Why should we know about the genetic modification of plants and animals? In this world today we are seeing different labels on our foods but does anyone even really know what they mean? For example what is the difference between a regular tomato and an organic tomato? We should know what foods we are consuming and how they affect our bodies. I believe that more regulations should be put into place by the Food and Drug Administration so that we are better informed about what we are consuming and the possible side effects to the genetic altering.
The History and Current Status of Genetic Modification
“The first large-scale commercial plantings of genetically modified (GM) [also referred to as genetically engineered (GE)], crops began in 1996. Although public debate and opposition to GM food has been both intense and growing throughout the world, most Americans have only begun to become aware of the issue.”(Charman, 2002). This is very interesting in the fact that they have been planting crops like these since 1996 and the public at large has no knowledge that their food is changing. At this time there were basically no regulations regarding this genetic modification and the public at large did not have to know about it.
Currently we are seeing a lot of different labels on our foods and we really don’t understand exactly what they mean. It’s odd that we have extensive labels with product ingredients and nutrition values on our canned and boxed foods but this is not relevant when it comes to genetically modified foods that we consume. The Food and Drug Administration seems to think that it is not important to put regulations in place so that we know what we are eating or the effects these genetically altered foods could be having on us and our children.
The major issue to me is the fact that we do not know what we are consuming. We look at our children and they are developing much more rapidly than ever before with the average age of menstruation for a female going from 13 to around age 10. There are much more incidences of obesity and cancers now as well. Why shouldn’t there be regulations in place to allow us to know what we are consuming and the possible harmful side effects of consuming such items?
“The FDA, however, does no independent testing for human or animal safety and relies strictly on the research conducted by the manufacturers of the products.”(Mather, 2012). The fact that these seed are being generated by a biotech company and having built in pesticides placed in them is very concerning to me. If the plants seed has a pesticide built in, then when the plant grows and we eat it we are actually consuming some amount of pesticide along with the food. The fact that the Food and Drug Administration has not mandated that these genetically altered seeds be tested is unfathomable to me as a consumer who assumes that the government is keeping us safe.
Environmental Concerns So what are these genetically engineered seeds doing to the environment at large? “In light of the many questions raised about GM crops and foods, one thing was becoming abundantly clear: Much more was unknown than known about their drawbacks versus their benefits. In part, this was due to the fact that many of the potential impacts on human health and the environment would take several years to show up and verify scientifically.” (Cannon, 2010). In Europe they have actually banned the United States from exporting any genetically modified food to their countries due to the inconclusive research.
In the beginning the genetic modification was done to try to help the farmer produce bigger crops and to help the farmer use less pesticides. The farmer probably thought at the beginning that this would be great for their profits and in this way more of them would be able to keep their farms. With the research on a whole being so inconclusive to this time we have no idea the ramifications this could have on our environment and the content of the soil that these seeds are being planted in.
“The experts have confused consumers, even well educated consumers, to the point that some of them aren’t very sure of the safety of GM foods. We haven’t done a very good job of assuring consumers that these products are safe.” (2003,Taylor). As was stated earlier in this paper, there is no conclusive research to state whether what we are eating is safe or not. If the biotech companies are basically making it virtually impossible to do a study can we really know?
This safety issue is of constant concern to the educated consumer. Personally when I go into the grocery store to buy a tomato I can literally see a difference in the tomatoes on the shelf. Some look more pink than red and I have noticed they are much harder than a normal tomato even when they begin to get overripe. I wonder if this is safe for anyone to eat. Safety is also a huge concern for our children. If they are eating all these genetically modified foods during crucial times are development what is that doing to them. I often wonder if these items not being tested are contributing to the rise of rare cancers and other rare disorders occurring frequently in today’s society.
With the advent of the genetically modified era also came the advent of problems some of which are still unseen. The health issues are still yet to be researched and reported. The environmental concerns looming are yet to be identified and researched. And the safety issue of what we are eating has not been researched either yet. Once the Food and Drug Administration mandates research on the foods we are ingesting that are coming from this genetic modification we will then have the research we need to make changes. Also a mandate needs to be put in place to label any food that has been genetically modified so that the consumer has the chance to decide whether they care or not.
