In genetic engineering, DNA is specifically altered to produce organisms with desirable traits, such as bigger size, herbicide resistance and increased aesthetic qualities. Over 85 percent of all corn and soy crops are made from genetically modified seeds. The majority of cows and other domesticated animals used for food are fed this corn and soy, and over 80 percent of all processed food contains GMOs.
While some like to claim that genetic modification has been going on for ages, in today’s society, technology is much more advanced and has allowed for a much greater degree of artificial change than past farmers’ simple selective breeding methods.
The first successful genetically engineered organism was created in 1973: an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria by scientists Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen.
Since then, scientists have been tampering with our food’s molecules. One of the most popular GMO crops is Roundup Ready crops, which are resistant to the herbicide, Roundup.
Because of this resistance, farmers are able to spray their crops as often as they would like and far more liberally than what is safe for both humans and the environment.
Because the FDA doesn’t require companies to disclose whether or not their products include GMOs, many companies don’t bother to label them. Little is known publicly about these genetically modified organisms.
This causes great concern. When companies choose not to label what is in their product, it seems as if there is something to hide. It is even worse when the government doesn’t set better standards for it.
Because of this freedom, there have not been any long-term studies using humans to determine possible GMO side effects. Due to this deficiency, their risks are still largely uncertain. However, there have been a few long-term studies using animal testing. In the most-detailed GMO study to date, led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen in France, rats were used to test a Monsanto GM Roundup-tolerant maize crop. After two years, it was found that the rats suffered severe organ damage, hormonal disruption, palpable tumors and premature death.
It would take years, possibly decades, to properly link GMO effects in humans. Since the government and big companies who support GMOs are the main ones benefiting from it, it’s no surprise that they seem to be in no rush.
Over 64 countries have mandatory laws requiring the labeling of GMOs. In places like Norway, GMOs are allowed only if the product is proven to have no health or environmental risks, it contributes to sustainable long-term development and is ethical. Here in the United States, there are no such regulations.
This is a free country, and farmers can grow whatever they want, but ultimately, I should have the same freedom to choose what it is I eat, and I can’t do that properly if I have no knowledge of what is even in my food and which possible risks might be associated with eating it.
Though it is true that genetically modified crops produce higher yields, which can feed more people in our ever-growing population, quantity does not always beat quality.