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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Genetically Modified Foods: Genetically Altered Organisms and Your Food

Oleh: Shannon Johnson, 2009

GMO's are becoming more and more prevelant in domestic and international food sources. The effects of these products are still not fully understood.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to genetically modified foods. Because there are a relatively new phenomenon, the long-term effects of GMO's are on our eco-system and our bodies is unknown. The United States is the international leader of GMO growers, followed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay and South Africa.


Genetically modified organisms are crops that are created for human/animal consumption using biomolecular technology that alters the genetic makeup of the plants and/or seeds used to grow them. The genetic makeup of these plants is tinkered with to enhance certain traits and remove others.

Advantages of GMO’s

Proponents of genetically modified foods argue that their manufacture is a way to meet the ever-present need for more food sources in a scientifically sound way. Plants can be genetically modified to be resistant to pests, which in turn, eliminates the need for use of chemical pesticides. Herbicides, which are used to remove weeds from crops, contribute to environmental havoc, due to their massive use and corresponding drain off into water systems. The use of herbicides can be circumvented by the creation of plants that require less use of herbicides than non-GMO plants.

There are a number of other stated advantages of genetically altered foods such as resistance to disease, increased tolerance for cold and drought, and higher nutritional content.

Dangers of GMO’s

Even though there has been wide spread acceptance of GMO food and plants there are a number of groups, including, scientists, government study groups, environmentalists, among others that are concerned with the long term effects of GMO’s and the havoc they can potentially wreck on our ecosystem. Environmentally GMO’s can upset the natural order of growth and life cycles for organisms that feed on GMO plants.

For instance, pollen from genetically modified corn had a detrimental effect on the Monarch butterfly due to an unintentional spread of the pollen to their food source. There is concern that these unintentional occurrences of GMO spread could not only kill off natural predators of plants but also create animals/pest that are pesticide resistant.

There have been no long term studies on the effect of GMO’s on humans, but scientists fear that there can be unintended effects similar to that of the monarch butterfly that could be irreversible. What is extremely important is the fact that due to no requirement for labeling, the choice of ingesting these products has been taken away from the American public-, which is why more and more groups are calling for stricter governmental standards of these types of foods.

There is a lot left to be discovered about the advantages and disadvantages of GMO’s, until then the best way to avoid them is to buy locally grown, organic foods that are able to be traced back to a particular source.