Photo by Sara Schmitt

Many people believe that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are bad. It has been driven into society that GMOs are not natural, and are therefore a bad thing. And until I did my research on them, GMOs held a negative connotation for me as well. I mean, without GMOs, Dennis Nedry would still be alive, right?

The first impression from many of the people I surveyed was that GMOs are “not natural.” Often, GMOs are associated with toxic pesticides. This assumption only sustains the falsity that GMOs are comprised of nasty chemicals that will cause birth defects and cancer. So before jumping to conclusions on how you only eat organic food because you don’t want any “genetically modified … what’s the last letter stand for?” in your diet, learn a bit about how they work and their effects on your body and the environment.

There are different types of GMOs. Some GMOs are crops that are bred by taking one trait from one plant or organism, and put it into another plant or organism. Others involve slightly changing a specific protein. Phrases like “GMO-infected” and cartoons of a tomato crossed with a fish are inaccurate. Cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, as we know today have all been modified by humans.

In reality, GMOs are in no way harmful to human health — in fact, there are proven benefits. For example, the Golden Rice project is based entirely on GMOs. It involves fortifying grains of rice with beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which is important in enhancing vision and overall health, especially in societies dependent on rice as a food staple.

Other benefits of GMOs include the decrease in various defects such as spina bifida, prevented by fortifying flour with folic acid, which also leads to a decreased risk of stroke. Adding iron to flour decreases anemia — according to the World Health Organization, iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world, and especially prevalent in developing countries.

If you’re still concerned, you don’t have to eat foods containing them. The word “organic” by definition excludes all GMOs.

The biggest concern about GMOs is their long-term effect. While there is little evidence to show that GMOs are not harmful long term, there is similarly little evidence to show that it will be harmful long term. While there are theories that cross-pollination may be a potential hazard, there is not enough evidence to make that theory a fact. Still, that does not mean that we should put an end to GMOs or that we should stop doing research on GMOs — it just means that the use of GMOs in the environment must be monitored, and that it’s important to decide who gets to grow GMOs.

Our world is changing fast, and to keep up with rapidly growing populations in different areas of the globe, efficiency is key. It allows us to fortify our produce with essential nutrients that could save third-world populations and generate a healthier crop with each growing season.

While there may be concerns for GMOs in the long-run, these issues can easily be overcome by continuing to test GMOs in a controlled environment, and weighing the pros and cons of the effect that the introduction of GMOs will have in different societies.

  • Geoff Hamer

    At it’s roots, the anti-GMO movement is an anti-CORPORATE movement. It’s people who are overly-emotional about the food they eat who entertain a false impression that Organic Food is being planted and grown by pleasant families wearing straw hats and hand-tilling fields.

    What they don’t realize is that the word ‘Organic’ is a actually a corporate marketing tool. It’s used to demonize perfectly safe food while promoting a growing method that has never been shown to safer or more nutritious… for PROFIT$$. They also don’t realize that Organic doesn’t mean no pesticides. Like all farmers, they DO use pesticides, just ones that get a special exception as ‘organic pesticides’.

    In the end, anti-GMO folk don’t believe that the technology is unsafe and therefore immoral, they believe the technology is immoral and therefore unsafe.

    • Cletus DeBunkerman

      Actually it is about the health of our families.

      Lets talk about bile duct cancer, Kidney and renal pelvic cancer, urinary bladder cancer, thyroid cancer, not only that but also hypertension, stroke, obesity, diabetes, renal disease, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal infection, autism, alzheimer’s , and parkinson’s. All of these have increased dramatically since cancer causing Roundup laden GMOs were introduced with out any long term safety testing and purposely hidden from us in the food supply.

      There have been no long term independent studies of the health effects of GMOs on human health. Many health care organizations are recognizing that severe unexplainable symptoms that are being reported by their patients get better when GMOs are removed from their diet.

      • RobertWager

        Always great when you up vote one of your many aliases.

        • Cletus DeBunkerman

          Why do you get so jealous of those of us who get support and upvotes from the comment community while all you get are upvotes from your industry PR astroturfer co-workers?

