By KRYSIA OLSZEWSKA
August 1, 2017
“Today, roughly 75-80% of foods are genetically modified in the United States. Which begs the question: is that as bad as many people say it is?”
What did you eat today?
We predict at least one item was genetically modified.
Today, roughly 75-80% of foods are genetically modified in the United States. Which begs the question: is that as bad as many people say it is?
Whether genetically modified foods are good or not, it’s important for us to be more educated about them because they are everywhere, and they go in our bodies.
GMOs, which stands for “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals made by humans using various gene splicing techniques. By altering an organism’s genome, humans are able to boost desirable traits, suppress negative ones, make organisms produce different enzymes and vitamins and even insert genes of a particular species into another to combine their traits together.
For example, crops are being altered to be pest resistant, and pigs, to make human insulin for helping people with diabetes.
According to a study by the Rutgers Cook College, 80% of Whole Foods Market shoppers surveyed said they would seek out clearly labeled non-GMO products and would be willing to pay more for these commodities.
GMO products have contributed to alleviating world hunger and have hugely benefited developing countries.
Many people are afraid that genetically modified crops are harmful to humans because they are unnatural.
However, it seems that GMO products have helped many people. GMO products have contributed to alleviating world hunger and have hugely benefited developing countries. For example, Golden Rice has been helping combat Vitamin A Deficiency, or (VAD), which causes more than one million deaths annually and half a million cases of irreversible blindness in the developing world.
Golden Rice, created in 2000, was genetically engineered to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Since it was first made, it has been fed to millions of people in Africa and India. In 2005, a new version was made, that creates 23 times more beta-carotene than the first.
In fact, it has been proven many times with rigorous tests that GMO foods have never caused a human illness and are often more nutritious than their natural counterparts. GMOs are always tested by the FDA before release.
Some of the many examples of nutritious GMO foods are Golden Rice, containing increased levels of vitamin A, and Purple Tomatoes, with the antioxidant levels of blueberries. By inserting two genes from blueberries into tomatoes, scientists have created tomatoes that have leading levels of antioxidants and twice the length of the shelf life of normal tomatoes. This is not because they are “unnatural” and “unhealthy,” rather, because these tomatoes produce less self-destructing enzymes which typically lead to rotting, meaning they are less susceptible to fungus.
They also show promise for helping the environment. Since GMOs can be made to be pest resistant, they don’t require additional pesticides. GMO grow quicker than normal foods, so they help the environment and economy by growing more food on less land and in less time.
Having longer shelf lives, GMO can significantly expand trade opportunities and reduce massive wastage during transport. Because of biotechnology, bacteria have been genetically modified to eat oil after oil spills, cleaning it up.
Biofuels, made from plant materials, can become a natural alternative to gasoline.
However, some people aren’t convinced that GMOs are completely safe and risk-free. Various studies are being conducted by scientists to end this dispute, some for the sake of science and some to prove the truth.
Naturally, upon first hearing the words “genetically modified food,” people become a little scared. Claims on the internet such as “Rats die after fed genetically modified potato” or “Mice grow tumors after eating GMO” only fuel that anxiety.
Although we do not yet know the long-term effects of GMO, many of the studies about GMO consumption health, at least so far, have been proved false.
The French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini published a scientific article in 2011 stating that Bt corn causes higher rates of cancer in rats. However, it was revealed that in his experiments in feeding the studying rats for two years, there were only ten rats per testing group, an insufficient amount to gather accurate data. Also, the particular type of rat used, the Sprague-Dawley rat, is particularly susceptible to tumors naturally. This became known as the Séralini affair.
Many times, similarly tweaked experiments, such as Árpád Pusztai’s study on the effects of genetically modified potatoes on rats in 1998, have been conducted and published, which is part of the reason why now genetically modified foods get a bad reputation.
It seems that the biggest reason people are afraid of genetically modified foods is that they assume they are harmful to humans. However, science has proven that this may not be the case.