GMO: The future or demise of agriculture?

Lauren Savana, Centurion Staff

Since its beginnings in the early 1990s, the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in farming has become increasingly controversial.
“GMO’s are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering known as GE. Former biotech engineer Thierry Vain explains on one of the many informative TED talks (a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading information and ideas.)
GMO involves the mutilation, insertion, or deletion of a gene or certain part of DNA of said organism. The insertion of another gene usually comes from another plant or animal. Reported by The Non-GMO project; a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about GMO’s.
Vain explains that the companies that supported this technology, like Monsanto, were chemical companies, which transformed into what are now refereed to as biotech companies.
“This technology was not tested before being used on plants, medicine, and animals and sold to people,” says Vain.
The corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. However these insecticidal plants and their proteins have not been tested by the federal departments that are in charge of food safety in the U.S. and Canada, according to points made by Vain.
Vain’s short 22 minute video lecture talks about the realistic fears of Genetic Engineering and the problems it has caused, as well as the negative impact it could have on the future.
Large corporations like Monsanto wanted crops that were resistant to weeds and insects, so they composed stronger chemicals that would help ward off pests and weeds.
“Genetic Engineering was created for a specific reason. To generate crops that could coincide with the new pesticides and herbicides these biotech companies have produced.” Vain explains.
Vain goes on to explain that, after these crops were put into use it led to something called super weeds. These weeds have become resistant to these new pesticides.
Insects have also built up a tolerance to insecticide which is leading companies to want to create even more potent chemicals which will led to a vicious cycle.
Another serious issue is genetic pollution. The genes created for these modified organisms hold bacteria and that foreign bacterium can move from gene to gene.
So the GM farm that lives next to the organic farm now runs the risk of being infected with that new form of bacteria from the GM farm. That runoff leads to the organic crops dying because of the unknown bacteria, Vain explains.
The Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) performed a study surveying 6 major rivers in China. They found in 6 out of the 6 rivers, a bacteria gene that was created in a lab.
This bacterium is referred to as a blá gene. “A blá gene confers resistance to a wide range of therapeutic antibiotics and the widespread environment pollution with blá resistant bacteria is a major public health concern.” ISIS reported.
This opened up a new string of problems like toxic proteins and allergens. Since news of these problems has come to light, there have been two kinds of research conducted.
Vain says, “One kind is academic research that is sponsored by the biotech companies in question. The other form is being done by countries that are funded by independent agencies and universities such as the Society of Toxicology”
The research that was sponsored by the biotech companies concluded that GMO’s are safe for the environment, and therefore safe to eat.
The Society of Toxicology (SOT) found that genetically modified crops caused serious health problems for the rats that were fed GMO potatoes.
SOT performed toxicity tests on the rats, which showed damage to their brain, testicles, and kidneys.
Arpad Pusztai a renowned biochemist who conducted three years of research on GMO’s and came to the conclusion that GMO’s “cause organ damage, reproductive failure, digestive dysfunction, impaired immunity, and cancer, among many other conditions.” Natural News (a website that reports on environmental issues) reported.
Natural News wrote that, Pusztai and his team of researchers were immediately fired when they went public with their research.
In 1996 the FDA predicted, “that engineered foods would contain rouge proteins, that could be toxins, cause allergies, and nutritional deficiency and other diseases.”
The companies that back GMO’s argue that this is the future of agriculture. The mass production of these crops can create a plethora of new options for developing and industrial countries that can lead to ending world hunger, reports Monsanto.
“We offer solutions to complex issues by developing better seeds and systems to help farmers with productivity on the farm and grow more nutritious food while conserving natural resources.” Dr. Robb Fraley a Monsanto employee explains the mission they have with GMO farming.
The biotech crops in 2013 were used in 27 countries and created over 170 million acres of new crops reported ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.)
The University of Santa Cruz did reports on the positives of GMO’s and the ability for these crops to grow in undesirable environments. Also the new chemical compounds of these crops gives a longer shelf life to GMO foods so they can travel greater distances.
Here at the Bucks cafeteria all of the food served is GMO. When asking the cafeteria aides if they knew what companies supply the food here, the response was unanimous, “We don’t have anything to do with the ordering of the food. When unpacking the baked goods and perishable items the main brand is CulinArt.” Says Kathy Marks, a cafeteria aide.
CulinArt proudly states their use of GMO ingredients on their web page. When asking students at Bucks what they think of GMO’s being served to the student body, most people had the same opinion.
Rasheed Douyon, 20, a business major says, “We control what we see on TV, what music we listen to, what we eat, but ultimately it all comes down to convenience. GMO’s are so widely used and its easy so that’s why it works.”
Johnny Cohen, 21, a communications major, says, “It’s not right that, we don’t have a choice. But someone is making money off it somewhere so it works.”
While the debate continues about the pros and cons of GMO farming, people in the U.S are most concerned about their right to know when they are eating a GMO or a non-GMO.
The United States does not require GMO labeling, unlike the 64 countries that do require it, reported by the company Just Label It (JLT). JLT is an organization that is dedicated to getting the U.S and the rest of the world to be apart of the 64 countries that require GMO labeling by law.
While the question of GMO foods being healthy or unhealthy is still unclear, every person has the right to make a choice between GMO and organic. As the battle continues, labeling should be the first step America takes to protecting the rights of the American people.