    • Jason

      Very well said.

  • Debbie Owen

    Most GMOs have been genetically engineered to withstand repeated applications of herbicides and/or to produce pesticides. These poisons can’t wash off so people are eating these poisons hidden in our food supply. Our country has become very sick since GMOs were snuck into our food supply in the mid 90s and I don’t believe that is just a coincidence. By the way, GMO golden rice is just a failed GMO experiment, it doesn’t work. It looks like the author is trying to mislead people here.

    • RobertWager

      Morning Debbie. Lets explore your comment. First the average GE crop (those that are herbicide tolerant) is sprayed with the herbicide once or twice early in the crop cycle. This hardly is repeated spraying. The amount of the active ingredient herbicide is ~22 oz per acre (a can of cola per football field). The toxicity of the newer herbicides is far less than older chemistry farmers used to use. This means farmers have overwhelmingly switched to herbicides like glyphosate (less toxic than table salt or vinegar) because it is very effective and degrades into non-toxic compounds and therefore does not persist in the environment.

      Now as for your scary Poison can’t be washed off I assume you are referring to the Cry and Vip proteins that insect resistant GE crops have. These genes were isolated from soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt for short. Bt bacteria has a long history of safe use in agriculture including organic agriculture.

      The Cry and Vip proteins are only toxic to the target pests. Only the target pests have the gut receptors the the Cry and Vip proteins bind to. without these specific receptors the Cry and Vip proteins are digested just like every other protein we consume. I know you klnow this but continue to use scary words like poisons when in fact the Cry and Vip Bt proteins are anything but that to all but the target pests. This is why they are so safe. And of course you once again forgot to mention the planting of Bt crops has allowed farmers to reduce the use of broad spectrum insecticides by hundreds of millions of pounds.

      Funny how life expectancy continued to rise over the entire history of GE crops. Funny how every national health authority in the world that has looked at GE crops find them to be safe. What evidence have they all missed? Please show this forum the evidence for your allegations against this technology.

      GRII is still in the late stages of development so how can it be a failure if it has not been released to commercial use yet. It is true the movement of the beta carotene trait into other cultivars is hitting snags but that hardly means that GRII is a failure. I encourage people to go to the goldenricedotorg website and learn about it for themselves.

      Cheers

      • Debbie Owen

        Herbicide tolerant GE crops are designed to withstand repeated applications of herbicide (roundup) so the plant won’t die. If the crops weren’t sprayed much, as you suggest, then there wouldn’t even be a “need” for roundup ready crops. Farmers are using more and more roundup as weeds become more resistant, you can’t guarantee how much is being used. Your claim that 22oz of glyphosate per acre being used is deceptive because no matter how much glyphosate is sprayed and no matter how often, the fact is that glyphosate is now found in our bodies! Obviously that poison can’t be all washed off and that isn’t healthy for anyone.

        As for Bt crops, there is no comparison between the Bt used only sometimes (as a last resort) in organic crops and the Bt in GE crops. First of all many organic farmers use no pesticides at all, but for those that sometimes use Bt on their crops it is mostly dissipated in the sunlight and can be washed off the plant. Consumers aren’t likely to ingest any Bt when they eat organic. But the Bt in GE Bt corn (for instance) is produced within every kernel, it can’t dissipate in the sun or be washed off. The fact is that Bt corn is registered as a pesticide with the EPA and it’s in many food products such as cereal, most people aren’t even aware that they are eating these poisons.

        You can call these proteins but that doesn’t change the fact that they are also poisons. Considering that herbicides are a form of pesticides, the use of pesticides has greatly increased since GE crops were snuck into our food supply in the mid 90s. Our country has become very sick, especially with GI disorders and allergies and I don’t believe that is just a coincidence. Many people have eliminated GE foods from their diets (the best they can without proper labels) and found that their negative health effects has greatly improved. I have seen this with my own eyes and others can too, just go non-GMO. They won’t need a study or regulatory agency to tell them how much better they feel. There are also many doctors who have discovered this as well and recommend to their patients to stop eating GE foods, you can try it for yourself.

