[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]
Today, most of the food people consume will likely contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Consumers could think what they’re eating is healthy for them, but they don’t even know what’s really inside. According to the “Whole foods says…,” all foods in the North America that contain genetically modified foods will require labeling by 2018 because the use of GM foods is increasing (Choi and Perrone). Many people are agreeing that GMOs should be labeled because GMOs are becoming a problem to the environment, human health and the secrets.
GMO critics believe that genetically modified foods are unsafe for consumption due to studies done on rats and mice. According to an article, rats were fed Bt corn for 90 days. After, they developed multiple health problems such as changes in their blood cells, livers and kidneys ( ”65 Health Risks…”). Scientists have proven through studies that genetically modified foods could lead to dangerous allergic reactions. For example, a gene from Brazil nuts was inserted into the DNA of soybeans. Soon after, scientists realized that soybeans were capable of causing allergic reactions (“Genetic Roulette”). To prevent this from happening, the government requires companies to test for potential allergic reactions when genes are being altered in common allergenic foods.
Herbicides are a lifesaver for farmers because they are protecting their precious crops from being overgrown by weeds. What about the consumers? According to “4 Health Risks…” scientists have seen a series of different health problems such as birth defects, cancer, reproductive damage and endocrine disruption (Stonebrook 16). Since studies show that this can happen to animals then there must be an effect that could happen to humans. This can seem a bit sketchy for consumers because if studies show herbicides have these effects on animals, it could possibly endanger people’s health too.
Not only can GMOs cause health problems, growing them can also harm the environment. According to “More Weed Resistance…,” genetically engineered crops are using high doses of herbicides, which can have a negative impact on the environment. For example, the use of more herbicides by farmers isn’t working as well because plants become resistance to Roundup (Clark). Plus, the excess that isn’t being absorbed runs off into rivers, streams, lakes and the ocean causing even more environmental damage. Furthermore, according to “Update: GMOs…” the use of insecticides can possibly wipe out all of our beneficial insects such as bees. In addition, there are concerns about the long-term global food supply because of the reduction of biodiversity. Since GMOs produce great amounts of food supply, the plants suffer. Basically, genetically engineered crops can lead to other negative effects on the environment by harming the ecosystem’s natural balance (Ruhs 6).
Americans are taking precautions when it comes to genetically modified foods because of all these fears. Arpad Pusztai is a biochemist and nutritionist who worked at Rowett Research Institute for 36 years (PSRAST). Dr. Pusztai did experiments on rats by feeding them GM foods and he found that the rats developed pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains, livers and testicles and damaged immune systems (Roseboro). He believed if this happened on rats, it could possibly happen to humans in the long-run. Dr. Pusztai’s story on animals dying during his experiment was kept secret from the public (Lynch & Vogel). According to an article, Pusztai was suspended from Rowett Research Institute because his research was misleading and he was an old man (68) who was confused. In addition to his suspension, he wasn’t allowed to speak with the media revealing the misleading information from the institute. On Monsanto’s website, it also mentions that Dr. Pusztai’s experiment was done inaccurately. For example, Monsanto claims that the diet of the study rats was not equivalent between the test and control groups.
If biotechnology supporters say that GMOs are safe, then why don’t they agree to voluntary food labeling? Labeling shows confidence in their product. Without labels, it’s very risky to consume GM foods for those who are possibly allergic to GM ingredients. On the other hand, GM food supporters argue that GMOs have been around for years now and there hasn’t been any proof of the so-called “side effects” happening to anybody. Supporting GMO labeling will give shoppers the right to know what they are consuming and feeding to their children. Labeling is important because GMOs can possibly lead into brand new allergies that consumers never knew of.
Besides consumers being left untold about which products contain GMOs, the environment is also suffering from the overuse of Roundup. Plants have been genetically engineered for herbicide resistance. So herbicides can be applied on GMO crops without causing any harm to them. With that being said, stronger and newer weeds are developing as they are becoming more resistant to the chemicals, which will needs ever higher doses of herbicides. According to “Herbicide Resistant Crops,” herbicides cannot tell the difference between plants that are crops and plants that are weeds. As a result, excessive weed growth forces crops to compete with sunlight and nutrients, which can cause significant losses.
