Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). They’re everywhere. Your papaya. Your “all-natural foods.” Your corn-on-the-cob. The feed that the cows whose milk you drink were fed. And they are NOT harming us. In fact, they are providing our country with a more efficient, sustainable method of feeding our people.
So what exactly are GMOs? GMOs are organisms whose genetic material has been modified or altered through genetic engineering techniques. In simple terms, we are able to take an organism and change its genetic code just enough so that the organism is more suitable for our changing society’s needs. GMOs are often used in research with an example being introducing a fluorescent gene of a jellyfish into a mammal, which can help us discover valuable traits about human diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. But they are also used in agriculture. And that is the primary purpose of this blog post.
SUSTAINABILITY. Find a photo of a farm out in the country in the 1950’s. Now compare it to a picture of that same spot in 2013. Chances are that the land will look quite different. Or it may not look different at all, depending where the picture was taken. But my point is that the world is changing due to an increasingly growing population, development in rural areas, advancements in technologies, and the ability to conduct superior scientific research. With changing climates, less open land for farming, and poorer quality soil, insects and pests have become a predominant issue when it comes to growing crops in fields. Scientists and farmers began to use advancements in technology to create seeds that are resistant to pests/insects/weeds as well as seeds that can survive in more harsh conditions such as droughts. This means that by producing crops from GMO seeds, we are able to reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides that we need to spray on our crops, which results in less chemical runoff into the waterways. Reports by the Council for Agricultural Technology also indicate that GMO crops have decreased soil erosion, preserved top soil, and provided reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we are HELPING our environment to become a more sustainable place by using GMOs.
GMOs also help farmers to grow a greater amount of healthy crops so that our families can be fed. Now, I am not a farmer. I will NEVER pretend that I am a farmer or take credit for being a farmer. I do not have to milk cows at 4:00 A.M. or be out in the fields all day, and I can only imagine the amount of time and prayers for good weather that it takes to grow crops. GMOs help famers to grow more crops with their limited amount of time and land, all for the purpose of ultimately feeding us.
HEALTH. Another awesome advantage of GMO crops is that we can produce crops that have higher nutrient profiles, such as foods that are higher in Vitamin A. GOLDEN RICE. Better eyesight? Uhm, yes please.
QUALITY. According to the USDA, GMOs allows us to produce fruits and vegetables that are better tasting and that stay fresh longer. In a country that must rely on long transportation times to deliver foods from areas like California to New York, a product that has a longer shelf life is undoubtedly ideal.
SAFETY. Are GMOs safe? The primary reason that the public is concerned about consuming GMOs is because of safety. Putting substances into our bodies that have been changed using technology just seems questionable for many people. And in this media-indulged society, I can understand the desire to question it. Heck, I question a lot of what I hear in life. That is why I recommend that everyone researches both sides of an issue before making an educated decision, and I am going to recommend that you do that for GMOs as well. Just make sure to understand where the information is coming from and whether or not that person or organization they belong to is biased. Much of the information that the media shares about GMOs is extremely biased and false. But unfortunately that’s politics, folks.
Back to GMOs… There has been little to NO evidence that GMOs cause any harm to the environment, nor evidence in introducing unique allergens or toxins into the food system, nor threats to public health. In fact, GMO foods are one of the most studied areas of science, and all crops are tested by the FDA and approved by the World Health Organization. Here is a recent article by Forbes that will give you some additional information (more like 2,000+ reasons) informing us why GMOs are safe: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/2/. I posted this article on my Facebook page a few days ago, and I found it very interesting who “liked” it. It wasn’t geneticists or employees of big corporations that liked it, but rather it was farmers, food scientists, natural resources students, environmentalists, and medical/veterinary students from respectable institutions. That right there, says something, people. It’s not large companies or corporations that are “trying to take over the world” by creating GMO seeds. But rather, it’s the doctors, the agriculturalists, the scientists, the environmentalists who understand the need for a safe method of bettering our health system in an efficient and sustainable way.
So why are we so afraid of GMOs? People are constantly searching for “non-GMO” products at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. I was in charge of dairy product sales for a farm in New Jersey for a year, and I should have really kept a tally of the number of times that customers/potential restaurant owners asked if our products were non-GMO. Despite the benefits of GMOs, they are consistently given a bad reputation and quite frankly, it’s a result of the media, politics, paranoia, and society’s current obsession with “health” trends. This frustrates me beyond belief because I understand the reasons that we use GMOs, the substantial credible scientific research that has been performed to validate their presence, and the many benefits that aid in a more sustainable country resulting from GMO use.
I am just fine with eating a cob of corn from a genetically-modified seed or cheese made from milk of cows fed GMO feed. That may sound absurd to the many consumers out there who strive to buy only non-GMO products, but when you compare the concrete facts with the misconceptions, it makes sense.
Thank you to GMOs for making our country a more sustainable place, for helping us to feed a growing population, and for providing us with the ability to study and prevent diseases to better our society. Hats off to you, GMOs.
Until next time (which I PROMISE will not be three months from now),