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In recent years, there has been a massive spike in organic food sales. As studies emerge on the potential health drawbacks caused by processed, modified, and enhanced foods, consumers are educated themselves on the consequences. The addition of genetically modified organisms in food has become an especially heated debate regarding whether or not they pose any danger to the health of the consumer. Fortunately, many companies have strived to produce quality products that are free of GMO’s.
GMO stands for genetically modified organism and is defined as living organisms that are genetically reengineered to contain plant, animals, bacteria, and virus genes that aren’t found naturally. The artificial makeup finds purpose in resisting herbicides, and giving naturally grown foods the properties of processed foods to some extent. For example, apples with GMO’s will not brown nearly as quickly as organically grown apples.
Scientists are coming up with aggressive and unusual DNA modification applications. Pigs are able to glow in the dark with the insertion of a gene from a luminescent fish. Potatoes are modified to no longer bruise. Tomatoes have been altered so they can resist freezing temperatures.
GMO’s are mostly used within the crop industry. According to LiveScience, “at least 90% of the soy, cotton, canola, corn, and sugar beets sold in the United States have been genetically engineered”. One major goal for the use of GMO’s in the agriculture industry is to create crop resistance to insect pests and therefore reduce the amount of chemicals needed to secure the plants from infection.
Packaged foods are on the watch list for GMO ingredients. Because these foods typically contain soy, canola, corn, or sugar beet, it’s likely the source of the ingredient has been genetically modified. Animal products such as eggs, milk, meat, seafood, and honey are also likely to contain GMO’s. The genetically modified organisms found in animal products are typically derived from their feed.
GMO’s have only been a part of our diet for about 15 years. Given this, it’s hard for scientists to study any long-term impacts of their consumption. There have however been conclusive studies on what GMO’s do to the health of animals. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, “Genetically modified foods have been linked to toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile and dead livestock, and damage to virtually organ studied in lab animals”. It’s even been stated that consumption of GMO’s has led to immune system malfunction, gastrointestinal issues, and infertility of animals.
Although not yet proven, some doctors are equating GMO’s to the increase of conditions like autism, allergies, reproductive disorders, and even cancer. Because the process behind creating GMO’s is taking a gene from one organism and engineering it into a completely unrelated organism, the outcome can be unpredictable. Side effects can contain increased allergens, carcinogen production, and dangerous toxins. The Government and other administrations, including the FDA, just loosely monitor these outcomes.
Not only is GMO consumption harmful to people, but the existence of GMO’s in general puts the environment in danger as well. Because crops become more resistant to chemicals like herbicide, farmers tend to spray excess amounts of chemicals to attack the opposition. GMO foods are said to have increased traces of these chemicals. If not properly washed, the consumption of these herbicides can cause birth defects, infertility, and other hormone breakdowns. The chemical spray also harms the animals, water, soil, and insects around the crop site.
Though the studies are split between whether GMO consumption is safe or not, it should be known that the research done to prove its safety has been widely funded by biotechnology based companies. It’s likely that within the next 20 years, scientists will have more conclusive evidence on how GMO’s impact human health in the long run. Much of the animosity, aside from physical studies, stands within the fact that these GMO foods are unnatural, and we’ve been taught that natural foods are the best for us. It’s odd to consider your apples, potatoes, or tomatoes were at some point created in a laboratory rather than straight out of the ground. The sci-fi feel behind the entire process scares many people, as it should.
Another political debate surrounding GMO’s are whether or not foods containing GMO’s should be labeled as so. In 2015, the FDA approved a ruling that GMO foods only need to be labeled as such, if they are nutritionally different than their non-GMO counterpart. The FDA claims that there are no known harmful effects on the health of humans and therefore there is no need for GMO labeling. Independent scientists however have found different results for the same studies. Many companies are taking it into their own hands by creating GMO free packaged foods and labeling them as such. They’re taking this precaution due to the delicate and very volatile subject.
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