Some studies have found that chemicals used on GMO crops can be harmful for human consumption. According to the “Spilling the beans…” the FDA claims that GM foods are safe to eat because there is no proven study that GM foods are any different from conventionally grown foods (Smith). In fact, Bt is a natural pesticide that gets rid of the corn borer beetles. In GMO corn, once these bugs eat Bt corn, their stomachs burst. If this happens to bugs, what happens to humans in the long-run? Obviously there hasn’t been any long-term testing on what happens if humans swallow it. Never the less, the biotech industry still asserts that it is safe for humans and animals. According to another article, a study found that GM corn that contains Bt is toxic to humans and so is Roundup Ready soy. Researchers at the University of Caen did research on Bt toxins and found out that Bt could significantly impact the normal growth and development of human cells (“Genetically Engineered Maize”). Researchers say these findings on human health risks were unexpected.
It seems that GMO supporters do not want consumers to know the truth about GM food. If GM food supporters claim that GM ingredients are safe for consumption, then why do they spend so much money to defeat labeling? Monsanto spent millions of dollars to defeat Proposition 37 in California during the November election so consumers wonder what these companies are hiding from America. GM food supporters mention that labeling will cost too much money, yet companies like Monsanto pay so much to stop labeling from happening when they could put that money towards America’s concern, which is labeling. Here again, on Monsanto’s website (“Food Safety by Monsanto”), they want consumers to believe that there is nothing wrong with GM seeds. They are claiming that GM foods will not cause cancer because the DNA are common to biological systems and are known not to cause cancer. The number of rats per test group was way too small to note the difference in toxicity. GM critics say that supporters of GM foods want us to believe that there is nothing wrong with GM ingredients. Yet, they pay millions to keep their secret from the public, leaving consumers even more concerned.
Some people feel that it’ll be a waste of money to label products containing genetically modified ingredients. According to “Hysteria over GMOs…” the author feels it’ll be a waste of money because the FDA has approved GM crops so they must be safe for consumption. Brewbaker also mentions that GMOs occurred on almost 400 million acres and no one has ever experienced any problems (Brewbaker). But isn’t it true that GM crops are causing problems to the environment and most importantly consumer’s health? Even though the FDA approved GMOs, there are many flaws. One example is the studies since FDA approval that have been done on rats causing pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller brains and liver and damaged immune systems. Another example is studies done on GMOs possibly causing dangerous allergic reactions. GM food supporters say the purpose of transgenic foods is to keep consumers from going hungry, but will consumers be alive in the distant future from all these unexpected risks?
Knowing that GM crops are harming the environment by chemicals running into the ocean, risking people’s health and possibly causing allergic reactions, genetically modified ingredients should be completely banned. Since that will probably not happen anytime soon, the least GM food supporters could do is label their products. Consumers would think companies like Monsanto would want to stop spending so much money to stop labeling GMOs but obviously there is a big secret that they don’t want consumers to be aware of. If they were to let their “secret” out, most likely their sales will decrease which is what they’re afraid of. In brief, companies that use GM ingredients should just do want America wants and label their products instead of having to keep fighting to stop it from happening.
“65 Health Risks of GM Foods.” Institute for Responsible Technology. N.p.. Web. 30 Apr 2013.
Brewbaker, James. “Hysteria over GMOs not scientifically valid.” Star Advertiser. N.p., 10 Mar 2013. Web. 23 Apr 2013.
Choi, Candice And Matthew, Perrone. “Whole Foods Says Products Must Carry GMO Labeling By 2018.” Canadian Press, The (n.d.): Newspaper Source Plus. Web. 15 Mar. 2013.
Clark, Brian. “More weed resistance means more pesticide used.” WSU News. N.p., 02 Oct 2012. Web. 23 Apr 2013.
“Food Safety.” Monsanto. N.p.. Web. 19 Apr 2013.
“Genetically Engineered Food – Safety Problems.”PSRAST. N.p.. Web. 30 Apr 2013.
“Herbicides Resistant Crops.” GMO Compass. N.p., 11 December 2006. Web. 30 Apr 2013.
Lynch, Diahanna & Vogel, David. “The Regulation of GMOs in Europe and the United States: A Case-Study of Contemporary European Regulatory Politics”. Council on Foreign Relations. CFR. 5 Apr. 2001 Web. 5 Apr. 2013
Medical Documentary on Genetically Modified Food – Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives. 2013. Film. 5 Apr 2013.
Roseboro, Ken. “Arpad Pusztai and the risks of Genetic Engineering”. Organic Consumers Association. OCA. June 2009 Web. 4 Apr. 2013
Smith, Jeffrey . “Spilling the Beans: Unintended GMO Health Risks.” Organic Consumers. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2013.
Then, Christoph. “Genetically engineered maize: New indication of health risks.” Test Biotech. N.p., 17 Feb 2012. Web. 23 Apr 2013.