For thousands of years farmers have used a process of selection and cross breeding to improve the quality of our crops. The problem with GM crops is that there is little known about what effect they will have in 20 years’ time. The genetic structure of any living organism is complex and GM crop tests focus on short-term effects. Not all the effects of introducing a foreign gene into the intricate genetic structure of an organism are tested. Will the pests that a crop was created to resist eventually become resistant to this crop? GM crops may also pose a health risk to native animals that eat them. The animals may be poisoned by the built-in pesticides. Tests in the U.S. showed that 44% of caterpillars of the monarch butterfly died when fed large amounts of pollen from GM corn. Very little scientific information exists about the risk of GM food on human health. One major report by Dr. Arpad Pusztai, explains how GM foods could trigger new allergies and contain toxins that may be harmful. Another concern is disease.
Since some crops are modified using the DNA from viruses and bacteria, will we see new diseases emerge? What about the GM crops that have antibiotic-resistant marker genes? Marker genes are used by scientists to determine whether their genetic modification of a plant was successful. Will these antibiotic-resistant genes be transferred to microorganisms that cause disease? We already have a problem with ineffective antibiotics. How can we develop new drugs to fight these new bugs? Then there is always the possibility that we may not be able to destroy GM crops once they spread into the environment. Proponents of GM crops claim that advantages may be many, such as: Improved storage and nutritional quality
Pest and disease resistance
Selective herbicide tolerance
Tolerance of water, temperature and saline extremes
Improved animal welfare
Higher yields and quality
Cross-pollination is a concern for both GM crops and conventional breeding, especially with the more serious weeds that are closely related to the crops. With careful management this may be avoided. They are an ever-increasing problem and genetic engineering promises to stop it. But will genes from GM plants spread to other plants, creating superweeds and superbugs we won’t be able to control? When looking at the environmental impacts of grass- and grain-fed beef, “there is a 500% increase in greenhouse gas emissions for each pound of beef produced from grass-fed compared to grain-fed cattle. Uncontrolled nitrogen and phosphate release to the environment, 35% more water use, and 30% more land use for grass-fed cattle compared to grain-fed increases the environmental impact of strictly grass feeding.” Cholesterol content does not differ between grass- or grain-fed beef. Today, there is an estimated two-thirds of all our products in supermarkets contain genetically engineered ingredients, including; tortilla chips, drink mixes, taco shells, veggie burgers, muffin mix, and baby formulas.
But only one-third of Americans are aware that their food contain genetically engineered ingredients, despite the findings of surveys that 85 to 90% of consumers want clear labeling of all genetically engineered foods. Because labeling is not yet required by government regulations, nor practiced by biotech companies, there is absolutely no way for consumers to know what it is that they are eating. The public has not been educated of the inadequacy of genetically modified ingredients in their diets and the possible risks that these foods may entail. The credibility of these geneticists is also questionable because almost all established molecular geneticists have some industrial ties limiting what they can research on, particularly with regard to safety. There is no way of knowing the overall, long-term effects of genetically engineered foods on human health. This unpredictability appears to be causing the most controversy over genetically modified foods, as there is insufficient evidence and need for further research.
The effect of the insertion on the biochemistry of the host organism is unknown. The effect of the genetically engineered organism on the environment is unknown. The effect of eating genetically engineered foods is unknown. There is no basis for meaningful risk assessment. There is no recovery plan in case of disaster. It is not even clear, who, if anyone will be legally liable for the negative consequences. There are no consequences among scientists on the safety or on the risks associated with genetic engineering in agriculture. The international community is deeply divided on the issue. In addition to these, genetically engineered foods may cause the removal of important food elements. For example, genetic engineers may intentionally remove or inactivate a substance they consider undesirable in a food, which may have unknown but crucial qualities, such as cancer-inhibiting abilities. Examples such as this are perhaps especially frightening because of the potential to find cures to some of the illnesses and diseases that have already laid claim to many lives.
Failure to do further research in this case would be a shame, as it could lead to an elimination of possible breakthroughs in medicine and health. The current state of biotechnology must be fixed because every living organism is affected by it because everything is composed of genes. If the food being consumed contains products of genetic modification, the public is at risk to the unpredictable effects on their own physiology and biochemistry-effects that may not be reversible. Not only could this cause problems in their own lives presently, but it could also affect future generations, in ways that are unforeseen yet preventable.
Moreover there is not enough understanding of the principles of genetic engineering to categorize those genetic modifications that may pose a risk and those that may not because genes appear to react in diverse ways when spliced with other genes. Genes are a part of an extremely complex and interconnected network and are constantly reacting to their environment. Further research must be enacted, and biotech companies and the government must do their moral/ethical duty to inform the public, because ultimately, they are the ones making the decisions.