A GMO (genetically modified organism) is briefly described as any organism that has been genetically altered. It involves selecting favorable genes from an organism and then artificially infusing them into a different unrelated organism. The resulting characteristics then become much more superior to those of the parent organisms. For example, spider genes spliced with a goat’s DNA produce a unique type of goatmilk. The goatmilk contains spider web proteins that significantly improve its applications.
Evolution of technology has sparked the growth of synthetically developed genes like Monsanto’s infamous rBGH hormone. Such genes, however, have a somewhat disapproving reception in public due to their many potential risks. Nevertheless, a 2016 analysis done by the National Academies of Sciences Media, Engineering, and Medicine, argues that the genetically modified foods are generally safe to eat.
On the other hand, there are some disquieting videos and audio interviews and data that claim facts that are contrary to the above information. But since extensive research backs both sides of the safety dilemma, it is up to the consumer to discern what is best. To help you on that decision, here is a compiled list of the pros and cons of GMOs.
Advantages of GMOs
1. Exceptionally High Yields and Greater Profits for Farmers
A 2014 metanalysis on the impacts of genetically modified crops proved that use of GM (genetic modification) technology significantly boosted crop yields. Focusing on corn, the study recorded an average increase in yield for GM corn by 24.6% in South Africa. A review by PG Economics in 2015 also asserted that GM crops provided benefits of 133.4 billion dollars from 1996 to 2013. Half of the gains went to farmers in developing nations.
2. Opportunity to Grow Crops in New Areas
Crops can be engineered to make them more resistant to varying degrees of temperature. GMOs like transgenic tobacco plants can now be grown in cold regions and during cold seasons. If you understand tobacco, then you know it only does well in extremely hot environments, right? Not to mention the new GM drought resistant crops which for obvious reasons now grow in arid areas. Looking at the greater picture, GMOs might be the answer to resettling and reallocating refugees.
3. Smart Technology in Crops
Crop growth in extreme conditions helps in the establishment of food cultures in newly colonized planets. For example, Nasa’s bioengineered Jelly-plants sense and monitor their surroundings for unfavorable stimuli. The plants then trigger specific responses to elements in their environment that counter the unwanted stimuli. In layman’s language, the plants check for what they don’t want and then move to eliminate it.
4. Eradication of Pesticides and Fertilizers
With the creation of disease resistant, high yielding, and pest repelling crops, the use of pesticides and fertilizers becomes no longer necessary. Pesticides cause air, water, and soil pollution, decrease biodiversity, and even reduce nitrogen fixation.
5. Feeding the Ever-growing Population
The World Health Organization reported in 2017 that 11% of the global population suffers from hunger. To counter large-scale malnutrition GM technology has developed high yield, nutritive crops. Genetically engineered Golden Rice, for example, converts Beta-carotene to Vitamin A when consumed.
However, malnourished people may not be able to efficiently absorb Vitamin A. For this reason, further scrutiny of Golden Rice is still ongoing. No doubt if given enough time the research will lead to seeds that contain more nutrients.
Demerits of GMOs
Any slight errors during the genetic engineering process may cause increased production of toxins hazardous to humans. At times, a popular technique involves fusing together incompatible genes. The effects of such methods may range from minor to fatal if not well regulated.
2. Decreased Quality and Value.
In a bid to increase the yield of certain crops, genetic modification eventually results in reduced nutritional composition. A good example is GM soybeans. A journal published by the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research shows that natural, unmodified soybeans contain a far higher nutritional value.
3. Uncertain Safety
The New York Times recently reported that 90% of scientists believe GMOs are safe. This statistic leaves a worrisome 10% of elite, respectable, and experienced scientists worldwide that probably believe the converse is true.
GMOs are a great solution to food security. It may take a long time before any similar significant answer to hunger is found, so GMOs are our best bet for now. We should not, however, ignore the numerous health complaints and problems that stem from GMOs. We may need them, but we do not have to suffer because of them.
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