Let's go, GMO
You eat. I eat. We all consume an abundance of food everyday. But where do all the beautiful, tasty fruits and vegetables, come from? Farms usually. Now, answer this -- what do all of your foods have in common? Wait, what was that? DNA, you say? Yes, good. Very science. (If you said anything other than DNA, check this out.)
There is a key food-related acronym that is thrown around at many dinner conversations – GMO’s. If you are familiar with the hustling and bustling food industry, your reaction could range from
So what’s the deal with GMO’s anyway? Let’s start with some essential questions.
GMO's or “genetically modified organism” is where the DNA of a certain species is artificially inserted into another organism. Another term for this is genetic modification or genetic engineering. They were first created in 1994 when the Flavr Savr tomatoes were introduced to the food industry. Since then, more GM foods have made their way into our refrigerators.
So let’s cut to it, are they harmful or not? Well you can look at this issue from different perspectives. First, let’s look at the impact engineered food has on our health. The main concern for food scientists is to evaluate whether the GMO-based foods are sufficiently similar to their non-engineered counterparts, which are generally considered safe for you and your family. The scientific community almost unanimously agree that GMO's are safe to eat, in addition to the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, and the American Medical Association. For a few of many examples of support, look here and here and here. Additionally, the FDA has clear guidelines for what can and cannot reach our chopping boards. Despite all of the scientific research, a large number of countries, including many EU nations, have completely banned cultivation of GM foods. So after thorough scientific analysis and proof of the benefits GMO crops can bring, including reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, why do most still get the heebeegeebees when it comes to GMO's?
That brings us to the second issue, which isn’t about the science or safety of the crops, but rather the moral implication of the science. Monsanto, one of the biggest GMO companies in the world, dominates the supply of many insecticide and herbicide-resistant crop seeds, raising patenting and farmer’s rights issues. But more than that, people are not only usually resistant to science-y things they don’t understand (milk pasteurization and the microwave, for example), but also there is the underlying philosophical quandary of playing God with nature.
So whether you feel
about GMO's, it’s always helpful to know the science and ethics behind the issue.
An excellent primer on the safety of GMO’s can be found here.
For what is next in GMO technology, check this out.
If you are asking whether we even need GMO’s, this article might provide some insight.
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