Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs)

GMOs. What are they? They are genetically modified organisms. GMOs are produced when a life form has been altered at a genetic level by human intervention and not by natural processes. The genetic code of a life form may be partially removed and the genetic code of another life form is inserted in its place. We are told that GMOs are created to produce desirable traits in life forms, most notably in our food supply. The government considers them to be safe and, yet, GMOs have become controversial, with many people calling for a ban on these products.

Reasons given for the use of GMOs include that they appear safe to consume, they may result in lower food prices, they reduce greenhouse gases, they may reduce pesticide use and they promote better nutrition. However, there is also a list of reasons why GMOs may not be a good idea. At the top of this list would be the unforeseen health risks that may be associated with GMOs. Potentially they could cause serious food allergies. Allergic reactions happen when normally harmless protein that is consumed stimulates a response from the body's immune system. When the immune system encounters material that it considers foreign it may illicit a very serious negative response to that material. It must be acknowledged that no allergic reaction to GMO foods has been confirmed and yet vitro evidence suggests the possibility of allergic reaction to GMOs. Just as some have claimed that GMOs promote better nutrition, others have claimed that they may detract from nutrition. This is because GMO nutrients may be indigestible to humans. Another concern is over the effect that GMOs may have upon bacteria strains. Health professionals in our time have been shocked by the growing number of bacterial strains that are resistant to antibiotics. Such a resistance is created when bacteria develops antibiotic-resistant genes. Antibiotic-resistant genes are also used in GMOs. There is concern that bacteria within human beings may be able to mutate by using bacterial-resistant genes that they acquire from GMOs. Just as some have claimed that GMOs have reduced pesticide use, others claim that GMOs increase herbicide use. This is because when crops are engineered to withstand herbicides some farmers have increased their use of herbicides for weed control. GMOs also cross contaminate non-GMO crops. There is simply not enough studies being done on the side effects of genetically modifying foods. The numbers of those suffering chronic illness, food allergies, autism and other disorders is on the rise. Although it has not been proven, some suspect that GMOs may be a part of the reason for many of today's ailments.

Over sixty countries have either banned GMOs for consumption by people or have mandated the labelling of foods that contain ingredients derived from GMOs. In Canada, we do not know for sure how much of our food supply contains GMOs. This is because the Canadian government disallows for products to be labelled GMO-free. To help the public avoid GMOs in the food supply an organization called The Non-GMO Project has started a program to identify products that do not contain GMOs. With all the genetic changes being made to our food supply, let's hope that the alterations to our health may be positive and not negative. The Vancouver Sun newspaper cites a study which claims that over 40% of Canadians consider GMOs to be unsafe. If you are one of the many who do not trust GMOs, it is possible to buy non-GMO crop seed over the internet. Many have chosen this option.

 

Shawn Stevens

 

REFERENCES :

“10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs” http://www.responsibletechnology.org/10-Reasons-to-Avoid-GMOs

“Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)” http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html

“About GMOs” http://www.nongmoshockingguide.com/about-gmos.html

Shore, Randy. “Pushback against GMO” The Vancouver Sun, March 1, 2014, A6.

“WHAT ARE GMOS AND WHY ARE THEY HERE” The Vancouver Sun, March 1, 2014, A7.