Concern about the dangers involved in the growing and harvesting Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) has been increasing. Many farmers have adopted the use of these crops due to an increase in yields over the first few years, but scientists and activists are worried that the business side of the GMO issue is overshadowing the dangers to public health that can be caused by their manufacture.
Some of the more common GMOs have been modified to be resistant to Roundup, a weed killer and pesticide. These genetically modified organisms were created so that the pesticide could be applied to crops without killing the plant as well, which allows farmers to produce yields that are both larger and more visually appealing. Researchers have recently discovered that large amounts of glyphosate, the active chemical in Roundup, have been found in the produce that is found on store shelves. Soybeans that have been treated with the chemical are also used as animal feed for turkeys, cows, chickens, and pigs.
Some weeds are beginning to develop resistance to Roundup as well, which has led farmers to spray more of the chemical. In response to this, the EPA has allowed the residual amount of glyphosate found in produce to be raised by 200 percent. This means that more of the chemical can be found in produce that is on store shelves.
On farms where genetically modified organisms are grown, there are also dangers involving cross contamination of other plants and animals. The DNA from GMOs becomes intertwined with the other plants in the ecosystem, and can cause normal genes to mutate into unnatural forms. This means that GMOs have effects on the other plants in the ecosystem as well.
In addition, bees and other insects do not operate the same way with a GMO plant as they do with a non-GMO one, which can cause death of species within the ecosystem. One example of this is B.t. corn, which is engineered to produce a toxin that kills caterpillars. This toxin has been linked to the deaths of caterpillars of the Monarch butterfly category. Though these caterpillars feed on milkweed, and not corn, the pollen from the B.t. corn can be blown onto adjacent plants, which can spread the toxins, killing other insects. If one species dies out, this death can then follow up the food chain, as larger species that feed on a species that has died out will die out as well, leading to major changes within the ecosystem.
Genetically modified organisms have also been the subject of controversy regarding nutrient content. According to a study that was published by ScienceDirect, GMO soybeans were found to contain lower protein content, as well as a higher concentration of saturated fats. The FDA does not currently require foods that have been genetically modified to include this information on its label, meaning that consumers may be eating GMO foods without knowing it.
Because the crops are more sturdy and can produce a higher yield, many farmers are using genetically modified organisms to increase their profits, despite the dangers. Many are concerned that the harm done by GMOs over the long term will outweigh the potential short term gain.
By Joseph Chisarick