        I will never understand how anyone could think that ingesting small amounts of poison in several different food products day after day could be good for anyone.

        By the way, Golden rice hasn’t been released for commercial use because it doesn’t work, farmers don’t even want to grow it because of decreased yields.

      • patzagame

        22 oz is not a can of coke!

        • Cletus DeBunkerman

          Glyphosate has been found to cause breast cancer cell growth at part per TRILLION concentrations.

          Over 96% of GMOs grown today are genetically engineered to use Roundup/glyphosate in their cultivation. This pesticide must be taken into the plant in order to work and it can not be washed off.

          A recent peer reviewed study published on the Nature website shows that Roundup causes fatty liver disease at concentrations 430,000 times lower than what is allowed in the food supply.

          Glyphosate is a potent endocrine disruptor that has no safe dose. I causes DNA breaks and irreversible cellular death. It mimics glycine in the body. It causes rapid aging, multiple diseases, and early death.

          • Jason

            Glyphosate has been found to cause breast cancer cell growth at part per TRILLION concentrations.

            That’s a lie.

            A recent peer reviewed study published on the Nature website shows that Roundup causes fatty liver disease at concentrations 430,000 times lower than what is allowed in the food supply.

            Actually, no it doesn’t ans the authors didn’t do the necessary analysis to be able to make that claim.

          • razorjack

            You can read the study on the Nature website.

            Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide
            http://www(dot)nature(dot)com/articles/srep39328

            Glyphosate (Roundup) Carcinogenic In the PARTS PER TRILLION Range
            http://www(dot)greenmedinfo(dot)com/blog/breaking-glyphosate-roundup-carcinogenic-parts-trillion-range

          • Jason

            Yes, I know. I have read them. That’s how I know you’re wrong. I’m betting you haven’t, though.

          • razorjack

            Then you know that my statement is true.

          • Mark Smith

            I’m betting he doesn’t work for any foundation of project funded by those he defends, while you, Jason, almost certainly do work for the Heritage Foundation or the Genetic Literacy Project. NO ONE defends foods that are this questionable when talking about the safety of our children.

          • Jason

            The conspiracies run deep with you! No… I work for none of those organizations.

            NO ONE defends foods that are this questionable when talking about the safety of our children.

            Except for every governmental health & safety regulatory agency in the world… but who’s counting?

          • Mark Smith

            Interesting. Your words are EXACTLY the same words used by lawyers defending smoking. EXACTLY. Not a single word is different.

          • Jason

            Your words are EXACTLY the same words used by lawyers defending smoking.

            Really? Interesting. It seems to me there are a lot of parallels with smoking. In both cases there was a large body of evidence that was used to come to a scientific consensus on what health impacts there were. And in both cases there was a small, financially motivated group of individuals who were constantly disputing and denying that scientific consensus.
            Let’s see…. Which of us fits that description more closely? Hmmmm….

          • Cletus DeBunkerman

            You can say anything you want to in your comments, but you are lying again. Anyone who care to check the facts will see that everything I have posted is true.

      • Matt Blackmon

        I see you are still pumping your pro-GMO propaganda Robert Wager. Maybe one day you’ll tell us how much you’re being paid for your considerable efforts?

        So if glyphosate was so safe, I wonder why it’s been labeled a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)? Or, why it has been recently classed as “carcinogenic” by the State of California?

        I have yet to get a definitive answer from you on what percentage of GMO food crops suitable for human consumption either directly, or indirectly by being fed to agricultural animals are either herbicide tolerant or are themselves insecticidal (Bt)? The answer? More than 80%!

        So, if you believe the GMO industry promo material stating that pesticides are safe in our foods, go ahead and eat GMO foods!

        If, on the other hand, you value your health and aren’t waiting for the manufactures of pesticides and GMO foods, often the same companies by the way, to tell you they are unsafe, decide for yourself but I choose to err on the side of caution.

