Say NO to GMO The Harmful Truth

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In recent years, the technology to edit the genes of a living organism has become not only possible, but prominent. While some restriction is common amongst most countries, America has failed to hop on board the train. While more and more research is coming out that supports reason to believe that GMOs (genetically modified organism) are unsafe, it appears that nothing is changing.

GMOs are created by the genome of a said organism being artificially enhanced. Harvard student Chelsea Powell describes GMO construction through a series of key steps. This includes “identifying a trait of interest,” then “isolating that trait” and “inserting that into a desired organism,” while lastly “propagating that organism”. These steps are applicable to both humans and plants alike. However, while strict limits have been put in place regarding human editing, the genetically modifying of plants has not been limited in America yet.

Steps To Creating A GMO

GMOs were approved first by the FDA in 1982 and later hit the market in 1994. Although the technology to create genetically modified organisms has only recently surfaced, the idea’s have been present for centuries. While not considered to fall under the umbrella of GMOs, selective breeding brings forth similar ideas and thus a similar amount of distasteful discussion. A documentary made by NOVA, a research organization, discusses why and when selective breeding is used.

In selective breeding, "humans set the conditions for success, reward whatever organism manages to complete the task best, and allows nature to do the rest."

Dogs, specifically show dogs, are nearly always selectively bred. Only pure bred dogs are allowed to compete in the show ring. These dogs are examined closely. The observations a judge makes about the dogs (any thing from the angle the ears flop to the distance between the eyes) are written down. The notes are compared to how well they match a pre- written description of the best possible version of that breed of dog. Below is the full video about dogs and selective breeding.

Charlotte McGowan, a papillon breeder, compares a gene pool to paints. She believes “making” dogs is an art, and she has mastered it. To build the perfect dog, she uses a technique called inbreeding. This brings up a whole new list of moral issues itself, as she chooses mating partners for her dogs within their own family. This technique is used to control what the next generation of papillons will look like, but, it’s become increasingly important to be aware of the danger that follows inbreeding.

What Inbreed Gene Looks Like

A gene that produces something helpful for a papillon, such as the shape of the dog’s ears, can be located on a dog's DNA close to a gene that is harmful for the dog, such as a disease. When this happens, the pup of this breed has a high chance of getting both the good and bad gene. If this pup gets a healthy version of the gene from his other parent, he will be safe. But inbreed dogs have a high chance of getting the same bad gene from both parents, creating problems for the dog. This is the same reason why incest is incredibly dangerous to humans and often has dire results.

Technically speaking, selective breeding is not considered to genetically modify the organism. As a result of this, anything produced from selective breeding is not considered to be a GMO. It is important to understand that selective breeding is in no way limited to show dogs. Many plants are selectively breed as well. Distinguishing the difference between selective breeding and genetic engineering is crucial for the understanding of GMOs.

While selective breeding occurs through choosing specific parents to make a stronger organism, genetically modifying organisms is done through speeding up mutations. BBC discusses the possibility of speeding up mutation rates by using radiation or chemicals to effect a sequence in the DNA of an organism.

A Mutated DNA Chain

In recent years, evidence regarding the dangers of GMOs has been circulating. The release of chemicals and radiation into an environment can alter not only the targeted plants, but surrounding biodiversity as well. This is a serious danger to the environment these crops reside in. It is a well known fact that most crops are treated with pesticides to keep insects away. It was discovered long ago that pesticides are not good for humans. One of the ideas behind the creation of GMOs was eliminating pesticides while still finding a way to keep insects away. If a crop could somehow be undesirable to insects and still have the same nutritional value, the crop would be better suited for its environment as this is an advantageous trait. The problem with this is that mutating DNA is very risky business.

