Genetically Modified Organism
Vecchio 1 Genetically Modified Organisms Hayley Vecchio Here comes synthetic food, and their big money, and they want to control, our body and soul” — Ziggy Marley, from, “Tumblin’ Down” (Miller ). In 1988 Bob Marley’s son Ziggy warned us about synthetic foods, three decades before big corporations started commercially gene-gunning virus and hormone sequences into the DNA of seeds. The debate over genetically modified (GM) food, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), is vast.
I believe that the use and creation of genetically modified foods should be banned until health effects are better understood. All the meanwhile the spread of genetically modified organisms has gone unnoticed by the majority of Americans, most have no idea that there are GMOs in their food, and may not even know what a GMO is. The people of America deserve to know what they are consuming (Barret). The graph above shows that 63 percent of processed food in the United States contains GM ingredients (Barrett).
Soda and sweets are almost guaranteed to contain GM ingredients. Not only does the US government allow this overabundant and dangerous use of GMO’s, but they don’t require food manufacturers to disclose their use of genetically modified organisms. Vecchio 2 Looking at these statistics and that of America’s obesity epidemic, it’s quite obvious that there is most likely a connection between the two. Another reason I believe the use and distribution of GMO’s is wrong is because they have a plethora of known and unknown risks to humans and the environment.
The non-GMO movement now has more than 60 groups actively concerned with the issue, all with a common goal of, at least temporarily, eliminating GMO foods from the market. On a national scale GMO’s have been forced upon the public by big companies without adequate oversight and regulation by the United States Government. Groups participating in the non-GMO movement are mainly concerned with a lack of information, and public participation. These groups believe that the agrobiotechnology problem is a violation of personal freedoms and democratic rights (Roff 513).
Major concerns come from previous incidents in which unintentional contamination by GM and non-GM plants took place. The inefficiency of the US government has allowed GMO-related problems to go unchecked. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ignored the findings of many of its own scientists regarding genetically modified foods (Driscoll and Morley 1). I meditate that at a minimum, the USDA should be required to implement a food labeling system, so that Americans, like Europeans, will have a choice in whether or not to purchase genetically modified foods.
So far, Europe has emphasized governance approaches in regulation of new technologies more than the USA. Studies show that when mandatory labeling became required in Europe, sales of a GM products dropped drastically (Roff 512). I contemplate the same effects would happen in the United States as well, because when given a choice, many Americans would opt out of purchasing GMO foods. Vecchio 3 Fortunately for the U. S, California has recently taken action by voting in favor of a GMO labeling law which could ultimately affect the rest of the U. S.
California voters already have a record of being leaders in food reform; and because the state makes up almost twelve percent of the US population, food companies might well start unveiling GMO’s nationwide (Philpot ). Moreover I believe GMO’s need to be taken off the market until the health effects are better understood. In addition to this belief The Natural Society recently published an article releasing new information about Monsanto’s GMO corn. Revisions show that Monsanto GM corn is contributing to one of the country’s fastest growing problems.
A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences shows that GM food is contributing to the obesity epidemic. It was reported that in a study using lab rats that were fed GMO corn and organic corn, the rats eating GM corn effectively proved the dangers of GMO’s and the risks go beyond weight increase (Driscoll and Morley 4). Gilles-Eric Seralini, an expert member of the Commissions for biotechnology Reevaluation indicates that in each study of GMO’s “the kidney and liver, which are the main organs that react to a chemical food poisoning, had problems (Barrett). Needless to say, Monsanto’s GMO crops are causing other problems in our world. While contributing to weight gain, the company’s GM corn has been resistant to root worms; causing farmers to use more pesticides, paradoxically defeating the purpose of using GMO’s in the first place (Barrett). Not only are GMO’s wreaking havoc on human health, but these crops are known to cause damage to nature. Another motive to stop the sale and creation of GMO’s is its effects on our environment and the natural cycle of life. Scientists are beginning to see short-term consequences but the long-term are still unknown.
Similar to air and water, food is an essential element of life. GM crops have the potential to change ecosystems. For example scientists have Vecchio 4 been engineering salmon, tilapia, carp and other fishes to promote faster growth and resistance to disease. The problem that arises is that these genetically engineered fish are escaping the nets and could possibly be breeding with natural fish. This scenario could eventually cause an instinction of natural born fish. Scientist refer to this as the “Trojan gene effect,” with the worry that it holds the risk of wiping out entire populations. Driscoll and Morley 4). The same effects are unfortunately occurring in crops all around the world. Due to cross contamination and pollen drift, very few products in the US are completely free of GMO’s (“Business News; Whole Foods”). Any crop grown outdoors that is pollinated by the wind or insects runs the risk of cross-pollination. An additional reason to stop the creation of GMO’s is the theory that many weeds have become herbicide-resistant after being cross-pollinated with GMO plants. The fear is that contaminated weeds will become super-weeds, over taking native plants, thereby taking over the ecosystem.
A British study revealed that bird populations may be decreasing in certain areas due to the growth of GM crops. And companies do little to keep out wild life that come and nibble on their genetically recombinant crops, which have caused many animals to become sick. Many Animal Rights activists have taken initiative to stop the cloning processes used to alter the genetic structure of animals (Driscoll and Morley ). The biggest issue for me along with many others is that scientists are tampering with living, natural creatures.
These changes are causing pain to the animals. For example science has increased the rate and size at which chickens grow so drastically that many come out mutated, missing eyes, beck’s, or other major body parts. Vecchio 5 Their genes are changed so that they grow and exceed their designed size and weight, which in turn breaks their legs causing them to suffer a short lived life. Not only is wildlife in danger but organic Farmers are facing troubles with cross-pollination. There are many cases in which cross contamination occurred with GM crops.
