The subject on the pros and cons of GMOs has been debated heatedly since the day the fact of their existence became public. Genetically Modified Organisms are surrounded by a cloud of somewhat controversial information. Do you want to discover the real arguments for and against this technology?
If you are not a specialist, it is hard to pick out trustworthy information from the piles of diverse rumor and real GMO facts. There are several key points, though. They are easy to understand, and knowing them may help you find a reasonable and balanced position regarding genetic engineering and its role in farming.
Why speak about the pros and cons of GMOs at all?
The main reason for massive discussions is the lack of knowledge and fear of ‘Frankenstein food’ that is based on that lack of knowledge. Without enough information, having no special education or professional training in related areas of science, one may imagine genetically modified plants as dreadful experiments of insane scientists. Mass media add to this by demonizing genetic engineering as something dangerous for humans and the environment.
Sometimes, GMOs are mistaken for pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers and many other things that have nothing to do with them. They are merely the product of direct gene transmission. The genes that are being transmitted are responsible for certain useful qualities in plants. This process happens in the course of natural selection but quite slowly.
All these mistakes, fears, facts and works of imagination are often used in discussions about GMO pros and cons. It is quite hard to figure out what is true in this heap of myths and speculations. We have picked out some most important points which bust myths and confirm actual facts.
Pros and cons of GMOs explained
Knowing only positive or only negative sides of something is far from developing an impartial point of view. Nothing can be only good or only bad; it is necessary to give attention to all sides of a phenomenon or a thing.
Several key benefits of GMOs
- Genetic modification can improve the quality of goods
All the manipulations scientists perform on plants are aimed at the improvement of their qualities. None or very few seeds for the sake of more pulp inside vegetables and fruits, better and stronger colours, more vitamins and other nutrients, resistance to weather conditions - these are the features scientists attempt to implant in crops in their labs.
Some varieties that have been engineered to contain more of a particular nutrient may be used in regions where the population suffers from the lack of this nutrition. Such a policy can help fight many diseases associated with the lack of a specific vitamin or microelement.
- Engineered plants are easier to grow
Since the very idea of modification is the development of certain abilities, why not create crops that are able to survive in harsh conditions? Why not make them develop the ability to repel insects? As a result, it is possible to undertake farming in many regions that seemed to be not suitable for it. Besides that, the yield of crops grows, too.
- We can have bigger yields with the same resource base
The population is growing, and it needs more food. The main GMO benefits - durability, better yields - will help humanity survive in some twenty years when it becomes even bigger without spending much more resources than it does now.
- The food can be stored for a longer time
The food the planet produces now is enough to feed the entire population and even more. How does it happen then that some regions experience severe starvation? The point is that the time it takes for food to be delivered to where it is expected is enough for it to start getting bad. Modified crops, fruits and vegetables have a prolonged lifespan; they can be transported over longer distances without much waste.
- Some types of engineered plants require smaller amounts of herbicides and pesticides
One of the most significant benefits of GMO is the fact that some of them are able to repel pests without aggressive chemical substances. Others can survive even when the amount of chemicals necessary to fight weeds is reduced. This is a significant development; much less of the chemicals will get inside the crops and into human bodies.
Several reasons why GMOs are bad
- They are suspected to be culprits of the increase in food allergies
Many years ago, some modified organisms contained proteins found in Brazil nuts. People who were allergic to these nuts could also be allergic to other food products that contained this protein after the modification. Even though not much harm was done, such cases prove the need for much testing before any genetically modified plants get to food markets.
- They can play a part in antibiotic resistance
Some engineered plants contain genes that make them resistant to the effect of antibiotics. There are no facts that would prove any correlation between such genes and the actual resistance of certain bacteria to antibiotics. Still, such a hypothesis exists until it is proved otherwise.
- Some plants develop herbicide resistance in a natural way
There are some types of weeds that are resistant to the most popular herbicides. Even if farmers plant modified crops, they can lose a part of their harvest due to these weeds that cannot be eliminated with the help of chemicals.
Speaking about the pros and cons of GMO, it is necessary to keep in mind that there have been no proofs that products with modified genes are dangerous or harmful. The technology is being developed and researched continuously, and its achievements become better and better with time.
Another problem is that the deeper you dig into the genetically modified organisms pros and cons, the more controversial things come up. On the one hand, there are speculations, manipulations, myths and horror stories about the dreadful modifications. On the other hand, there is quite little trustworthy information from those who lobby for the technology.
Anyway, if you want to make things clear for yourself in the question of GMOs pros and cons, you should always evaluate alternatives. For instance, many myths about genetically engineered food speak about the highly toxic and dangerous viruses or other compounds but completely omit the fact that pesticides and viruses in regular crops are no less toxic and hazardous.
Science keeps on developing very fast; what was treated as a miracle two hundred years ago is common knowledge now. It is hardly reasonable to speak about future pros and cons of GMOs because we can scarcely imagine what scientists’ ambitions are. Still, we can say goodbye to certain types of nutrition deficits, and this is owing to genetic engineering.