Genetically Engineered foods can produce unpredictable side effects, and scientists know very little about what a gene could trigger or interrupt. Biotechnology and genetic modification is a fairly new scientific discovery, however, it is still a test tube science. We are tinkering with the unknown, which is quite risky, especially since this is food that Americans consume everyday.
This is all detrimental because we consumers do not even know if what we are eating is genetically modified. Could GE foods really be an issue and detrimental to our health and environment? Would the FDA allow consumers to purchase GE foods if they had serious health and environmental effects?
Over 60 countries worldwide follow the Marketers’ Responsibility Thesis that states “the marketers of GE products have a moral obligation to label GE products as such for consumers” (Markie 88). These countries require the labeling of foods: European Union countries, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, Australia, India, South Africa and Venezuela. Those countries prohibit the growth of GM crops, and despite the extreme starvation in certain African countries, “they have refused to import these foods unless they are first ground into powder so that they cannot be planted” (Blatt 5). It is interesting that certain people would choose starvation over GM products, but why is this?
What are the benefits of GMOs (if any)?
I cannot write about GMOs without noting that there are some positive aspects, or else this technology would not have been created. First, biotechnology advocates and industries have argued that since the creation and introduction of GMOs into society, it has actually reduced the use of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.
What exactly are pesticides?
Pesticides can pose serious health and environmental issues. Some of the risks include: “synthetic chemicals that are released purposely into the environment; they are designed to be toxic to some forms of life and often have the potential to cause adverse effects in a number of nontarget species, including humans; humans are unavoidably exposed to pesticides either occupationally or involuntarily through pesticide residues occurring in food and water” (Harrod 10)
So, if GMOs reduce the use of pesticides, which obviously include very serious risks, and the data is accurate that they reduce pesticide use, why is there so much debate over labeling? It seems that the data is somewhat ambiguous and arbitrary.
While some research argues that GM crops reduce pesticide use in the United States, other research claims that pesticide use has actually increased since the creation of GMOs in the 1990s.
As GMOs have become resistant to pesticides, “superweeds–weeds that are able to adapt to and withstand typical herbicides,” antibiotic resistance has also been a new resistance in the environment (GMOs & Pesticides).
The Antibiotic Resistance Movement
An “antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth” (APUA). Antibiotic resistance stems from the overuse and abuse of antibiotics, especially in factory farming. Antibiotics in farming are used to encourage growth, and also ward off other infections in the slaughter houses.
Interestingly, “at least half, if not more, of all antibiotics used in the United States goes to huge factory farm operations. This has generated tremendously potent and quick resistance in a large range of bacteria” (Harrod 26). The use of antibiotics, says reporter Brandon Keim: “Much of it is used to treat diseases spread by industrial husbandry practices, or simply to accelerate growth. As a result, farms have become giant petri dishes for superbugs, especially multidrug-resistant…or MRSA, which kills 20,000 Americans every year” (Harrod 27-28).
Despite the fact that GMOs produce uncertain side effects to the human health, there is also debate that they increase the use of pesticides, while also contributing to the antibiotic resistance movement and the drug of last resort.
Blatt, Harvey. “America’s Food: What You Don’t Know About What You Eat.” Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008.
“General Background: About Antibiotic Resistance.” Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics: APUA. Boston. 2013. http://www.tufts.edu
“GMOs & Pesticides.” Farming 1970s to Today. Wessels: Living History Farm. Nebraska.http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org
Harrod, Stephen. “Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria.” North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2012.
Markie, Peter. “Mandatory Genetic Engineering Labels and Consumer Autonomy.” Trans. Array Labeling Genetically Modified Food: The Philosophical and Legal Debate. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.