GMOs: Friendly or Deadly?

studentvoices01By Breana Kialoa
LCC-Wai’anae student
April 2013
Instructor Danny Wyatt
Leeward Community College-Wai’anae instructor – English 100

[Note from the instructor: “With GMOs in the news, and a big topic for Hawaii especially, I have my class writing a couple of essays and research papers on whether labeling GMO products should be required. The first essay is on ‘reasons for requiring labeling of foods with GMO ingredients.’ The final submissions are students’ research papers examining what research appears to show about GMOs and proposals for labeling foods with GMO ingredients.” -Danny Wyatt]

If food manufacturers were secretly sneaking harmful toxins into people’s bodies through the food they consume, wouldn’t everyone want those warnings labeled on the food packages before they purchase or consume them? There is a big debate on whether those contents should be labeled on food items or not. Americans are demanding a genetically modified food labeling law because of the dangers of consuming them, but genetically modified organism (GMO) producers oppose labeling because they are sticking to their word that their foods are not just nutritional but are very safe to eat.

Researchers are questioning the safety of GMOs, but research that has been conducted on GMOs is only turning out to be dangerous.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require any safety testing for GM foods because Monsanto, the manufacturer of most GM seeds, says the product is safe. According to Smith in “Say No to GMOs”, in the past 20 years, allergies and asthma have increased during the same time that GMOs were introduced into the food supply (50). People who have never been allergic to soy, are now allergic to GMO soy but can still eat organic soy.

Also, GMOs may also be the cause of a dramatically increasing number of gastrointestinal problems. The author further states that scientific research has linked GM foods to thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, thousands of toxic and allergic reactions in humans, and damage to virtually every organ studied (Smith “Just Say…” 46). Gastrointestinal problems are the most common side effects of eating GMOs. Research has also been conducted on rats and other animals that consumed GMO. Philpott says that in the 1990s, rats were force-fed GM tomatoes which resulted in stomach lesions and seven rats died within two weeks (5). The rats did not want to eat GM foods but were forced to eat it and got sick. This research shows that there shouldn’t be any reason why GM foods are still considered safe for consumers to eat because they contain pesticides that conveniently kill bugs, yet sicken animals which appear to often lead to deaths.

Another danger that GMOs present is risks to the environment. Smith states that there is a threat of GM seeds spreading and contaminating both organic and conventional crop fields (36). For example, corn pollen is among the largest particles found in the air. The pollen is then dispersed by wind and gravity causing it to drift to earth and cross-pollinating with other corn, thus contaminating the whole  fields. Also, there may be chemicals traveling through the air besides pollen. With the massive amounts of herbicides and pesticides being sprayed, they could be traveling everywhere instead of just staying on the intended crops. Hooser says that pesticides could be clinging to dust when it blows, and seeping into the waters of Kauai which could be the cause of 50,000 sea urchins that died in the last year (“Full Labeling…”). If pesticides can cause that much harm to  ocean life, imagine what a disaster it causes for people who live around the farms an even more for the people who work at the farms when they inhale those chemicals.

Furthermore, if GMO crops are grown that can resist pesticides and herbicides, farmers can increase the amounts they use because even at these increased levels, the crops still survive as they are genetically modified to do. According to Smith, pesticide use increased 318 million pounds in the first thirteen years since GMOs were introduced (36) despite the development of Bt corn which was to reduce the need for such pesticides. Plus, as weeds and pests start to develop resistance to these chemicals, they would have to come up with much stronger chemicals to kill the same weeds and pests. Smith says that  Gyphosate, a major component of Agent Orange, created weeds that are resistant to ever more toxic chemicals (36). It doesn’t make sense because weeds   are developing resistance to herbicides like   Roundup, and once that happens, there will be no more solutions but to shut down the GMO producers.

Other dangers that GMOs present include risking consumers’ lives by producers not letting people know what they are eating. Consumers are pushing for a GMO labeling law because they believe that it is a core American value to have the right to know what they are consuming. Without labeling, consumers aren’t able to make informed choices about their food. Young states that if GM foods were to be labeled, shoppers would be able to make their own risk assessments about the foods they eat (A13). Not everyone is against GMOs because some people simply like the taste, some think it’s cheaper, or some just don’t care if it contains GMO because they don’t know the difference between GMO and non-GMO produce. Consumers have the right to know what the products contain so they can have the freedom to knowledgably choose to eat GM foods or reject them.

In addition, consumers still cannot make that elementary choice because there is still no label to identify which foods contain GMO and which do not. Another article says that Californian voters stood up for their rights to know what they’re eating, but Monsanto outrageously spent over $8 million to stop passage of the law (Stonebrook 16). This shows that money over-rules and is more important than people’s lives. Even though the labeling law in California (Proposition 37) didn’t get passed, Monsanto and other GM producers will lose a lot of customers because people are becoming more aware of GMO foods and are more often avoiding them as they  more about what they are consuming. According to Smith, non-GMO food sales rose 219 percent in 2010 alone (36) which is ample proof of the American consumers becoming more and more health conscience.

The biggest reason for not requiring labeling is because pro-GMO interests insist that labeling is not needed because people around the world have eaten trillions of meals containing genetically modified ingredients which have resulted in no evidence of harm to humans or animals. Yes, people have been eating food containing GMOs for over two decades, but no, there have been rising health issues believed to be related to GMOs. According to Smith in “Spilling the…,” a human subject showed a skin prick allergic-type reaction to GM soy, but not to natural soy (9). People are only showing allergic reactions to GM foods, but nothing shows when they eat natural foods. That means everyone will soon be allergic to GMO products which no one will be able to eat resulting in a shut down for GMO manufacturers.

