What are GMOs

Author: William Tsay

Editor: Angela Lin

Artist: Doris Tan

GMOs have been helping plants become more resistant but could have potentially harmful effects on humans.

The controversy of GMOs has sparked numerous debates in recent years. So, what are GMOs, and why do so many people believe that they are harmful?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms and is used to describe a plant or animal that has had its genetic material (DNA) modified by technology. One of the most common uses of GMOs is in agriculture- studies have shown that farmers' usage of GMOs has increased exponentially; about 92 percent of U.S. corn, 94 percent of soybeans, and 94 percent of cotton is genetically engineered.


So why do farmers use GMOs? First off, GMOs have a higher yield which helps increase farmer profits; compared to a non-GMO crop, GMO crops use less land to produce the same amount of food. With the exponentially growing human population, the land is scarce. According to a study, GMOs have increased crop yields by 22 percent and farmer profits by 68 percent. Most GMO crops were developed to help farmers prevent crop losses.

These crops are resistant to insect damage because they are just genetically resistant. Such examples include Bt corn: corn that has been modified to produce the insecticide that kills pests. Crops like these have significantly reduced the amount of pesticide sprayed by farmers. Pesticides can kill many beneficial insects and cause a phenomenon known as the pesticide treadmill. GM technology has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37 percent,

A growing concern of the use of GM technology is that it may cause unexpected health issues. GMOs were introduced to the US in 1994; the research of GMOs has been brief, and there is no real data to show that GMOs are complete, 100 percent safe. There is also an ethical reason why GMOs have been highly criticized. Some farmers use fish DNA to create a GM crop that can have a longer shelf life. Many consumers do not want to be eating fish DNA in food, for example. In an average supermarket, 75 percent of foods are genetically modified.

GMOs have been subject to lots of critics and supporters around the globe. Whether you like it or not, there is no denying that GMOs could be ubiquitous in the future.

 

Citations:

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “How GMO Crops Impact Our World.” U.S.

Food and Drug Administration, FDA,

www.fda.gov/food/agricultural-biotechnology/how-gmo-crops-impact-our-world.

“Issues: | GE Foods.” Center for Food Safety,

www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/about-ge-foods.

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