The Dangers of Inbreeding

Tom Mckay, a writer for MIC Network thinks GMOs have a bigger effect on the environment than most realize. GMO food has the ability to encourage the evolution of pesticide- resistant insects. In retrospect, this makes sense. If these crops are potentially harmful to insects, than only the stronger insects will be able to survive after eating them. The less suited insects will die out, leaving a population of stronger, resistant bugs. This has already been seen with pesticide usage. As time goes on, bugs have become more and more unaffected by pesticides, which is why they have to keep getting stronger. There is no way to avoid this process. Humans can genetically engineer the strongest plants possible, but there is no stopping natural selection.

It is believed that GMOs pose a threat to human safety as well as the environment they are cultivated in. Dr. Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist of agriculture refutes the claims that GMOs are safe for human consumption. If the threats concerning GMOs are true, they would affect a huge population of people. To put things in perspective, 79% of the world’s soybean crop is genetically modified. 70% of cotton, 32% of corn, and 24% of rapeseed crop has also been modified according to Gmo Compass. The food and other goods developed from these resources are shared not only amongst humans, but with a huge amount of livestock as well.

Dr. Thierry Vrain

Dr. Vrain believes soybean and corn crops are especially dangerous. He claims,

“There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe.”

Vrain goes on further to say that scientific studies have shown that rats fed GMOs died prematurely. Yet, with all of this information in mind, the federal departments have not taken steps to confirm nor deny these statements. In fact, soybeans and corn plants have not been regulated or had proteins tested in order to ensure their safety. It seems as if the government cares more about crop production rate and viability of crops than the possibility of people dying prematurely.

If it isn't shocking enough, it should be known that America has placed significantly less limits regarding GMOs than any other first world country. A research assignment conducted by Sustainable Pulse found that thirty eight countries have total or partial bans on GMO usage. Another sixty countries has imposed tight restrictions on them. Sustainable Pulse also found that only twenty eight countries had technology to grow GMOs and didn’t mind the possible environmental effects of them.

Perhaps the scariest part of GMOs is America’s lack of honesty surrounding them. The Center for Food Safety discovered 64 countries require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. America was not on this list. France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium are just a few big names that were included. But, it’s not just first world countries that are admitting to problems regarding GMOs. Ethiopia, El Salvador. and Kenya also have labeling requirements in place. As Tom Mckay points out,

“While the U.S. does not require GMO food labeling, it is the largest commercial grower of genetically modified crops in the entire world.”

To be precise, 95% of U.S. sugar beets are genetically engineered along with 94% of U.S. cotton, 93% of soybeans, 88% of U.S. corn. Perhaps most shockingly, anywhere between 60-75% of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients.

Although it seems as if America has no protection against the threat genetically modified organisms pose, there are some companies that are trying to make a difference. Strictly non-GMO, Dole Plantation chooses to avoid GMOs in hopes of spreading awareness of the danger. Dole isn’t the only corporation whose chosen a cleaner route. Chipotle, Annie’s, and other companies have decided that no GMO is the best way to go.

Where Labeling GMOs is Required

While the long term effects of GMOs are uncertain, there is agreement that people should know what they are eating. In a survey done by the New York Times, it was discovered that 93% of people wish for a GMO label on their food. Hopefully, America will follow the path other countries diligently set out and begin putting reforms on GMOs until there is a safe way to create and ingest them. Until then, look for companies that utilize a healthier way to grow food.

Choose healthy. Choose safe. Choose natural.

Works Cited:

“GM Crops Now Banned in 38 Countries Worldwide.” Sustainable Pulse. October 22, 2015. Accessed February 12, 2017.

GMO Compass. Accessed February 15, 2017.

Kulikowski, Laurie. "5 Companies Against Genetically Modified Foods." TheStreet. TheStreet, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.

McKay, Tom. “64 Countries Have Taken the Bold Stand Against Monsanto the U.S. Won’t.” News. May 13, 2014.

Power, Chelsea. "How to Make a GMO." Science in the News. N.p., 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

PowerOfMind101. "NOVA - DOGS AND MORE DOGS - Discovery Science Animals (full Documentary)." YouTube. YouTube, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.


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