Unless you have been walking around with your head in the clouds for the last few years you will have heard many people debating the pros and cons of Genetically Modified foods. In this post I am going to outline what GM foods are and look at both the pros and cons of them.
Firstly what are GM foods? In the simplest form GM crops have had their genetic code altered in order to achieve specific results, for example creating a more robust crop which is pest resistant.
Pros for GM foods?
There are arguments which people have that advocate genetically modified food. One argument for this type of crop is that it can offer higher crop yield, so the farmer in effect gets "more bang for his buck". Using GM crops can also reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides which in themselves can be dangerous for our health.
Some researchers also say that they can add nutritional value to the crop as well as making the crops able to cope with droughts and frost.
Other advocates are saying that they are able to add medicinal properties to crops and in the future will develop crops such as allergy free peanuts and fruits with anti-viral properties.
There is also the argument that crops which are genetically modified have been available for public consumption since 1994 with no recorded ill effect.
Cons for GM foods
To start with, the approval by governments of crops that are genetically modified was issued with out testing the full effects of these crops. One study in Argentina raised concern when it showed that the incidence of birth defects dramatically rose in an area where GM soy beans were being grown.
Although some people believed the birth defects were a result of the herbicide being used. The author of the study Professor Andrés Carrasco, concerning genetically modified crops wrote "the process is imprecise and can cause widespread mutations that can disrupt the functioning of hundreds of genes, leading to unpredictable and potentially harmful effects."
Furthermore it is important to consider the effect of tampering with nature. Using and planting GM crop and seeds can result in; the creation of superweeds that will end up with us needing to use even stronger chemicals to kill them, as well as putting our world's natural biodiversity severely under threat (we are already being threatened by the rapidly decreasing population of bees ), and creating bugs and insects which are pesticide resistant.
In a recent study published in the UK's Daily Mail they stated that rats fed on GM corn found a found a" raised incidence of breast tumours, liver and kidney damage."
The research which was conducted by Caen University in France found the following results:
- when rats were fed GM corn continuously through out their lives 50 to 80% of the female rats had developed large tumors by the 24th month of their lives, with only 30% of the control group (those fed normal corn) developing tumors.
- The rats fed on GM corn diet had tumors which were two to three times larger than those of the control group.
- In the controlled group 20% of the rats died prematurely in contrasted with 70% in the group fed GM corn.
- After 7 months the female rats developed large tumors with the control group developing them at 14 months.
The researchers commented that the tumors in the rats "were deleterious to health due to a very large size". The tumors were causing digestive problems for the rats as well as making it difficult for the rats to breathe.
Patenting of Seeds
Another big issue that one needs to consider concerning GM foods is that GM seeds are patented, which means that they belong to the big companies unlike naturally occurring seed, because these seeds have been created they are then owned.
The worry among many is that the big companies will then dictate how food is grown and have a monopoly on our food supply and put farmers who don't grow GM crops out of business.
What Can We Do About GM Foods?
Thankfully in New Zealand, no GM crops are currently grown commercially this includes fruit, vegetables and meat. However processed foods can contain GM ingredients but must be labelled accordingly.Therefore if you do feel uncomfortable eating Genetically Modified foods vote with your dollar and refuse to buy foods that aren't GM free. Educate yourself and those around you about GM foods. Below is the list of GM crops which are allowed to be sold in New Zealand, if you want to stay clear from GM foods then be sure to check the labels of foods containing the following foods and crops.
- Soy Bean
- Lucerne (alfalfa)
Finally be sure to do your research on this topic and make your own mind up, as in my opinion it is not something to procrastinate over, it could literally be an issue of life or death.
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