A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any plant, animal, or organism whose DNA has been altered in a lab using genetic engineering.
GMOs first appeared in 1973 when Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen cut DNA from another organism and pasted it into another one. In the United States, some of the most common genetically engineered (GE) foods are corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, and papaya.
Nowadays, farmers rely much more on GMOs because they can produce more food to feed the growing population. The food is tastier, more nutritious, cheaper, and also lasts longer inside your kitchen cabinets. GMO crops also produce more yield while using up less land, hence preventing deforestation.
When planting GMO crops, farmers use less fertilizer, water, and other resources that save time and energy because the plants are modified to grow faster and need less water and pesticides to save the crops. GMOs are also modified to absorb carbon dioxide and they help the environment by removing to 28 billion kilograms of CO2 from the atmosphere.
However, since 2012, due to safety concerns about pesticides and genetically modified foods, people have questioned if GMOs negatively affect their overall health.
Many health and environmental experts believe that the gene alterations in GMOs can cause diseases like allergies and cancer and affect people’s resistance to antibiotics.
What Do Different Health Experts Think of GMOs?
Opinion 1: GMOs are safe and have no adverse effects on health
Many experts believe that GMOs have great economic and environmental benefits. They also believe that GMOs have no effect on people’s overall health.
Since 1973, farmers have started growing and using GMOs to create crops that are resistant to pesticides and even certain types of bacteria. Scientists would argue that GMOs are healthier than traditionally grown foods because farmers use fewer pesticides when growing GMOs, so they pose fewer risks to people’s health.
Some scientists created genetically engineered (GE) foods to address health problems throughout the world. For instance, in the 1990s, some scientists created golden rice. It is a genetically engineered form of rice that is more nutritious than white rice because it contains beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. It prevents vitamin A deficiency which impairs immunity and causes blindness in children in developing countries.
Experts argue that genetically modified foods are subject to high standards of testing, so they are safe for consumption. Multiple studies confirm that GMO consumption has no adverse effects on human health. The study, “An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research” indicates that GMOs are safe and pose no risks to people’s health.
Thus, despite people’s fears, genetically modified foods are safe to consume and do not cause chronic health problems or diseases.
Opinion 2: GMOs are Harmful and can Cause Health Problems
In recent years, many experts have become critical of the use of GMOs and believe that they are harmful to human health. They argue that artificially introducing genes into something else could cause a variety of different health problems.
For instance, some people fear that engineered genes in GMOs may cause genetic alterations in human DNA. These alterations can lead to genetic mutations in the body that may cause cancer.
In addition, some experts claim that GMOs cause organ toxicity, which leads to the development of several diseases such as kidney or liver dysfunction.
This is because some GMO crops are more resistant to herbicides and need to be sprayed with herbicides more frequently. The toxins in the herbicides can end up in the GMO crops and are later absorbed by the body causing several diseases.
Another problem that GMOs may cause is antibiotic resistance. With more people becoming resistant to antibiotics, people fear that the modified genes in GMO foods, which are resistant to bacteria, will also cause people to become resistant to that bacteria.
The study, “Risks and Precautions of Genetically Modified Organisms,” points out the negative effects GMOs may have on the environment as well as human health. It discusses the adverse effects of bacteria and viruses developing antibacterial resistance to certain medications, putting entire populations of vulnerable people at risk of dying from disease.
Experts also believe that if scientists use genes from a known allergen and introduce it into something else, it may cause allergies in some people. For example, if corn or wheat genes were introduced into another organism, some people may be allergic to that GMO if they are allergic to wheat or corn.
They also argue that GMOs pose a threat to the environment in the long run. This is because GMOs affect the biodiversity of the planet. GMOs can compete with certain crops and cause them to die out, reducing species diversity and affecting the delicate balance of the ecosystem.
Experts fear what the long-term effects of GMOs will be on our health and the environment. They call for more studies on GMO foods and better regulatory laws to control what we put in our foods.
Do You Think GMOs are Safe or Harmful?
Share your thoughts on this topic in the forum below.
Vote “YES” if you think GMOs are safe for human consumption. "NO", if you think they are bad for health and can lead to the development of diseases.