Theoretically, GMO crops are science’s gift to the farmer. Imagine the potential of genetically engineered plants that produce a bigger harvest with a longer shelf life, require a shorter growing season, and need less water, are resistant to pests, herbicides and freezing temperatures. With the higher yield and lower production costs resulting from the genetic engineering of these staple crops, the logical reaction would be to welcome them with open arms.
Still, farmers from are reacting unfavorably to genetically engineered plants on their farms. One of the reasons is the threat to their livelihoods – many are captive to contracts that require them to pay or be prosecuting for seeds taken from their own harvest due to intellectual property issues. Another is the threat to the environment brought about by cross-pollination and harm to beneficial organisms such as butterflies, bees and farm animals.
The biggest issue, however, is the threat to the consumer– you.
Are Genetically Modified Crops Safe?
2010 statistics from the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture show that the bulk of crops grown in the United States are grown from genetically modified seeds. These include soy (91%), corn (85%), sugar beets (90%), canola (88%) and cotton (88%), as well as Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini, yellow squash and other gmo fruits and vegetables. With the prevalence of these products in the daily consumption of the average family in various forms, there is indeed cause for concern.
Biotechnology firms and their supporters insist that there is no proof of the dangers these genetically modified crops pose to health and the environment. On the contrary, reports and independent studies of adverse effects of GMOs are on the rise, showing allergic reactions, infertility and reproductive problems, dangerous changes in liver and other vital organs, damage to immune systems and emergence of antibiotic-resistant viral strains, cancer and more directly attributably to GMOs.
Genetic Engineering In Agriculture – Boon Or Bane?
Using genetic engineering in agriculture to produce new varieties of crops with specific desired traits, is supposed to forward the admirable goal of increasing food supply and availability. Unfortunately, the introduction of DNA from unrelated plants and animals, including viruses and bacteria, to create new varieties with specific desired traits also has had deleterious consequences on consumer health as well. A few examples are:
- GM corn created with Bacillum thuringiensis (Bt) to develop resistance to the corn borer has been found to cause fatal allergic reactions in the Philippines
- Genetically engineered potatoes created to release lectin has been found to cause precancerous growths in the mice intestines
- Brazil nut genes introduced into the dna of the ge soybean and other crops to inrease nutritional profiles also caused allergic reactions in people with no known prior allergies
Cross-pollination is also a real issue with farmers. Pollen from transgenic crops can be blown into non gmo crops, making non gmo corn, soybeans and other non gmo crops unavailable in the future, as well as increasing pest and herbicide resistance of nearby weeds and other unwanted plants. Another danger is to beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies, as well as farm animals that may wander into the crops. And while there have been no long-term studies available regarding effects of these plants on the soil and groundwater, any problems that arise will affect future crops– and in turn– your food supply as well.