GMOs stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. These are an extensive collection of animals, bacteria and plants that have been engineered for a variety of applications stretching from agronomic production to systematic research. The effects imposed by GMOs differ in accordance with the category of organism being altered and its prospective application. The major concerns around GMOs are related to their probable undesirable effects on human health as well as the environment. There are numerous kinds of probable effects, both positive and negative, which could emanate from the use of GMOs. These effects are discussed in details in the following essay.
As Bailey holds, “GMOs are beneficial to the society as a whole.” This follows the assertion made by Italian scientist who purported “there are no significant detrimental effects of GMOs.” Despite these scientific proofs, the activists are continuously pushing for compulsory marking of all GMOs foods (Bailey). More importantly, Bailey indicates that GMOs are beneficial to the farmers because they assure them of higher yields and quick recovery from drought challenges. Additionally, GMOs are credited for production of crops and plantations that withstand bacteria and crop diseases (Bailey). As Bailey asserts, “The use of this technology ensures farmers can grow more food, fend off infestations and recover from drought faster.”
On the same issue, Cho, a member of The Council for Biotechnology Information, continues to emphasis on the usefulness of GMO products in conquering diseases and pest. He asserts that the GMO products are essential for improving production. He gives an example of a salmon emphasizing on its increased production through faster maturity and reduced production costs. Additionally, GM salmon is said to consume less feed than their non-GMO counterparts. Cho says that,
“The GM salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies contains a gene from a Chinook salmon that produces a growth hormone, and a genetic “on-switch” from an ocean pout (an eel-like fish) that keeps the growth hormone pumping out year round.”
For this reason, GMOs ensure that the ever increasing global food demand is met. However, Cho highlights some adverse effects of GMOs a good example being that GM crops are likely to interfere and contaminate non-GM crops. Additionally, he reflects on activists’ claims indicating that GM products have some adverse effects on human health; for instance GM salmon is said to cause allergic reactions. There are judicial rulings that have mandated the producers of GMO products to label or mark these products when supplying them to the market. Other international organizations like Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have indicated “GMOs have raised concerns relating to their possible detrimental effects on human and the environment as whole.” Despite these few and inconclusive demerits, GMOs products take the lion share of the product markets (Cho).
According to Dean and Armstrong, “GM technology can be viewed as a continuation of the natural breeding processes that have been in existence for a number of millennia.” Studies by Dean and Armstrong further indicate that genetic engineering may lead to high health risks. These studies show that consumption of GM foods leads to accelerated aging, infertility, and other health problems in animals. Consequently, precautionary measures are required (Dean and Armstrong). As Dean and Armstrong asserts:
“………because GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit, the AAEM believes that it is imperative to adopt the precautionary principle, which is one of the main regulatory tools of the European Union environmental and health policy and serves as a foundation for several international agreements.”
In this regard, GM foods are likely to increase the cost of public health through the required financing of the precautionary measures put in place. Also, studies by Dean and Armstrong indicates a possibility of environmental pollution or destruction that is caused by genetic engineering. Thus, there is the need for precautionary measures as well as the legal rulings to control genetic research because some environmental damages caused by genetic technology are irreversible. Dean and Armstrong states,
“When an activity raises threats to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
Society of Toxicology bases their argument on GM foods effects on the concept of substantial equivalence. Under this concept, various scientific studies indicate that the health concerns in connection with GM food is indifferent to health concerns created by traditional foods (Society of Toxicology). Thus, these studies concluded that GM foods are safe for consumption despite being different from their traditional equivalents. However, a challenge arises in measuring the full extents of GM foods on health concerns; since metric measures are yet to be developed through which food safety can be established. The Society of Toxicology states that,
“Verified records of adverse health effects are absent, although the current passive reporting system would probably not detect minor or rare adverse effects, nor can it detect a moderate increase in common effects such as diarrhea.”
Somerville, a member of American Society of Plant Physiologists, highlights some effects of GMO technology. He asserts that the claims by the activists’ groups against GMO on the basis of health and environmental hazards are not substantiated scientifically. According to Somerville, “various scientific studies have already concluded that the technology is safe.” However, there are theoretical practices that may lead to significant destruction of the environment. To this end, Somerville concludes that the costs of some of these practices far outweigh their benefits.
On the other hand, Somerville asserts that the positive effects of this technology are evident with the acceptance of the technology by the environmentalists and agriculturalists. Agriculturalists welcome the technology as it addresses the decreasing farm productions. Environmentalists are in favor of the technology for the fact that GM crops are resistant to pests and disease, which translates to a reduced usage of pesticides and other chemical substances (Somerville). This reduction ensures the safety of the environment. Additionally, Somerville asserts that,
“The technology assures more production from the current farms, and also helps to minimize encroachment of significant environmental sites and other areas such as forests.”
According to Verma, Nanda, Singh and Mishra, “the effects of GM technology can be stratified into positive and adverse effects.” The advantages of this technology are related to the production of GM foods. GM crops are herbicide, pests, disease and cold resistant as well as drought tolerant. These advantages carry other two auxiliary benefits. The first one is that tolerance and resistance lead to more production of food at low costs (Verma et al.). This assures the global food market sustainable supply of food. Secondly, the resistance means that there is a reduction in the use of pesticides that are environmentally friendly (Verma et al.). On the other hand, there are detrimental effects such as environmental risks that accompany the technology and some health risks. The gene change is likely to corrupt other organisms in the surrounding of this crops. Additionally, GM foods are likely to be toxic to humans, as well as animals. According to Verma et al,
“Many children in the US and Europe have developed life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.”
In conclusion, the effects of GMOs range from positive to detrimental effects. Some of the positive effects of the technology helps in the production of drought and disease resistant crops, low costs production, low costs of food and minimal crop and animal maturity period. On the other hand, some of the detrimental effects are health hazards such as accelerated aging, toxicity and infertility, and environmental hazards such as irreversible toxicity of the soil and pollution. All these effects are as discussed in details in the above essay.
Bailey, Pamela. ‘Gmos Are Nothing To Fear – US News’. US News & World Report. N.p., 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Cho, Renee. ‘The Intensifying Debate over Genetically Modified Foods: State of the Planet’. Blogs.ei.columbia.edu. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Dean, Amy, and Jennifer Armstrong. ‘Genetically Modified Foods Position Paper: The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)’. Aaemonline.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Somerville, Chris. ‘The Genetically Modified Organism Conflict’. Plant Physiology 123.4 (2000): 1201-1202. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Society of Toxicology. ‘The Safety of Genetically Modified Foods Produced Through Biotechnology’. Toxicological Sciences 71.1 (2003): 2-8. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Verma, Charu et al. ‘A Review on Impacts of Genetically Modified Food on Human Health’. Academia.edu. N.p., 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.