        But here is something to consider. When did the manufacturers of such chemicals as PCBs actually issue public advisories warning of the dangers of these toxic compounds? They are often the same companies that now make GMOs and the pesticides they are designed to be sprayed with.

        Let me know if you find any industry PCB advisories because I have yet to find them. When finally issued, often decades after the damage has been done, those warnings have been issued by other bodies i.e. governmental/public health agencies.

        • Jason

          Why would you need to rely on industry promo materials or wait for the manufacturers to tell you they’re safe? We have an entire network of health & safety regulatory bodies that are all telling you that. In fact, every health & regulatory agency in the world seems to be saying that.

          Maybe you should rely on them instead of industry promo materials? Just a thought.

          • Mark Smith

            Are you referring to the FDA or the USDA? Because both have extensive infiltration from Monsanto employees which have been instrumental in fastracking GMO’s. Rubberstamping approvals, despite proof of falsified reports and bogus studies? Is that what you are referring to?

          • Jason

            Yes…. I’m referring to the USDA, FDA & EPA. But if your conspiracy theories have eroded your trust in those agencies, then pick any number of other world regulatory food & safety bodies… the WHO, EFSA, BfR, ECHA, etc, etc… they all seem to be coming to the same conclusions.

      • Rob Legroulx

        This Is what I don’t get with anyone that agrees with gmo’s didn’t they say when they started it that it would end this no more starvation is exactly what they said but did that happen NO! If you research it that was their biggest claim that’s why I choose to be against It nothing has been done about that.

        • Jason

          …didn’t they say when they started it that it would end this no more starvation is exactly what they said…

          Well, I was one of the people selling these seeds when they first came out and I can tell you exactly what we were saying. We were saying that it would help farmers get better & less expensive weed control. It did exactly that. Then, when but crops came out we said it would protect their corn crop from European corn border and then later we said it’d protect from corn root worm. It has done just that.

          So, I’m not sure where this “starvation” nonsense came from but that is not what the selling points of genetic engineering ave been.

    • JoeFarmer

      “Most GMOs have been genetically engineered to withstand repeated applications of herbicides…”

      Another day, another lie from Debbie Owen.

      • Debbie Owen

        You obviously don’t know the kind of GMOs being discussed here, that’s no surprise considering you are the fake farmer who doesn’t know that glyphosate is poison.

        • Everything is a poison in the right dose Debbie….

    • Mark Smith

      Robert, you post on absolutely no other subject. You work for that industry. You have been touting the wonderfulness of GMO’s for 5 years. When are you going to simply admit that you are in their employ and let everyone see your bias?

  • patzagame

    Lots of assumptions in this entertaining,naive little essay. Bt and Ht tolerant crops have never been and will never be considered natural,no matter how hard you want to spin that dialogue. “This assumption only sustains the falsity that GMOs are comprised of nasty chemicals that will cause birth defects and cancer.” Wow…now there’s a biggie right there! Perhaps the author might have assumed that,perhaps the reason she “researched” GMOs. and this…”Some GMOs are crops that are bred by taking one trait from one plant or organism, and put it into another plant or organism. Others involve slightly changing a specific protein.” so simple and basically ignorant. Then we have the standard story line… Cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, as we know today have all been modified by humans. Not GMOs! Now lets throw in beneficial Golden Rice,thats not even on the market…and if it ever does finally become available,its no longer a necessity. The fifth paragraph is so far off the wall,not quite sure where those tidbits of information came from. Classic assumption in # 7,that GMOs are safe until proven harmful-thats not how it works,sweetie. I’m really starting to wonder where your knowledge of cross pollination hazards are just theory comes from? Go research bent grass….. “Still, that does not mean that we should put an end to GMOs or that we should stop doing research on GMOs — it just means that the use of GMOs in the environment must be monitored, and that it’s important to decide who gets to grow GMOs.”….. Monitored? Decided? By whom? How about there be a GMO task force that makes sure farmers adhere to label instructions on pesticides,or that farmers don’t plant GE crops too close to their neighbors and contaminate their non gmo crops.They can also make sure GE pharmers are rotating their crops to prevent resistance, creating super weeds and Bt tolerant pests and they plant buffer zones! Hey, we can even make the organic taxpayers foot the bill,that would be great! Not sure if its innocence or ignorance,but I hope you continue your knowledge quest,btw third world populations don’t need GE fortified essential nutrient produce(which doesn’t even exist),they need real food! One last thought…nature is not a controlled environment!