Without a doubt, GM foods may be the cause of a dramatically increasing gastrointestinal problems as well as asthma. Smith further states that asthma has increased during the same time that GMOs were introduced into the food supply and since then, studies show damage to virtually every organ (Say No…” 50). Before GMOs were introduced into people’s food, there weren’t as many asthma problems and gastrointestinal problems. In addition, research has also been conducted on rats and other animals that consumed GMOs. For instance, Smith says that mice fed GM potatoes had damaged intestines, partially atrophied livers, and changes in their testicles (“Spilling the…” 9). Rats have shown the most health problems caused by GMOs and the same damage could be happening to people’s bodies because GMOs have never been thoroughly studied.

Another reason for not requiring labeling is because GMO producers argue that it is generally agreed upon that a genetically modified product must be labeled if it differs from a conventional product, but Monsanto’s food products are made from biotech crops and are as safe as their conventional counterparts. However, GMOs have resulted in food lacking important nutrients that are needed in food. In the article “Stunning Corn…,” Honeycutt says that glyphosate draws out the vital nutrients of living things and GMO soy is covered with it (20). These deficiencies lead to susceptibility to sickness, disorders, and cancer. Furthermore, GM foods also lack calcium that people need to be healthy and to strengthen their bones. Honeycutt also states that GMO corn has 14 ppm of Calcium while non-GMO corn has 6130 ppm (“Stunning Corn…” 20).  People who have osteoporosis are low in calcium and GMO food won’t be helping them receive any.

Finally, GMO foods are very different from non-GMO foods because GMO foods have nutritional deficiencies, foreign proteins, toxins, and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides.research also shows that GM foods are nothing like non-GMO foods because GM foods are less healthy and nutritious. Charles shows in “Comparing Vitamin…” that non-GMO corn is 20 times richer in nutrition, energy and protein compared to GMO corn (4). GM foods are stripping us from any nutritional value making everyone unhealthy.

The last reason for not requiring labeling is because GMO manufacturers insist that labeling will have negative effects on food prices causing them to go up. Still, there shouldn’t be any increase on the prices because manufacturers are already labeling their products in other countries. According to Strom in “Major Grocer…,” labeling is already required in the European Union, and seven stores in Britain already marked their products if they contain genetically modified ingredients (A1). If GM producers are already labeling in other countries, they should be able to label everywhere else. Furthermore, if these companies did label their products, they may receive positive feedback because not everyone is against GMOs. For example, the author also points out that GMO manufacturers earned a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled (Strom “Major Grocer…” A1). GMO lovers are buying more products that are labeled because it’s guaranteed to contain GMOs.

In addition, there is no evidence showing that the cost for GMO foods will increase because of labeling or testing. Carter & Gruère says in their article “Mandatory Labeling…,” that under mandatory labeling, the costs of segregation and testing will be paid partly by taxpayers and partly by GM producers keeping the prices between non-GM and GM products relatively low (68). Most expenses that have to do with labeling are paid by GM producers leaving no extra costs for consumers. Therefore, there is no confirmation on price increases for groceries that contain genetically modified organisms: it is just a scare tactic to avoid labeling which should not work.

Genetically modified foods should be labeled so people can control what they eat or parents can watch what they feed their children. If they know the risks of eating GM foods and still choose to eat them, it will be their own choice. The GM producers shouldn’t have the right to say what enters the consumers’ bodies and hide ingredients that might make people sick or develop allergic reactions. A labeling law should be passed because time is being wasted by denying the proposal when they should know that this issue will arise in the future, making everyone go through the process over and over again. Consumers are paying for products not knowing what they are feeding their families and that is simply wrong. Research shows that GMO foods are not safe to eat at all. They make people sickly and kill animals. GM foods are not even close to being equivalent to non-GM foods. They lack the trace minerals that every human needs to stay healthy and live longer. GM producers try to scare everyone making them think that food costs are going to be too costly but there was no evidence explaining that in the future. Monsanto and every GMO seller is money hungry and willing to jeopardizing people’s lives to put a little extra cash in their pockets which  is immoral. This research shows that there shouldn’t be any reason why GM foods are still available for people to consume because they sicken humans and could possibly result in death.

Works Cited

Carter, Collin and Guillaume, Gruère. “Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods: Does it Really Provide Consumers Choice?” AG Bio Forum. (2003):68-70. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

Charles, Dylan. “Comparing Vitamin, Mineral, and Energy Content of GMOs vs. Non-GMOs.

Waking Times (2013):4. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

“Feds Should Tackle GMO Labeling.” Honolulu Advertiser. (2013, Mar 13):A13

Honecutt, Zen. Stunning Corn Comparison: GMO versus NON GMO. Moms Across America (2013):20. Web. 19 Apr. 2013.

Hooser, Gary. “Full Labeling of GMO Products Is a Must.” Honolulu Advertiser. (2013).

McLure, Jason. “Genetically Modified Food.” CQ Researcher 31 (2012): 17-40. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

Philpott, Tom. “Could This Election Kill Monsanto’s Mutant Seeds.” Mother Jones 37.6 (2012): 5-7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

Smith, Jeffrey. “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks.” Organic consumers Association. (2008): 9. Web. 26 Apr. 2013.

Smith,Melissa Diane. “Gmo Reality Check.” Better Nutrition 74.8 (2012): 36-39. Academic search premier. Web. 24 Mar 2013.

Smith, Melissa Diane. “Go Gluten Free. Saying “NO” To GMOs” Better Nutrition 73.10 (2011): 50-51. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

Smith, Melissa Diane. “Say No To GMOs.” Better Nutrition 73.3 (2103):46-50. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.

Stonebrook, Shelley. “Big Ag Defeats GMO-Labeling Proposition.” Mother Earth News 256 (2013): 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.

Strom, Stephanie. “Major Grocer to Label Foods With Genetically Modified Content.” The New York Times. (2013):A1. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

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