GMOs: not as evil as you might think

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have their genomes altered in favor of specific traits. For example, using the technology, you could create a corn crop with larger cobs, larger kernels and, potentially, a larger yield. GMOs can make specific foods healthier by giving greater concentrations of nutrients or introducing genomes to antioxidants. The use of GMOs in this way could potentially solve many food shortage problems and create solutions worldwide.

However, there are some considerations and potential threats in using GMOs. In a debate in biology class, one of my peers brought up the Irish Potato Famine. Say you create a crop of tomatoes with identical traits and, essentially, the same genome.  If a bacteria or disease evolves to destroy one of the tomatoes, the entire crop will be destroyed because there is no difference in genome to promote that natural selection that has carefully crafted organisms since the beginning of time.

The stigma is another thing. Just because we do not think GMOs are dangerous now does not mean they will not potentially arise as a health danger later down the line. But this notion perpetuates a fear of science. Current research shows no health threat with the use of GMOs. The simple idea that, “one day, GMOs might make everyone sick,” is a simple fear mongering tactic.

With this and the organic foods trend, many people are concerned with GMOs. I think this is because the title “GMO” sounds, well, scary. It is now almost a point of pride when a company can write “non-GMO” on the side of their product. People seem to fear this idea that science is “interfering” with their food. However, science and  selection have “interfered” with food yields for centuries. What distinguishes genetic trait selection in GMOs from mating the bigger, stronger cattle to produce bigger, stronger offspring to give a larger food yield? This practice to generate farm animals is used today, but this form of selection is not shunned. Many people, and maybe those same fear mongering people discussed earlier, may argue that the laboratory genetic modification may pose a threat to human genomes. This is, quite frankly, ridiculous and has no basis. If you are not concerned with the DNA of a strawberry altering your DNA, you should not be concerned about the DNA of a genetically-modified corn crop altering your genome, either. After all, GMOs are not just used in the food industry. Modern-day insulin is a GMO. It continues to save, millions of lives every year. The widespread acceptance and use of consumable GMOs can very well do the same.