A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is an organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally through mating and natural recombination. Therefore, it has new properties that don’t exist in the original organism. Maybe you don’t know about this, but many GMOs already exist in our society. How much do you know about GMOs? Do you oppose GMOs or not want to eat them? Or are you not bothered by GMOs and don’t think it matters to eat GM products? Here are some opinions on both sides of GMO development to help your choice.
There Is Nothing Certain!
There are three reasons why people oppose development of GMOs. The first is safety, the second is destruction of biological diversity, and the third is the problem of proprietary genetic manipulation technology.
Safety is very important. However, the safety of GM products is untested. The history of GMO development is very short. Therefore, if we eat these products for a long time, we don’t know what will happen in our bodies. When you eat GM products, it seems that nothing happens. However, if you know how GM products are made and the specific properties that don’t exist in original organisms, you may mind eating GM products.
As an example, let’s look at corn, which is mostly imported. In America, which exports all sorts of crops, people use GMOs to efficiently harvest. GM corn is designed primarily to repel insects such as Lepidoptera or the corn earworm. To repel insects, people put a Bacillus thuringiensis gene, which kills insects, into the corn. The BT gene synthesizes proteins that react with the cells of the gut. The gut cells die and the larvae stop feeding. This BT corn is used as an ingredient for canned corn, which is included in many foods. As in this case, people make GMOs for their own convenience without regard for safety.
The next problem is destruction of biological diversity. GMOs are made through the exchange of the DNA of different species. This technology makes an organism which has never existed naturally in order to suit human needs. Therefore, GMOs may cause ecosystem disturbance.
Finally, even though people say that we develop GMOs to help poor countries like those in the Third World, GMOs still have problems. Because of patents for the development of GMOs, seed prices may rise and native seeds may disappear. Moreover, there are some potential dangers like a monopoly on genetic manipulation technology and the food market by a multinational company.
Besides these reasons, GMOs have ethical problems. In the case of plants, it doesn’t matter. However, genetically modified animals like a transgenic cat expressing red fluorescence protein give an unpleasant feeling. Therefore, GMOs should not be developed.
We Have to Think of Our Benefits!
Why do people make and develop GMOs? Surely GMOs have many advantages. There are three typical advantages of GMOs: to increase yields, to decrease insecticides, and to improve nutritional quality.
Maybe people use GMOs because they can grow in bad conditions. GMOs have stress resistance like drought resistance, salt resistance, and freezing tolerance, so they can bear harsh environments to grow plants. Therefore, they can increase yields and finally create a profit. In particular, herbicide resistance GMOs allow large-scale cultivation and production of plants using machines. For example, Monsanto Corp in the U.S. made the non- selective herbicide Round Up that kills all green plants. They also made GM soy that has built-in herbicide resistance. In the U.S., people sow soy in the field and then spray Round Up on the field while the soy grows. Then, all green plants are killed and only soy remains. Finally, people just harvest by machine. In this way, GMOs make high efficiency, high production, and low costs. GMOs also solve shortages of food because of population growth.
GMOs can decrease the number of times needed to spray insecticides through insect resistance. Therefore, we can decrease damages caused by using pesticides. Moreover, the danger of GMOs has not been verified, but the dangerousness of pesticides already has. Therefore, using GMOs is safer than using pesticides.
Dr. Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Dr. Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg made “golden rice.” Golden rice is being developed and evaluated to solve vitamin A deficiency that causes eye diseases like night blindness, Xerophthalmia, and Keratomalacia in developing countries. These grains were not white as ordinary rice is, but a very pale yellow color because of beta carotene, the nutrient that serves as a building block for vitamin A. In this way, GMOs help in humanitarian assistance.
GMOs can be in various industries like the enzyme industry, energy industry, and bio industry. Besides this, GMOs can prevent allergies and obesity. Areas of GMO development are thus endless. Therefore, GMOs have to be developed for a better humanity.
The safety of GM products is untested. Therefore, we can’t say GMOs are safe. However, it is difficult to oppose development of GMOs because there are many children who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. GMOs are a double-edged sword. Think about GMOs and choose for yourself. Is the development of GMOs right? Or wrong?