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The Good, the Bad, and the Genetically Modified Organisms Essay

I am a food lover. I live to taste new food items, try new recipes, and experience the wonder of food. For me, ingredients are more than just a step in the process. Ingredients need to be of quality and need to be as fresh as possible. They are the difference between a mind altering eating experience and a boring or even distasteful meal experience. With that being said; we have now engineered food to stay more fresh, longer and offer people with food allergies the ability to have things they once could not. Genetically modified foods may even offer enhanced nutrients in foods that may not normally contain a plethora of valuable nutrients. For most people, this may seem like a triumph within the world of food. However, we have to question the potential side effects of genetically modified organisms.

While the idea is admirable, the details behind how we make crops that survive infestations and nuts that no longer cause allergic reactions, are startling. With Genetically modified organisms being a relatively new addition to the world of food; how do we know what the long term affects may be of prolonged ingestion of these food items? Furthermore, how do we know that we have not already seen signs of health concerns with the use of G.M.O.? Where do we as humans draw the line as to what is acceptable for nutritional consumption? For myself, I say we get back to naturalistic ways of farming or start focusing our efforts toward a healthier way of growing our crops, without the added risks.

G.M.O. is becoming somewhat of a catch phrase in the world of food. It stands for organisms that have been genetically altered to have certain desired traits added or removed. For example: If left to nature, a tomato would be subject to certain types of insects that would eat away at the tomato causing a farmer to lose money in damaged crops. A genetically modified tomato would be cross bred with an organism that is resistant to those insects. Another advantage could be fruits such as bananas that contain vaccines or wheat, soy, and peanuts free of allergens or other tomato plants that have genes from an artic flounder spliced in to make it resistant to frost. What is wrong with that you may ask? It is saving the farmer a lot of money and time by not having to spray pesticides. Farmers may also be able to produce higher crop yields; in turn they see higher profit margins. With that being said, when using genetically modified seeds, the farmer will be forced to purchase new seeds season after season due to the way the seeds are engineered.

Some G.M.O seeds are genetically engineered to NOT produce a viable seed for regrowth, such as the plants that contain the “Terminator” gene (Rice). This means that companies that produce the seeds continue to see revenue year after year; in turn, creating jobs for our economy. Genetically engineered food may even offer up solutions for malnutrition in less developed countries, such as the Philippines, by offering such crops as golden rice; which is said to potentially save over a million children a year from vitamin A deficiencies (Norton). For many, this may seem like a step in the right direction for society and a huge leap forward in efforts to end world hunger. However, the cost to our bodies for a stable economy may not be worth the effort put into genetically modified organisms.

So, what is wrong with G.M.O.? Foremost, we are creating food products that in nature would never exist; essentially, genetically modified organisms are unnatural. Our bodies do not recognize some, if not, most of the genetic make-up in certain foods that have been modified. One of the most popular examples of this would be corn. Corn today is being used by almost every industry in America and around the world. We see it in feed for livestock, in the kitchen for syrups, thickeners, and whole kernels for cooking, and we also see it in the fueling industry with e85 ethanol gasoline. Genetically modified corn, with the exception of soy beans, are one of the most modified plants today. Most corn crops carry genetic traits that deplete soil nutrients, leaving the soil unusable for many growing seasons. The pollen from corn crops can travel to plants that are found growing nearby, like milkweed plants.

Monarch caterpillars feed on the milkweed plants. Studies show that if the monarch caterpillars ingest too much of the pollen from the genetically modified corn crops, it eithers stunts the caterpillars growth or causes death (Ackerman). Moreover, are the potential hazards genetically modified organisms hold for organic farmers; if any part of an organic farmer’s crop is contaminated by pollen spread from a genetically modified crop, the farmer loses their certification. For me, this is a good indication that there should be serious concern about what genetically modified foods do to our (human) bodies. More than sixty percent of the commercially bought foods sold in stores contain some form of genetically modified food ingredient. This means that we are not necessarily limiting the amount of modified foods in our diet. There for, even people who may be health conscious may not be aware of what they are ingesting.

For instance, a lot of vegans substitute tofu for meats in order to get protein in their diet. However, tofu is comprised of soy bean, which is the highest produced genetically modified food in the world. Soy byproducts can be found in almost everything you purchase, from candy bars to baby formula. If soy is in a lot of what we buy, how is it that we have not seen the adverse effects from it being genetically modified? It isn’t to say that we have not. “The very first crop submitted to the FDA’s voluntary consultation process, the FlavrSavr tomato, showed evidence of toxins. Out of 20 female rats fed the GM tomato, 7 developed stomach lesions. The director of FDA’s Office of Special Research Skills wrote that the tomatoes did not demonstrate a “reasonable certainty of no harm,” which is their normal standard of safety. The Additives Evaluation Branch agreed that “unresolved questions still remain.” The political appointees, however, did not require that the tomato be withdrawn” (Smith).