The USDA is now regulating organic foods to be GM-free, but the farmers have no control over this natural process. Statistics collected in Spain show the twenty-five percent of their organic farms had been contaminated by GMOs (Driscoll and Morley). Another major contributor to the contamination of plants by GMO’s occurs during transportation, and because of this the European Union now implements testing on all shipments. I will depict upon the theories that often claim that GMO’s are the solution to worldwide hunger; many supporters of this are involved in big companies who use GMO’s.
But ironically enough even some of the poorest countries, including Zambia, Mali, Australia, Japan, and all of the European Union, have restrictions and bans on the production of GMO’s (“Business News; Whole Foods”). Distribution is actually the main problem in feeding the world’s 700 million hungry people. When food is produced locally with better efficiency starvation rates decreases in many poorer nations, the hope is to do this in numerous places around the world and the numbers of hungry individuals worldwide can be decreased over time.
Organizations such as the Center for Food Safety are largely concerned and actively involved in preventing the use of GMO’s (Driscoll and Morley ). The discussions of alternative solutions have been a hot topic. Many question whether or not improving water supply and soil be a better long term solution. These alternatives hold the potential to create jobs and could be a more effective way to end hunger, worldwide. Vecchio 6 Another valuable point to be made is whether or not cross-breeding and genetic recombination of different species crosses an ethical line that humans were not meant to cross.
From a religious perspective, many disagree with scientists creations of genetically modified plants. My true opinion on the matter is that people need more knowledge. What is a GMO? Yes, GMO means genetically modified organisms, but what does that really mean. Well you can say that genes are combined into different links that in turn change the genetic makeup of an animal or plant. But even so, the public knowledge of GMO’s is very vague. In traditional ways of plants genetic makeup, the genes introduced into plant cells are chosen at random chromosomal positions.
The new plant then copies a gene for the same enzymes, however in some cases due to DNA sequence differences a plant does not have an herbicide resistance gene. Genes are composed of DNA, which stores all of the information that maps out an organism’s structure and functions. Genetic engineering involves taking the genes of one organism and putting them into another, altering the genetic structure. This is when science has come in and located the specific chromosomal spot in which a plant needs a designed gene in order for it to be herbicide resistant.
So one gene is knocked out and replaced by a man made engineered one. In scientific terms it doesn’t sound too bad, the question then is, what are these natural genes being replaced with? Well for one arctic fish genes were implanted into tomatoes and strawberries to produce a tolerance to frost, jellyfish genes were introduced into pigs’ DNA to light up their noses in the dark along with potatoes that glow in the dark (Anderson ), human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide, and corn was engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Miller ).
This is only a microscopic view of what science has done, I believe that it is not safe Vecchio 7 and is still in the vast outer space of unknown, it’s also unethical but that if for each individual to decide for him/herself. GMO foods have been hurriedly pushed into the marketplace with inadequate testing and research, putting human safety in danger. Major corporations, such as Monsanto, DuPont and Novartis, see GMO products as a way to make potentially huge profits, without the slightest care for their consumers.
Many of these companies producing GMO food products have poor track records regarding environmental and consumer safety. I believe one of the largest corruptions in businesses involved in genetically engineering today is the control GMO companies have over farmers. Farmers are finically stuck with these corrupt companies and legally obligated to them. For example in 2001 Roger Nelson fought a political fight with the powerful Monsanto. Monsanto claims the Nelsons infringed on its patent seeds.
The case prompted the Legislature to pass what was known as the “Nelson bill,” which requires companies such as Monsanto to notify farmers when they suspect them of patent infringements. Nelson said “A farmer can go out and buy brand new, conventional seed and you can’t get any written guarantees that they’re GMO-free. ” Another problem that was left unresolved after this court case is the fact that when farmers save some seeds for crops in 2002, if that seed contained Roundup Ready genes, farmers can be sued for infringing on Monsanto patent.
This leaves farmers with no say what’s so ever in the way the grow crops or what crops they grow; they are modern slaves to the big businesses (“Farmer Gets Ready to Plant”). As perquisites off any market solutions, a non-GMO group has focused on the consumer’s right to know. Additionally, most customers do not have a choice in the food system. With no access to healthy and fresh foods, many citizens in urban and rural areas cannot afford Vecchio 8 the cost of healthy foods. Even when stores exist with good organic food the products are priced far beyond what the average citizen can afford.
This dilemma is one that will shrink, when more privileged Americans begin to shop organically. This will set off a change in supply and demand, if the people begin to demand organic foods or GMO labeling companies will be forced to supply. In local and national scales it’s going to be the people of American that stop feeding the giants they wish to vanquish. In conclusion there are many serious questions regarding the safety of GMO products and their impact on our planet. So far, the US government has not done its job in overseeing the testing of these products before they become available to consumers.
I can see in many ways how the world’s ecosystems, farmers, and consumers are guinea pigs in a dangerous experiment that ensures profits for biotech companies and potential disaster for the future of our food system. Someone needs to stand up to the big GMO corporations, it might not be drastic but over time we as humans have the power to impact the demand put on GM foods. The less of a demand the less creation and distribution there will be. Whether it is because it’s unethical, unhealthy, or immoral it’s time to take action against GMO production. Hayley Vecchio 4-1-13 Mr. Oliverio En 110 Position Paper Genetically Modified Foods