Part 2: Viable Solutions
Solutions to this problem can be addressed on many different levels. First, the issue of being informed about what the government is doing to our food needs to be addressed. This can be solved by the growers disclosing what is going on in the growing process and the Food and Drug Administration stepping up and doing its job. Second, we need to know what this is doing to the environment. This can be solved by doing research on the environments being used when growing these foods over an extensive period of time so that we have conclusive unbiased results. And third, we need more research conducted to see conclusively what these changes are doing to our bodies. This can be solved by researching what effects these newly developed seeds and hormones have on lab animals and combining what research we already have about the products being used to alter our food supply. I believe that as a consumer the government is responsible for protecting us from harmful things and that with tighter regulations and more research this can be accomplished.
Our first question to answer is what is the job of the Food and Drug Administration? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website some of their responsibilities are that the “FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
The FDA is also responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to maintain and improve their health.” Since this is the FDA’s responsibility according to their own website, why aren’t they making sure that what we are eating is safe? There are no conclusive studies on how the altering of seeds by injecting them with pesticides is affecting the plant that we then ingest. These pesticides being injected into the plants are banned on other levels and yet they are being allowed to be injected into seeds. If the FDA would step up and do its job by conducting research on the long term effects these modifications have on humans I believe things would change dramatically as far as our health and the quality of what we are eating. The public at large should also be informed so that they can make their decisions on consumption accordingly.
Genetic Modification and the Environment
“As discussed in the 1996 UCS-authored report, The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops, genetically modified crops pose six kinds of potential risks.19 First, the engineered crops themselves could become weeds, a broad term that covers plants with undesirable effects.20 Second, the crops might serve as conduits through which new genes move to wild plants, which could then become weeds. Third, crops engineered to produce viruses could facilitate the creation of new, more virulent or more widely spread viruses. Fourth, plants engineered to express potentially toxic substances could present risks to other organisms like birds or deer. Fifth, crops may initiate a perturbation that may have effects that ripple through an ecosystem in ways that are difficult to predict. Finally, the crops might threaten centers of crop diversity.”(Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 12-13, 2003) Does anyone in the public understand any of this? Is this information widely available for the average person to become informed about it? I have not seen this on the Biography channel or National Geographic. This is because these seeds are widely made by technological companies who are making big money off of them so they guard this information with their lives.
The government needs to step up and step past big business in this matter. If the FDA is supposed to be keeping us and our food supply safe, why are there no conclusive studies on the environment in connection to the genetic modification? This can easily be solved by the government stepping up and requiring conclusive studies to be done in every area of concern just like they do in all other areas with a requirement that it is public knowledge. By doing this the public will be aware of what is going on and in turn can make informed decisions. Genetic Modification and Our Health
We have already learned that most of the genetic modifications are being done my big business and that they are making it nearly impossible to do conclusive studies. When asked about the need for research this was the answer; “Monsanto’s website states, “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.”(2102, LevAux) This viewpoint, while good for business, is built on an understanding of genetics circa 1960.” Why are we listening to a company who is basing their views on such outdated information and clearly is biased toward profit? Are they afraid if tested we would find out the real effects these alterations are having on our bodies? Would this explain the increase in rare cancers, unknown diseases and other normally rare disorders? “What impact do GM foods have on our health? The answer is, no one really knows. GM foods have been on the market only since 1994, and research on their long-term effects on humans is scarce.
To date most of the studies have been done on animals; worryingly, though, some of those studies link GM foods to altered metabolism, inflammation, kidney and liver malfunction, and reduced fertility. In one experiment, multiple generations of hamsters were fed a diet of GM soy; by the third generation, they were losing the ability to produce offspring, producing about half as many pups as the non-GM soy group.” (2012, O) The easy solution to this is to conduct more thorough research. When this research is conducted it should also be seriously considered regarding human health. If these things are having these affects on lab animals, what are they doing to us? We need to lobby for more legislation regarding genetic modification and the effects it is having on our bodies and the development of our children. The legislation should also call for public disclosure so that we can make informed decisions on what we are buying and eating. I find it very interesting that in Europe a lot of countries have banned genetic modification for the lack of research and will not import any of our foods if they are modified. What do they know that we don’t?