This to me is a good indication that the ‘normal’ stomach illnesses, maybe even other diseases, we come across could potentially be a side effect from consuming G.M.O. products. There have been reports of all types of diseases that are being linked to G.M.O. products. Diseases like, Morgellon’s disease have been shown to cause life altering side effects. The symptoms include: a crawling sensation under the skin, restlessness, and fatigue, blue, white, and black fibers made of cellulose protruding from the skin, and skin lesions or sores located mainly on the arms, legs, and back. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Morgellons disease is the popular name for an unexplained skin disorder characterized by disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. Morgellons disease also features fibers or solid materials emerging from these sores.” However, they also go on to say, “CDC experts note that the signs and symptoms of Morgellons disease are very similar to those of a mental illness involving false beliefs about infestation by parasites (delusional parasitosis), (Mayo Clinic).

To me the whole report on Morgellons disease is contradictory. The Mayo Clinic seems to acknowledge the cases and signs that were studied but go on to say that it is all an illusion created in the patients mind. However, the Mayo Clinic also received $418 million in 2011 from the government, foundations, and industry (Mayo Clinic). For me that indicates a question of relevance to their “findings” on the disease. Further studies and research have found other diseases, such as liver disease. The livers of rats fed Roundup Ready canola were 12%–16% heavier, possibly due to liver disease or inflammation, as well as, rats fed Monsanto’s Mon 863 corn, engineered to produce Bt-toxin, had liver lesions and other indications of toxicity (Smith). This is just a couple of examples of how the liver is affected in the studies that were performed.

Other studies showed higher death rates, infant mortality, organ failure, sterility, and other complications in rats, cows, and rabbits that were tested. Although, I had not seen reports of studies or examinations done on humans; I see great indications that the tests shown on the animals are a good indication that we should be analyzing the effects on our bodies. However, according to the Monsanto Company, “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.

So long as the introduced protein is determined safe, food from GM crops determined to be substantially equivalent is not expected to pose any health risks” (Monsanto). To me, this still does not answer the question of; why couldn’t our modern health problems be closely, if not fully linked to genetically modified foods in our diet? Furthermore, how can a company engineering foods, expect or not expect foods to pose any threat to our health? There are no certainties within any aspect of engineering anything. We engineer with the best of intentions, but need to look at all variables surrounding what we are engineering.

For over millennia, farmers/humans have been cross breeding plants to produce desired crops. We have made tomatoes that were once small or fruit sized, to the large “beefsteak” tomato we know today. Even corn that was once merely an inch long is now the foot long “ears” we have grown to know as the standard size. The main difference in the alteration of plants is this; the way it is done. Before, it was done using plants that shared a common family; whereas now, we are taking genes from rats and splicing them with genes from plants. It is as if corporate America is trying to play god in order to solve a problem that we had control over to start with. We, as a nation, have taken it upon ourselves to help cure the world of famine and malnutrition.

However, we go about it in a way that may ultimately do more harm than good. I am all for nutrient rich foods and solving hunger problems. But do we solve other countries famine issues by giving them potential cancer causing food or do we show them a way to grow nutrient rich crops utilizing the soils they have available? There are many ways to farm in this day in age.

Technology has allowed us to farm using hydroponics (cultivation of plants in nutrient solution rather than in soil), which could infuse nutrients into crops without the use of G.M.O. and we would not have to worry about soils that are either depleted of nutrients or areas of the world that do not have suitable soils for growing crops. As you may guess, I am against genetically modified organisms. If we choose to be healthy and we want to live rich, full lives, then we need to start over. We need to look at other ways to solve what we deem as problems. We are what we eat and if we are eating things that nature itself would not produce, what does that make us?

Works Cited/References.
* Ackerman, Jennifer. “Food: How Altered?” National Geographic Society. 2012. Web. * Ahlstrom, Dick. “GMO: What is a Genetically Modified Organism?” Irish Times May 20 2004: 3. ProQuest Central. 16 Oct. 2012 . * “Food Safety.” Monsanto.com. Monsanto Company. 2012. web * Healthwise. WebMD. “Organic Foods-Overview.” WebMD LLC. Feb 04 2011. Web. * Mayo Clinic Staff. Morgellons disease: Managing a mysterious skin condition. Mayo Clinic (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) April 11th 2012. Web. * Mayo Clinic Staff. Mayo Clinic Facts-2011. . Mayo Clinic (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) April 11th 2012. Web.
* Norton, Amy. “Genetically modified rice a good vitamin A source.” Reuters.com. Thompson Reuters. August 15th 2012. Web. * Rice, Jennifer. “GMO Or Not GMO, You Decide.” Daily News Apr 06 2009: 12. ProQuest Central. 16 Oct. 2012 .

* Smith, Jeffery M. Genetically Modified Foods: Toxins and Reproductive Failures. Spilling the Beans newsletter. Institute for Responsible Technology. July 2007. Web


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