So my post today may be a little bit controversial, so I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it.But recently, I’ve been doing some research and I have come to the conclusion that GMO’s are not as bad as they’re often made out to be.
For those that aren’t familiar, GMO’s are Genetically Modified Organisms. Any organism whose genetic material have been altered using genetic engineering techniques. And they get a ton of bad press. Google “GMO” the articles are all about why to avoid them, why they’re bad, etc.
In our society, we are really bad for finding a story and running with it. Whether it be deciding that gluten is bad, without understanding what gluten actually is; blaming corporations for being evil companies with the intention only to make profit no matter who is hurt in the process; or blaming the food industry for all terrible atrocities; we all want a scapegoat that we can point our finger at to blame them for the issues.
Now, I am not saying that GMOs are great and we should eat all of them. But what I am saying is when I started looking into research of GMOs, what I found shattered my previous thoughts. And I wanted to share with you guys, to see what your thoughts were on it.
First, let’s acknowledge the need for GMO. Today, the world currently has 7.25 billion people. By 2050, it is expected the population will be 9.6 billion people. Already, people around the world starve to death everyday (and I realise that it’s partially a distribution problem- trust me, food waste is another topic I’ll be coming to soon). But- add in the changing climate, with global warming, droughts around the world, the issues with factory farming animals; and there is a very big question that needs to be asked. How can we expect to feed an ever-growing planet of people?
Generally, the bad press about GMO’s focuses on the fact that they are unsafe and cause health issues. Websites such as The non-GMO project state that no GMO traits have been proven to increase yield of a product, enhanced nutrition, drought tolerance or any other consumer benefit. They also state that most countries consider them unsafe. Having never looked into it until a few weeks ago, that was always my thought about GMOs- they were unsafe, and we didn’t have a need.
The other big issue with GMOs is that they are manufactured by large corporations. The name “Monsanto” is known by almost everyone as a terrible corporation. As they have provided the technology of the seed with the increased resistance to herbicides and pesticides, they want to protect that technology and have patented it. There is an infamous case of a Canadian farmer, who didn’t even buy the seed but wind blew the seed onto his farmland. He was sued (successfully) by Monsanto for growing this product without having paid for the use of it. On the non-GMO project website, they state instances like this are a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country that they grown.
So let’s look into these issues, shall we?
First up: are GMOs safe?
On the website The Facts about GMOs, there are 8 links that look into the safety of GMOs. One of which is a 10 year study that the EU participated in. The publication ultimately produced also links in other studies from the past 15 years, therefore covering 25 years in total. This study looked at 50 projects, involving more than 400 research groups, and represents research grants worth more than 200 million Euros. The study focuses on both scientific unknowns of GMOs, but also public concerns about the potential environment impacts of GMOs, food safety, the co-existence of non-GMOs and GMO crops, and risk assessment strategies. The general conclusion of this study?
GMOs are not more risky than conventional plant breeding technology.
The truth is that GM crops are heavily regulated by several government bodies. And while I know a lot of people don’t trust the government, even in the US, the Food and Drugs Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Department of Agriculture, Animal and and Plant Health Inspection Services are all involved to approve a GM crop to be allowed to grow. That’s a lot of red tape to jump through before it’s ever even approved to be grown.
Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects. One of the most notorious studies for GMO crops being unsafe, was a paper that claimed rats fed with GM potatoes suffered from damage to gut mucosa. But this paper was investigated by The Royal Society, and they have determined that the study was flawed and no conclusions could be drawn from it.
Based on this, GMOs do not appear to be unsafe.
Second issue is around the corporations who sell them.
One thing I’ve learnt, especially having been a business student in University, is people love to blame corporations. Enron collapses and the people who suffered were not the executives, but the many employees. The economic recession hit in 2009, and banks received major bail-outs from the government and then paid their executives a bonus whereas people around the world were out of work and losing everything. People see these examples as proof that all corporations are flawed and inherently evil.
Monsanto is the best example of a corporation that people love to hate. Google Monsanto and what do you see? “Millions march against Monsanto”, “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear”, “Monsanto and the conspiracy to kill”, “Why the climate corporation sold itself to Monsanto”.
Now, I’m certainly not saying that Monsanto is the best company in the world. I believe some of the things they have done are terrible, specifically in the past with Agent Orange (which is a huge other issue). But- I don’t believe it is the monster it is played out to be.
Monsanto is an agriculture company, who produces the seeds sold for GMOs. There is a fantastic article called “Why does everyone hate Monsanto” which looks at how the company has changed, from a chemical company in early 1900s, to selling the division and getting into agriculture and bio genetics research in the 80’s.
The article looks at the fact that Monsanto patents its seeds. As a corporation, it makes sense. A corporation exists to make money. How can it make money if it gives a product away for free?
I’ve often heard the argument against Monsanto patenting its seeds because this no longer allows farmers to use their harvest for seeds as next year (therefore saving costs). However, recently, I was speaking to a PhD graduate from the University of Leeds, whose dissertation was written around cross-breeding insects with cotton to make a more resistant cotton. He was telling me that these seeds were never approved or sold, due to the bad press that they received after being announced.
I can see why GMO’s serve a purpose, and from looking into it, they appear to be safer than what I had always assumed based off of popular opinion.
I’m curious though- what does everyone else think?