Potential Benefits of GMO’s Vastly Outweigh the Risks By Sam Holz ENVS 1000 Amanda Magee The issue of whether or not individuals in our society should be growing and consuming genetically engineered crops is a polarizing topic nationally as well as here in Boulder, and it does not seem to be going away anytime in the near future. Those opposed to the production of genetically modified crops generally argue that we do not have enough information or knowledge to judge what type of effect these genetically modified organisms are having on individuals and the environment.
They believe that GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are potentially hazardous to both human health and the environment. However, those who argue that genetically modified crops are dangerous and should be eliminated are failing to acknowledge that they cannot prove that GMO’s are actually dangerous, and are also failing to recognize all of the benefits these GMO’s can bring into fruition. The growth of genetically modified crops should be promoted in Boulder for a few reasons.
Genetically modified foods and organisms are put through rigorous testing and are just as safe as Non-GM foods, can have a positive effect on human health and the environment, and can help stimulate Boulder’s economy by creating jobs and reducing hunger. It is clear that the benefits of genetically modified crops outweigh some of the potentially negative aspects of GMO’s that naysayers like to describe when discussing the subject.
Those opposed to the production of GMO’s argue that the increased growth of genetically modified foods is directly related to the rise in the amount of serious health problems in our society today (Robinson, 2011). For example, some like to point to the fact that they think allergies and intolerance to certain foods has increased a great deal as genetically modified foods have become more prevalent in our society (Robinson, 2011). However, these reasons should not be sufficient enough to convince anyone that genetically altered crops should not be grown here n Boulder. There are plenty of reasons why we should allow GMO’s in our society that overshadow concerns about allergies and food intolerance. First and foremost, those who claim that genetically modified foods are dangerous have no real proof of this. There are no hard statistics available that show that genetically modified foods are more hazardous to human health than organic foods. According to the World Health Organization, “GM foods available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health.
In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved” (World Health Organization, 2008). Not only do those who oppose GMO’s fail to mention that these foods are healthy in almost all cases, but they also fail to recognize all of the benefits GMO’s can provide that organic foods cannot. The next generation of genetically modified crops is being developed primarily to benefit human health (ScienceDaily, 2009).
Not only are GMO’s just as safe in most cases as other foods, but they can also benefit human health by combating certain allergies. Researchers in Japan have discovered a type of genetically altered rice that has been successfully tested on animals and has shown the ability to fight a common pollen allergy that affects about twenty percent of the Japanese population (ScienceDaily, 2009). These new generation of GMO’s have the potential to develop foods with higher levels of nutrients and may even be able to produce various medicines and vaccines (ScienceDaily, 2009).
Not only does it make sense to encourage the growth of GMO’s in Boulder for human health purposes, but this should be a national campaign as well due to all of the potential benefits that GMO’s could offer to humans across the world. In addition to being beneficial for human health, genetically altered crops do not have any real negative effects on the environment and may even provide certain advantages to the environment that organic crops cannot. Those who are against the growth of GMO’s point to the fact that altered crops have the potential to become invasive and could destroy natural ecosystem structures (Dodge, 2011).
A similar concern that some individuals have is that cross-pollination will occur between GM crops and non-GM crops, which will reduce the marketability of the organic products (Byrne and Fromherz, 2003). Studies conducted right here in Boulder, specific to its environment, prove that these concerns are only legitimate if GMO’s are used in improper ways or are not regulated carefully. Environmental risk assessments encompass both the GMO’s that are a potential concern as well as their receiving environment. These assessments are through and evaluate the features of the GMO and its effect and stability in the environment.
These assessments also investigate the unintentional effects that can result from the insertion of new genes into an environment (Phifer and Wolfenbarger, 2000). These assessments are comprehensive and the probability that a modified crop could do something substantial to the environment is very slim. A case study in Boulder examining pollen drift showed that cross pollination levels can be extremely low and will not have any effects on the environment as long there is proper distance between the genetically modified and organic plants (Byrne, 2003).
Anti-GM input decreased markedly over time as this particular case study ran its course. Many groups that initially objected to the growth of genetically modified crops were not heard from as they learned more about cross pollination and the results of the experiment (Byrne and Fromherz, 2003). This study emphasizes that striking a balance between GM and non-GM agriculture here in Boulder is not only feasible but ideal because of all the positive things these modified crops can do for our society. Modified crops may also even provide certain advantages to the environment.
Insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant GMO’s may decrease the use of chemicals that are harmful to the environment. For example, “In 1998, 8. 2 million fewer pounds of active pesticide ingredient were used on corn, cotton, and soybeans than in 1997 and corresponded to an increase in the adoption of genetically engineered crops” (Phifer and Wolfenbarger, 2000). Not only are transgenic crops not dangerous to the environment if they are grown and used properly, but they also have positive effects on our environment.
One of the things that genetically modified crops can do for our society besides benefiting human health and the environment is to create jobs and stimulate the economy both here in Boulder and nationally as well. Some who dislike the idea of promoting GMO’s might argue that there is no certainty that encouraging the growth of these crops will create a lot of jobs or help fix the economy. They might say there is too much risk associated with GMO’s and that is not worth promoting the growth of these organisms just so that we might see a boost in jobs and in our economy.
It is clear from walking around the campus of the University of Colorado that there is a problem with homelessness and that there are plenty of individuals without jobs. More jobs could be created in the farming industry if GM crops continue to be more prevalent. Crops can be modified to grow in various climates and different types of weather (Phifer and Wolfenbarger, 2000). It also makes sense that additional jobs could be created in the EPA and FDA because of the increase of foods that would need to be regulated.
Not only would more jobs be created in agriculture, but biotechnology is a booming field with plenty of job opportunities if genetically modified crops continue to grow and prosper (Murnaghan, 2010). Once again, it makes sense both locally here in Boulder and nationally to promote GM crops because of all the positive things that they can potentially do for world. Our economy is in desperate need of a boost, and if promoting more genetically altered crops could help create jobs and solve some of our financial woes, it is definitely worth a try.
The positive aspects of GMO’s outweigh all of the negative points that skeptics like to discuss when debating whether or not we should promote the growth of GMO’s. There is a small risk that GMO’s could have some negative effects on human health and the environment, but these risks are really nothing in comparison to all of the benefits that GMO’s could provide to our well being and the world around us. They can potentially cure human diseases by producing vaccines, help the environment by developing things like insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops, and stimulate our economy by creating jobs in agriculture and biotechnology.
Peer Reviewed Sources Byrne, P. F. , Fromherz, S. (2003). Can GM and non-GM crops coexist? Setting a precedent in Boulder County, Colorado, USA, Food Agriculture & Environment, 1 (2), 258-261. Phifer, P. R. , Wolfenbarger, L. L. (2000). The Ecological Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Plants, Science, 290 (2088), 2088-2092. Popular Press Dodge, Jefferson. (10 February 2011). Frankenfoods: Will Recent USDA Approvals Of GMOs Spread To Boulder County? Boulder Weekly. Robinson, Bruce. (8 May 2011). The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods.
Boulder Daily Camera. Popular Press Dodge, Jefferson. (10 February 2011). Frankenfoods: Will Recent USDA Approvals Of GMOs Spread To Boulder County? Boulder Weekly. Robinson, Bruce. (8 May 2011). The Audacity of Genetically Modified Foods. Boulder Daily Camera. Murnaghan, Ian. (9 November 2010). A Career in Biotechnology. Geneticallymodifiedfoods. co. uk. (29 June, 2009). Successful Initial Safety Tests For Genetically-Modified Rice That Fights Allergy. ScienceDaily. 20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods. World Health Organization.