Are GMOs the way to GMGo?

DNA? by Thomas Wensing via Flickr

GMOs – or Genetically Modified Organisms – have been the focus of a lot of controversy within the global community. Many countries including Japan, Australia and all of the EU have strict rules regarding the production, sale and use of GMOs. Other countries, like the USA have fallen in love with GMOs, with much of their agriculture now making prolific use of them. So why is there such a huge divide between those who love and those who hate GMOs?

Genetic modification has a lot of benefits to farmers and consumers. It’s used in agriuture to help withstand harsh environments, resist disease, produce higher yields and in some cases even add to the nutritional value. With genetic modification scientists have created goats that make silk, rice with vitamin A and cotton that produces its own pesticide. All of these things sound great right? Perhaps not. Some groups state that GMOs could be having an impact on the environment and on the consumer’s health

So what are the downsides of genetic modification

One major concern for many anti-GMO groups is the health of the average consumer. One major concern is with plants that have been modified to produce their own natural pesticides, like the Bt corn and Bt soy bean. The protein produced by these plants that gives them the insecticide properties is based on proteins created by a kind of bacteria which are harmful to only specific insects. Farmers already use Bt proteins in standard insecticides, but the difference is that the protein used here is directly taken from the bacteria. The protein produced in Bt crops was changed slightly and so now there are concerns that the proteins may no longer be specific to pests and are toxic to people that consume them.

The environment is another big concern for anti-GMO groups. The main problem in the environment is that genetically modified crops have the potential to affect wild variants of the plants. Since plants can breed with each other and spread very easily it is possible that gene transfer between crops and wild plants could occur. This could have an effect on the ecology in many areas, in that is could affect local wildlife and genetically modified plants could outcompete other wild plant life.

But what can they bring to the table?

Mostly they bring extra food, which is fantastic by itself, but they also bring a lot of other bonuses with them too. One great example of this being golden rice. This genetically engineered rice contains beta-carotene, which is used in the body to produce vitamin A. This could save countless lives in countries where vitamin A deficiency is a huge cause for child mortality and disease.

Many scientists think that GMO research should continue, believing that the benefits outweigh any concerns. Many consumers just want GMOs to be labelled on shelves. What are your thoughts?

4 Responses to “Are GMOs the way to GMGo?”

  1. Kieren Topp says:

    Hi Tate, I think this is a very interesting point. What are your thoughts on food patents for conventional produce, or Organic produce, or any other food products? Is there something inherently dangerous about GE patents?

    Indeed, the over-zealous regulation of genetic engineering has driven up research and development prices. This in turn has pushed out small businesses and meant only those with enough capital can invest in such research. Then patents are needed to recoup these high costs.

    This is a very complicated and nuanced issue, unfortunately!

  2. Kieren Topp says:

    Nice article Daniel! Although this statement seems a little strange: “… it is possible that gene transfer between crops and wild plants could occur.”

    All life on Earth transfers genes by way of reproduction. Genetic modification uses the same genes that all other life uses, so I’m struggling to see where the issue is. Whether the gene was accurately selected, or cross-bred ‘naturally’, it’s still a gene to be spread in the wild.

  3. Tate says:

    I have no objections with eating GMOs. But I do think that the management of patented GMOs is problematic.

  4. Lucy Baker says:

    I personally think if we can guarantee it’s safe it could really help!