A research on Genetically Modified Organisms

 

A research on Genetically Modified Organisms

J. Guo

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Abstract

Genetical Modification, although not a new technology anymore, is still a hot topic being discussed around the world. This phenomena is essentially caused by people’s ignorance on what GMOs really are. Since we can not tell what long term effects GMOs can bring to us, it is reasonable for people to debate it’s rationality to consume. In this article, I will state my opinion on the safety of GMOs, and give reasons why I have that idea.

Keywords: GMOs, Safety, Food, Health

 

A research on Genetically Modified Organisms

 

People have tried to solve the problem of famine ever since our ancestors abandoned gathering and hunting lifes and embraced farming. There is also more food needed than we have. This situation still holds true even in 21st century. Human beings nowadays have a potential answer to this problem, which is raising Genetically Modified (GM) crops and animals. However, this approach have attracted so many opponents that many countries banned Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) cultivation. However, after my half year long research on the topic of safety of consume GMOs, I have a different idea on the use of GMOs from the activists. In this article, I will explain why I am now supporting the GMOs usage from several aspects. Firstly, I will introduce you the history of GMOs in humans’ history. Then, I will give reasons to illustrate why I think GMOs are safe to eat. Next, I will show you some ideas that GMO activists hold and why they think GMOs are bad. Finally, I will end with a reminder that always be careful when choosing resources for a study or research with a negative example.

 

What exactly are GMOs?

 

As I mentioned before, It is essential to make sure that we understand what GMOs are before even talking about it’s safety. Although I mentioned that GMOs just stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, it might still be vague for many people what these organisms really are. In short, GMOs are any organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. The history of GMOs can be traced thousands years ago. Ancient people had used a crucial and low efficient GM method for thousands of years, which is called artificial selection. People would select the traits of animals or crops they want to keep and keep breeding them in order to expand the obviousness of that trait. One example would be the modern aquarium golden fish. Those colorful and small goldfish were actually originated from crucians, a medium large freshwater fish breed which has plain gray to black looking. Artificial selection is the reason why we have these dramatically different-looking goldfish nowadays. Goldfish has been firstly documented about two thousand years ago in China’s Jin Dynasty, those colorful goldfish were cultivated from mutated red crucians, and after years of letting fish with trait of small body size breed, we finally have these beautiful aquarium golden fish.

It still holds true for the flourish of dog breeds, most people knows that all the modern dog breeds are originated from wolves, people firstly cultivate wild wolves, teach those fearsome beasts work with and work for humans. Then we do the same thing to cultivated wolves as to wild fish. For example, if people want their cultivates wolves (or dogs) with large eyes, we will find parent dogs with large eyes and let them give birth to puppies, and then we choose the grown puppies with even larger eyes to breed their next generation, until the trait of big eyes become stable.

GMOs, on the other hand, can allow us to achieve the goal of expanding traits faster than traditional artificial selection. Within months and years, people can get the trait of two crops into one with the help of knowledge on mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes. It is an advanced and highly efficient way to modify the plants and animals to the way people want. With the help of GM, people can create crops such as corns and cottons with higher resistance to pests and higher production, or fish and chicken that can grow faster in the same time duration, so that can provide more food to people, and soften the food problem raised from the increase of population on Earth.

 

-Are GMOs safe to eat?

 

According to recent studies and the US Government, Yes, GMOs are safe to eat. As one of the most trustworthy organization when talking about food safety, US  Food and Drug Administration posted an article that tries to solve people’s uncertainty on GMOs or more specifically Genetically Engineered (GE) Plants.

Like what I did earlier, the FDA gives a general definition of GE Crops. Then, the FDA answered questions about whether GE regulation and the safety of the crops. These are the two most important and frequently asked questions on the topic of GMOs. The FDA states that those plants are indeed under their regulations and are safe since GE plants also need to meet the same requirements as traditionally raised plants in order to be sold on the market. So basically GE crops passed all the same tests that traditional crops passed, and theoretically, it should be safe for people to consume GE crops just as the non-GE foods. FDA further explains how they evaluated the safety of GE plants, and gives a link that  includes comprehensive consultations on different types of crops.

What’s more, FDA also solves some confusion on whether GE foods could cause allergic reactions or being toxic by stating “The foods we have evaluated through the consultation process have not been more likely to cause an allergic or toxic reaction than foods from traditionally bred plants”. This would calm down many who were against GMO crops for the fear of food poisoning.

In the end, the FDA ensured people one more time with the statement of “genetically engineered plants … have not gone on the market until the FDA’s questions about the safety of such products have been resolved,” which clearly tells people that it is unnecessary to worry about the safety of GE crops, since government had already checked that for you before it went on the market. I believe this article solved many of questions and unsureness people used to have.

However, despite all these theoretical and scientifical evidences, there are still lots of people and organizations running against the use of GMOs, Let’s discuss that more detailed in the next section.

-Why some people or organizations run against the use of GMOs?

