What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
Genetically Modified Food (GMF)
An organism that has been genetically modified (GMO) is one that has been genetically altered utilizing genetic engineering techniques. The main organisms that have been modified are bacteria, yeast, insects, plants, fish and mammals. They are the source of genetically modified food (GMF). These organisms are used for scientific research, and they also are used to produce other goods beside food.
Billybic wrote a hub about reading food labels and challenged me to write about Monsanto and the genetically modified food. So, I could not turn down that challenge. This is the result of a rather large amount of research. Thanks Billy.
List of Genetically Modified Foods
There is a lot of controversy about GMF; however, many people see GMF as the answer to world hunger. The sale of genetically modified food began in 1994 with Calgene’s FlavrSavr tomatoes. Other common GMFs are soybeans, corn, canola and cotton seed oil. The genetic engineering has been focused on faster growth, pathogen resistance and production of extra nutrients. Genetically modified livestock are also being developed but none are on the market at this time.
There is a rather broad scientific consensus that these foods have no greater risks to humans than conventional foods. The critics of GMF object to this food on several fronts. The Monsanto Company is responsible for 90 percent of all GM seed in the United States. In addition, it is responsible for GM seeds and crops worldwide. They are best known for the herbicide Roundup. Many people believe Roundup damages the soil and ultimately produces herbicide-resistant superweeds and health problems.
Typical label with GMF
Possible Organ Damage from GMF
Once scientific study found that GMF may cause organ damage, particularly to the liver and kidneys. The court forced Monsanto to release this study, revealing the raw data. It was felt that Monsanto glossed over some important facts. For instance, if there was not liver or kidney damage in both male and female rats they did not count that statistic. The fact is that sex related differences are quite common in diseases, particularly those involving the liver or kidneys.
Genetically Modified Food Labeling
Another area of controversy is labeling. There are no laws in the United States that require GMF products to be labeled as such. Many people think they have a right to know what is in the food they eat. Opponents of labeling state it is too expensive and since there is no difference between conventional foods and genetically modified food that labeling is unnecessary.
How are people supposed to make a choice if there is no information on the label?
What is Genetically Modified Food?
Pros and Cons Genetically Modified Food
The potential pros of GMF include:
- More nutritious food
- Better tasting food
- Drought resistant and disease resistant plants
- Less use of pesticides
- Faster growing animals and plants
- A greater supple of food with a longer shelf life
- Possible vaccines and medications from these foods
The potential risks of GMF include:
- There may be unexpected genetic changes that are harmful.
- The GMO may interbreed with the natural organisms, overtaking them, and this could lead to extinction of natural organisms.
- The plants may be more or less resistant to various pests and more susceptible to others.
- Genes from one food may be introduced to another food causing allergic reactions.
- There has been inadequate testing to ensure GMF is safe.
- Despite the claims of industry, the FDA does not formally approve of these foods, and the law only requires approval of food additives.
Collapse of the Bee Colony
The collapse of the bee colony is the biggest threat to everyone’s food supply in the future. The collapse of the colonies has been linked to high fructose corn syrup and insecticides (neonics). If seeds are genetically engineered to contain neonics, the entire plant grows with its blooms will contain neonics. We depend on bees and butterflies to spread pollen from plant to plant. Neonics are a nerve poison, and it will disorient the bees, which, then, can not make it back to the hive. The hive and the queen bee die. Some European countries, such as France have banned the insecticides and their bee population is growing.
Monsanto purchased Beeologics, which had been the top resource for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Health experts and entomologists are very unhappy about this sale. Montsanto insists it will use the technology to improve the world, but they obviously have exclusive access to any research results.
Problems with Plants
Another problem farmers are finding is some Monsanto’s most successful products are showing resistance to glyphosate and glyphosate-resistant weeds are becoming a problem. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, particularly broad leaf weeds. The crops affected include alfalfa, soybeans, corn, cotton, and sugar beets. The result is farmers are being told to use “herbicidal cocktails,” which contain multiple herbicides in order to combat the weeds.
Corn is another problem as insects are becoming resistant to pesticide-producing corn. The EPA requires farmers to protect the effectiveness of the corn; however, it is believed that at least 25 percent of farmers do not follow these guidelines.
European Union Mandatory Labeling
The European Union has mandatory labeling; however, manufacturers of food tend to use more expensive natural food to avoid having to label food products with GMF. Their concern apparently is the loss of customers who would avoid the label. The mandatory labeling for cereal has not given customers a clear choice as the non-GE cost more to produce and it thought to be no safer.
Certified organic foods do not contain GE ingredients and they are privately labeled. Whole Foods state they will have all foods labeled by 2018.
Obviously, this is a very serious problem. Monsanto may solve the hunger problems of the world. This is not a political hub as Monsanto's relationship started with the Bush's, Clinton and continues with Obama. Bill Gates owns a large amount of their stock.
A consumer should assume that virtually all unlabeled food in the grocery store will probably contain ME products and high fructose corn syrup. On one hand, people are staving in the world and the whole world needs to produce better and more plentiful products, but at what cost? Has their been enough research? What about the bees? Why can't labels be accurate on the food we purchase?
Article (C) April 16, 2013 by PamelaOglesby. All rights reserved. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.