Genetically modified organisms, often referred to as GMO’s, are any living thing, typically plants, whose genes have been altered by scientists. In today’s world GMO’s are used in crazy numbers. Just about anything you eat contains a genetically modified organism of some sort. Some of the most common types of organisms that are modified are crops like corn or tomatoes. They are able to provide new and beneficial characteristics to the plants that aid in production and nutrition. The long term effects of GMO’s have not been studied very well, which causes many people to raise their eyebrows at how common they have become. Let’s take a look at the good and bad things that we know about genetically modified organisms.
The Advantages of GMOs
1. More Nutritious Crops
One of the best things that GMO’s have brought to us is food sources with more nutritional properties. Science has managed to pump up the vitamin content in some of the most commonly consumed foods, such as corn. This was mainly done so that places with a low variety of food can still obtain the nutrients that they need.
2. Higher Yielding Crops Equal Lower Prices
Another thing that genetic modification has accomplished is a higher yielding crop percentage. This means that there is less plant loss, and the plants themselves produce more fruits than before. This jump in production has resulted in much lower food costs.
3. A Much Longer Shelf Life
Some plants, like the tomato, have even been engineered to stay fresher for a longer period of time. This is great because it allows there to be less loss at the supermarket and in the home, driving the price further down.
4. More Resilient Animals
Crops and plants are not the only types of organisms that are being genetically engineered. Animals have also began to undergo the process. Scientists have been able to make the genes of some animals more resistant to illness and disease, mainly for animals that need to stay alive and healthy in factory farm conditions.
5. Toughen Them Up
Pests and weather conditions are two of the main problems when it comes to farming and crops. If the weather changes drastically, normal plants are not able to withstand. Pests, like insects, are also a big problem because they can eat up the harvest. GMO’s have been designed to not only repel insects and other types of pests, but to survive and adapt in ever changing weather as well.
The Disadvantages of GMOs
1. Spreading The Wealth
By making plants that are resistant to pesticides and climate problems, you run the risk of cross pollination. Cross pollination could easily spread these same traits to weeds and other harmful plants. Plants and animals that are engineered to have resistances to bacteria and viruses, could lead to even stronger and more deadly illnesses.
2. Not Enough Research
The long term effects and consequences of consuming or creating genetically modified organisms has not yet been studied in great detail. There is no way to know what types of changes it will cause in the ecosystem or the damage it could be doing within the body.
3. An Increase In Food Allergies
The proteins that are in a food are what causes a person to be allergic to them. With genetically modified food, foreign proteins are spliced into the DNA of the crop. This causes a huge allergy risk because there is no way to understand or know what type of protein you are consuming and are allergic to. This has, in fact, caused a pretty significant rise in food allergies, especially in children.
4. Antibiotic Resistance
One of the things that are put into GMO food are antibiotic resistant genes, this is done to keep track of which genes where successfully inserted. The risk that is attached with this is that bacteria within the plants can obtain these same antibiotic resistant properties and aid in the development of antibiotic resistant disease.
5. Higher Production Costs
While GMO crops may produce a more bountiful harvest, it certainly comes at a cost. The cost for genetically modified seeds is very high, and this cost is often transferred onto the consumer. Also, the plants do not grow any faster, so no real time is saved using GMO seeds.
6. A Lack of Labeling
GMO’s are in nearly 90 percent of fresh and processed foods. They are becoming extremely common, but there is only one little problem, you would never know. There are no laws that require foods that contain genetically modified organisms to be labeled. This raises concerns for people who do not wish to consume these types of foods.