    • Jason

      Bt and Ht tolerant crops have never been and will never be considered natural,no matter how hard you want to spin that dialogue.

      Why not? All crops are herbicide tolerant. Broadleaf crops are tolerant to herbicides that target grasses and vice versa. Seems pretty natural to me. And Bt proteins are ubiquitous in our environment. You literally encounter them every day. Pretty darn natural.

      This is quite a lengthy post considering how little it has to say. It’s so factually innacurate it seems like you just invented it all in your head.

  • Nate

    GMOs, along with toxic herbicides and pesticides, pose a serious risk of disrupting ecosystems and simply making diseases and pests more resistant to our technologies. It’s the same problem as with antibiotic resistance and has the same solution. Stop overperscribing antibiotics and stop overproducing GMOs.

    They also serve as a mechanism for seed distributers to exploit farmers. GMO corps can make the GMOs sterile and make them mature at times offset to the nornal season, so by the time a farmer harvests them theyve missed the time to plant normal seeds and they must plant GMO seeds again. Because of this farms can get stuck on GMOs, since theyd have to not produce for a yesr jn order to get back to organic products. So GMO corps can charge exploitative prices to farmers who can’t afford the transition back to normal crops.

    We don’t need GMOs. The world produces far more food than is consumed, far more food than could possibly consumed by the world population. There is no problem with food production, only with food distribution. This is another clear-cut case of environmental sustainability and public health vs.profit for private companies.

    • Jason

      GMOs, along with toxic herbicides and pesticides, pose a serious risk of disrupting ecosystems and simply making diseases and pests more resistant to our technologies.

      How so?

      They also serve as a mechanism for seed distributers to exploit farmers. GMO corps can make the GMOs sterile and make them mature at times offset to the nornal season, so by the time a farmer harvests them theyve missed the time to plant normal seeds and they must plant GMO seeds again.

      I’m afraid that’s not even a little bit true. Gm crops mature just like any other. They produce viable seed just like any other and the is absolutely no barrier to moving back to non-gmo crops should a farmer decide to do so.

      This is another clear-cut case of environmental sustainability and public health vs.profit for private companies.

      How so?

  • Matt Blackmon

    This article reads like an add for a GMO manufacturer! Funny how the very few positives are highlighted and the many negatives completely ignored.

    Question: How many GMO food crops grown directly for human consumption or as feed for animals that we consume are pesticide (or herbicide) tolerant or are themselves insecticidal (eg. Bt crops)? I am amazed at how many who sing the praises of GMO crops don’t know the answer. (It’s more than 80%!) Also, most of the crops grown are glyphosate compound tolerant and glyphosate has been determined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a “probable carcinogen” a label that has been vigorously challenged by the agri-chemical industry.

    And recently, the State of California determined that glyphosate was a carcinogen, a decision also challenged by the industry but one that was upheld by a California judge.

    So if you don’t mind consuming known or probable carcinogens, go ahead and eat GMO foods. I prefer to avoid them but that’s just me.

    • Jason

      So if you don’t mind consuming known or probable carcinogens, go ahead and eat GMO foods. I prefer to avoid them but that’s just me.

      You are gonna get pretty hungry. Every food has probable or known carcinogens in them. They occur naturally in everything you eat.

  • Rob Legroulx

    Well then If GMO’s are so great then why when they started the GMO push they said it would end this no more starvation is exactly what they said. Now why If It that Is true that Is not happening like wise??? Why? More like yeah right It will. If you research it that was their biggest claim.