deserve respect. Also, this article is not solely based on my own opinion. My husband and his family farm use GMOs , but that does not mean I trust his word alone on issues like this. Studies and scientific research hold higher value.
Now that is out-of-the-way, let’s get down to business.
OMG, what is GMO?
Genetically modified organisms have been around for a while. Choosing desirable traits genetically modifies that organism. Farmers actively choose traits by planting certain varieties and not others. When harvested, farmers take note to which variety performed the best. Those varieties get planted again and the others don’t. Over a long period of time, this changes what traits survive.
The term genetically modified organism is misleading. The term that should be used is a genetically engineered organism or a transgenic organism.
Some people have a phobia of transgenic organisms because they don’t understand them. (Transphobia anyone?) Some even go as far as to say, “Well Europe doesn’t have them, so we shouldn’t either”. True, the EU has banned some GMOs. But, they haven’t found them to be risky.
Statements from Professionals
American Association for the Advancement of Science – “The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”
World Health Organization – “GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
European Commission – “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”
Hundreds of well-known organizations have said similar things. Why then do people still have a hard time trusting GMOs?
In Defense of Science
I think a lot of fear comes to our minds. Scientists don’t pop up in our heads as normal people in white coats. Rather, we think of a MAD scientist out to rule the world one lizard gene at a time…
But that is not what GMOs are about. They help farmers, consumers, and the environment in many different ways.
One of the first things mentioned about GMOs is the ability to grow more food on less land. Which, alone could make up its own blog post. So could all of these:
- Less and less land is used as farm land every year
- The population keeps growing (as of this post there are over 7,526,000,000 people)
- Fewer pesticides/herbicides/insecticides have to be used because the plants are healthy without them
Giving the detail these topics deserve would make this simple blog post, a textbook. But I have to write about one! Here is the most important reason GMOs are not only safe but needed.
The Golden Ticket
According to a publication made by seven international science societies called Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture, GMOs have improved health. Golden Rice is one of the more recent improvements. It adds vitamin A (β-carotene) to seeds so they are present in the grain.
Golden rice is a scientific breakthrough for those that suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. Known as VAD, Vitamin A deficiency compromises the immune system. Over 400 million people in east Asia and parts have Africa suffer from VAD. It can lead to different childhood infections that can become deadly fast. Just to name a few;
- impaired vision – possible irreversible blindness
- impaired epithelial integrity – meaning affected people get infections easier
- impaired hemopoiesis – meaning reduced ability to transport oxygen in the blood
In East Asia and Africa, the main food source is rice. Rice doesn’t naturally contain vitamin A. Until Golden Rice showed its beautiful face
“The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have announced the winners of the 2015 recipients of the Patents for Humanity Award, among them the Golden Rice Project.” – 2015 Patents for Humanity article
Yeah, it’s that big of a deal!
As always, Be kind.
Sources & Neat Stuff
A General Overview of GMO’s
the science guy and Mr. Neil Degrasse Tyson Discussion
Quotes from Companies
AAAS (October 2012) Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods, Available online at: http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/AAAS_GM_statement.pdf
WHO (2012) 20 questions on genetically modified foods. Available online at: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/
NAS (2004) Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. Available online at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309092094
RSM (2008) Genetically modified plants and human health, Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2408621/
EC (2010) A decade of EU-funded GMO research. Available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/research/biosociety/pdf/a_decade_of_eu-funded_gmo_research.pdf
ASPB (Date Unknown) Statement on Plant Genetic Engineering. Available online at: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/my.aspb.org/resource/group/6d461cb9-5b79-4571-a164-924fa40395a5/statements/genetic_engineering.pdf
ASCB (Date Unknown) ASCB Statement in Support of Research on Genetically Modified Organisms. Available online at: http://www.ascb.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=315&Itemid=31
ASM (2000) Statement of the American Society for Microbiology on Genetically Modified Organisms Available online at: http://www.asm.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3656&Itemid=341
CSSA (2001) CSSA PERSPECTIVE ON BIOTECHNOLOGY. Available online at: https://www.crops.org/files/science-policy/cssa-biotech-perspective.pdf
WSF (2005) Genetically Modified Crops and Plant Breeding. Available online at: http://www.worldseed.org/cms/medias/file/PositionPapers/OnSustainableAgriculture/Genetically_Modified_Crops_and_Plant_Breeding_20050601_(En).pdf
CAST (2005) Crop Biotechnology and the Future of Food: A Scientific Assessment. Available online at: https://www.cast-science.org/download.cfm?PublicationID=2922&File=1030a75513ab37030c8f7fb4d6a443729335TR
SIVB (2011) POSITION STATEMENT ON CROP GENETIC ENGINEERING. Available online at: http://www.sivb.org/publicPolicy_CropEngineering.asp
IAS () Position statement on biotechnology. Available online at: http://www.isaaa.org/kc/Publications/htm/articles/Position/isas.htm
14 Italian Science Organisations (2004) Sicurezza alimentare e OGM: Consensus Document. Available online at: http://www.siga.unina.it/circolari/Consensus_ITA.pdf
SOT (2003) The Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Produced through Biotechnology. Available online at: http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/71/1/2.full
TWAS (2000) Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture. Available online at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=9889