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What is GMO–and Why Do We Care? Part III

The Pros and Cons of Genetic Modification

by Olivia Bernadel-Huey So what’s the verdict on genetic modification?   The truth is we still don’t know, and neither do experts worldwide who remain debating the controversial issue from various different perspectives. One of the most relevant concerns about genetic modification is health.  Those against genetic modification argue that it has too many unintended health risks.  There is worry over introducing allergens from one plant into the new plant being genetically modified that could cause allergic reactions  from foods that people are not naturally allergic too.   Many are also troubled by how GMOs affect our bodies given evidence in certain studies.  For example, according to animal testing conducted by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, GMOs cause immune dysregulation, altered liver function, and changes in the pancreas, kidney, and spleen. While individual studies such as these do exist, the overwhelming evidence from the scientific community asserts that there are very few such risks from genetic modification, giving confidence to those in support of genetic modification.  The World Health Organization, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and American Health Association have all approved the safety of GMOs.  Furthermore, supporters advocate for the potential to genetically engineer more nutritious foods to help alleviate poverty and hunger—though whether or not developing farmers would be able to afford such seeds due to the restrictions the seed companies place on growing GMO seeds remains unclear. Environmental impact is also one of the greatest concerns with genetic modification.  GMO proponents argue for the benefits of genetically engineered traits such as herbicide and insect resistance and drought tolerance to increase crop yields.  However, with better adapted GMO crops comes the risk of creating plants which have the ability to outcompete their unmodified counterparts.  Those against genetic modification worry that this could lead to decreased biodiversity as our world’s natural species get pushed to extinction.  They also note that though there has been a decrease in insecticide use, there has been a much more dramatic increase in herbicide use. With crops genetically modified for herbicide resistance, farmers are able to douse their fields in chemicals without having to worry about the effect on their actual harvest.   Not only does this risk putting more toxins into our own bodies but it also has potential long term environmental impacts.  Many opponents of genetic modification worry about the risk of the evolution of “super weeds”, or plant pests which have developed herbicide resistance.  The increased use of herbicides corresponding with the rise of GMOs pushes species to adapt faster than they naturally would to survive the chemical attacks, leaving farmers and the agricultural industry vulnerable to unmanageable crop losses should such super weeds spread. Looking at GMO vs. Non-GMO from even just health and environmental perspectives, not to mention financial and economic standpoints, it is clear how complexly polarizing the issue remains.  The one thing we do know, however, is that we will not know the full ramifications of genetic modification until the years to come.  The technology is still new, and we cannot truly understand all the impacts it may have on our society and our world.  The best thing to do is to be well-informed, and make your own decision based on the best information you can find. Here at TruKid, we’re still working towards that goal.  And we hope that our blog has helped you begin that journey as well!   Sources http://grist.org/food/20-gmo-questions-animal-vegetable-controversy/#environment http://carrington.edu/blog/student-tips/health/genetically-modified-food-pros-and-cons/ http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/nutrition/genetically-engineered-foods/overview.html
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