Since there are no valid evidences showing that GMOs are harmful to human beings, the reasoning for activists can be sorted into majorly two types. The first type would be the internal fear of embracing new stuff, especially something that influence what we are eating everyday. Some people have this idea of artificial means bad, probably from the history of use of DDT or other chemical pesticides. However, It is really unscientific to consider all artificially synthesized or chemical products are harmful to people. We should see GMOs with open minds and scientific eyes. Once people truly understand what are GMOs and how are GMOs made, they might feel more comfortable accept GMOs. The second type would be those who can gain profit by running against GMOs. The restaurant that spread everywhere in the USA, UK, Canada, France and Germany, Chipotle,for example have key rule in the formation of social opinion. It announced that Chipotle is  “The first national restaurant company to use only non-GMO ingredients” about one year ago, that happened to be a time when people fought eagerly on the safety issues of consuming GMOs. Chipotle caught all GMO debaters’ attentions when they made that claim. People who support the use of GMOs are mad since this action of Chipotle could cause a general misleading because the statement it gave implies that GMO ingredients are not so healthy and safe as non-GMO ones, and since people generally do not have clear ideas on the safety of GMO, the statement could really affect people’s opinion on GMOs. Though Chipotle’s statement sounds innocent, it actually is a very smart way to draw potential customers to their restaurants and thus make more sales, and gain more profits.

Though after Chipotle made the claim that they only use “non-GMO ingredients’’ many studies shows another way around. Some of their product still contains GMO ingredients, which further made their statement of ‘anti-GMOs’ unconvincing and a pure speculation.

 

-How to choose the right source of information?

 

One kind of the websites that I hope people can avoid is http://www.nongmoproject.org/. This website caught my attention when I was gathering evidences activists give when they are trying to show people that GMOs are harmful and avoid them. The ‘nongmoproject’ website is held by activists, we can tell that from its domain name. The content of this website, after my research, is not credible. The arguments it held are invalid, irrelevant or unimportant.

On the homepage of the website, there are three advertisements of the company that run in turns. The first one asks people to register their company into this website since they are “North America’s Only Independent Verification of Non-GMO Products”, which is a way to give themselves “credibility” on GMOs. However, that does not do much work since the second advertisement says “Living Non-GMO”, which exposed their intention of educating people to live against GMO. The third advertisement is another introduction of the company, using keywords such as ‘non profitable”.

Going deeper into this website, we can find a section called “ GMO FACTS” where the site gives their definitions on GMOs, they vaguely describe the safety of GMOs, but still state “How GMOs are responsible for ‘super bugs’ and how GMOs affect farmers…

   Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and are developed and sold by the world’s biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.”

We can find out that the NON GMO Project used people’s fear of “chemicals” to improve their credibility, but most educated people knows that chemical does not mean harm or poison by any means, it is all science. The manipulation of definition implies more on their intention of ask people to run against GMOs. What’s more, the typo “ “super bug:’ ” indicates that people who composed those words are not careful enough and there is also no proofread for the site.

   So far, we can conclude that this site is trying to avoid the topics that indicates the benefits of GMOs, and extravagant the harms of GMOs. Their blog page, however, does not contain any evidence of those harmness. Most of their blogs’ topic is someone new joins the project, but do not have any post on solid evidences of how GMOs harm people or environment. Which makes their website not useful and credible when people are trying to gather informations on GMOs.

What’s more, more study today shows that the previous studies on GMOs are actually problematic. One article support my claim is “10 studies proving GMOs are harmful? Not if science matters”, this article smashed the statements of GMO activists one by one. Author Parker-Katiraee scientifically explained how those scary experiment results are yield, and why are those results are not trustworthy.

 

Discussion

 

There are still more researches to be made for people in order to fully understand how GMOs can affect us, but from what know nowadays, It is irrational to run against the usage and plantation of GMOs worldwide, we should always have a open mind on topics that do not have clear conclusions.

 

References

 

Questions & Answers on Food from Genetically Engineered Plants, (11/23/2015), U.S. Food and Drug Administration. From http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/GEPlants/ucm346030.htm

 

Genetically modified organism,(4/17/2016), From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism

Genetically Modified Crops,(2004),Green Facts, From http://www.greenfacts.org/en/gmo

Study on genetically modified corn, herbicide and tumors reignites controversy, (6/25/2014), From http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-on-genetically-modified-corn-herbicide-and-tumors-reignites-controversy/

Confirmed: DNA From Genetically Modified Crops Can Be Transferred Into Humans Who Eat Them, (1/9/2014), Arjun Walia, From http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/01/09/confirmed-dna-from-genetically-modified-crops-can-be-transfered-to-humans-who-eat-them-2/

Chipotle Fires Back Against Non-GMO Lawsuit, (09/01/2015), Jessica Wohl, From

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/chipotle-fires-back-gmo-lawsuit/300172/

Chipotle is overlooking basic food safety for fake GMO dangers, (12/12/2015), From http://ascienceenthusiast.com/chipotle-is-overlooking-basic-food-safety-for-fake-gmo-dangers/

What Chipotle’s Ban on GMOs Says About Us, (04/29/2015), Rebecca Rupp, From

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/29/chipotle-gmo-ban/

10 studies proving GMOs are harmful? Not if science matters,(11/13/2015), Layla Parker-Katiraee, From 

https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/11/13/10-studies-proving-gmos-are-harmful-not-if-science-matters/

 

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