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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a highly controversial topic in the food industry for decades now – and the debate continues. Yet there is no doubt that relying on GMOs for our food supply presents a number of significant dangers to the environment, and that consuming GMOs as food can pose concerns to your health. While certainly not all the research has yet been done to understand the effects of the changes involved in genetically modifying ingredients in our food, there is good reason to use caution and avoid GMOs whenever possible. One of the easiest ways to be sure there are no GMOs in your diet is to eat organic food whenever possible.
Effects of GMOs on the Environment
According to the World Health Organisation, GMOs can be a significant environmental hazard because of what is known as out-crossing. Out-crossing refers to the sharing of genes or traits of one plant with other local plants through cross-pollination or other methods. This can cause a host of adverse effects on the local ecosystem as new hybrid-weeds in the area can grow out of control due to their new insect resistance. As a result, often even more chemicals are needed to control the newly resistant weeds.
Another harmful effect of GMOs is that they generally have been shown to lead to increased use of herbicides and pesticides. Genetically modified plants are designed to be even more resistant to these pesticides, which allows farmers to greatly increase their dependence on often-toxic chemicals. In fact, a number of GMOs are engineered to actually produce pesticides that can be harmful to people and the environment.
There are also significant questions about the effects of GMOs on the animals and plants in their local ecosystem. It is simply impossible to foresee all the changes that result from the numerous modifications that are made in the development of plants and, as a result, animals that eat them may suffer unintended consequences. As an example, the caterpillars of monarch butterflies have been shown to have significantly higher mortality rates when consuming the pollen from genetically modified corn. Much more research needs to be done before we will understand the full environmental effects of genetically modifying our food.
Effects of GMOs on health
Many people claim that GMOs are safe and equivalent to their non-genetically modified counterparts in the food system. These claims are often backed up by their own studies. Nevertheless, most of this research has only proven that genetically modified food is ‘substantially equivalent in composition and nutritional characteristics’, and actually has not looked at the effects that specific GMOs have on people’s health. In fact, studies on animals have shown numerous potential health risks, including accelerated ageing, infertility, kidney failure, insulin regulation, changes to the immune system and many more. Much more research needs to be done before it is possible to say which GMOs are safe and which are dangerous.
Possibly the biggest danger of GMOs is that to date no long-term research has been completed on their health effects. Governments around the world have approved of their use (in varying forms) under the assumption that they pose the same risks as food that has not been modified. Yet, increasingly this decision seems short sighted and dangerous. There are significant questions about the genetic effects on humans of GMOs, as well as the unknown toxins they may contain. Until these questions are answered, any claims made that GMOs are healthy should be viewed with scepticism.
What effects of GMOs worry you the most?