May 3, 2015

GMOs: The Good and the Bad


As you know, GMOs have gotten a lot of news play in the last few years. Perhaps, you’ve heard the horror stories and wanted to know more about what they are and what they can do to your body. In this post, we’re going to first describe what a GMO is, the pros and cons as well as what GMOs can do to you and your family.

What are GMOs?


GMOs is short for genetically-modified organisms. These plants and animals have undergone a scientific process where their gene structure has been altered. By taking DNA from other living species, scientists are able to enhance desired traits and produce organisms that are more resistant to disease or tolerant of pesticides for example.


These organisms are created in a laboratory setting through a process known as genetic engineering. No GMO occurs in nature or through a normal crossbreeding process used for generations. The primary reason GMOs are employed is to resist herbicides so the use of chemicals won’t harm the crop.
Pros of GMOs

One primary benefit of genetically modified organisms are their resistance to insects. The genetic engineering process has been improved to make pests stay away from crops. For example, the University of California in San Diego has reported that crops can be genetically modified to include a toxic bacteria that will keep insects away yet is still safe for human consumption. The goal for this process is to make the crops insect repellant thus reducing the amount of pesticides that are dropped on the crops.

GMOs may be able to create a positive impact on the environment as reported by Oklahoma State University. Since genetically modified plants and animals may require less water, food, time, and tools to produce and maintain, less environmental pollution may result. This can create a positive environmental impact around farms and improve air and water quality thus potentially making the environment cleaner.
Some GMO foods have supposedly been engineered to include more nutrients in terms of vitamin and mineral content according to The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. This could help people get more nutrients in their foods as well as help fight malnutrition. For example, the United Nation cites vitamin A-enriched rice as a positive force in the fight against vitamin A deficiencies worldwide.
Cons of GMOs

According to Iowa State University, many GMO foods have been enhanced with antibiotic features to increase their risk of contracting diseases. When humans consume these GMO foods, they risk digesting the antibiotics and thus making actual prescription antibiotics less effective when needed. The university suggests that the exposure to antibiotics from consuming GMO foods is contributing to the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics as seen in hospitals around the world.

GMO foods pose a risk of a severe allergic reaction to many people, reports Brown University. Since proteins and other mixes are added into a food’s genetic structure, these foreign elements can cause reactions in people who otherwise wouldn’t have been affected. If a protein from an organism that someone is allergic to is added to another food, they could be consuming the food they’re allergic to unknowingly. This can result in people forming new allergies.

how GMO's are made

If GMOs are able to transfer their genes into wild species, the results could be disastrous. If a wild species acquired the GMOs characteristic of being tolerant to herbicides, “superweeds” could be created that would be nearly impossible to eradicate, Brown University reports. Similarly, if a genetically modified plant or animal escaped into the wild, it might be able to outperform the natural species and thus cause its extinction.

What GMOs Might Do to Your Body


Although the effects of GMOs on humans are not confirmed, scientific research points to animal studies that show organ damage, accelerated aging, infertility, and immune system disorders. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has urged physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets to all their patients regardless of their health.

When GMOs started to be introduced in 1996, the number of Americans with three or more health conditions jumped from 7% to 13% in less than a decade. Additionally, diagnoses of autism, reproductive disorders, and food allergies skyrocketed. American Nurses Association and The American Public Health Association are two groups concerned about the use of GMOs in the production of milk since there may be a link to cancer.

In a study published twice, GMOs have been linked to inducing the growth of human breast cancer cells by altering estrogen receptors. Similarly, a group of scientists also compiled a comprehensive review that Monsanto’s glyphosate has caused numerous birth defects since 2002.

While the research on GMOs is not completely conclusive, biotech companies continue to use “tobacco science” to convince the public that their products are safe. While foods with GMOs are unlabeled in the United States, the best way to avoid these unnatural products is to buy local and organic ingredients.

Posted by Mark Contorno

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