The modern, developed world enjoys more different varieties of food than ever before. However, how many of the items on your dinner plate are actually GMO’s – genetically modified organisms?
If you want to avoid some serious health complications, you need to know more about GMO’s and the role they play in your food.
One of the reasons that the developed world is able to enjoy such variety and availability in terms of food is largely due to genetic modification of crops, and even some food animals. These organisms are called GMO’s, and they are genetically modified by making changes in their DNA. These changes are made to create drought resistant crops, crops that resist pests, and to yield larger harvests. This is considered justifiable as this means farmers can use less or even no herbicides, pesticides, and other growth inducing chemicals – all of which have shown to numerous human diseases such as cancer.
However, there is certainly a small amount of uncertainty in consuming food that has been genetically modified. One of the main fears about GMO food commonly bandied around by anti-GMO activists is that these modified foods may introduce new allergens to the food chain. These may in theory cause allergic reactions in people who are not allergic to unmodified foods, though there have been no such cases reported anywhere in the world.
According to the USDA, GMO food is safe for human consumption, but many environmental groups are opposed to this type of food, simply because it is unnatural and contains an unknown number of as-yet undiagnosed threats.
It is worth remembering that all traditional crops are all ‘human modified’ versions of wild varieties of plants – white rice for instance is a highly modified version of wild rice. But in this case, modification has been done by traditional farming methods, which means they have been cross-bred over decades or in some cases hundreds of years to produce new varieties of each staple food that is beneficial to humans – for instance, larger apples and berries, more hardy maize, more drought-resistant corn and so on.
One significant problem with GMO food is that it has been shown to harm other organisms that have not yet had a chance to adapt to them, such as caterpillars. With traditional farming methods of cross-breeding, the changes in each generation would be so small that local wildlife that lives on or near the crop would have plenty of time to adapt. But with GMOs, the changes are made all at once so that the new ‘breed’ is available instantly rather than in ten or twenty years. This greatly confuses and in some cases sickens local wildlife when the insects and animals try to feed on the new variety of plant.
All in all, mankind will always try to modify his surrounding area to benefit himself and his species, and as our food crops are the key to sustaining the human race at its current size, science has provided the key to continuing to feed our out-of-control population. What effect this may have on local wildlife – and our own race – remains to be seen.