Why GMOs matter — especially for the developing world

Genetically modified food still holds great promise of improving conditions for the world's poor: a second response to our 'panic-free gmos' series..

pro gmo essay

Editor’s note: After we ran What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters , Nathanael Johnson’s essay concluding his “Panic-Free GMOs” series, we heard from a lot of people who think that GMOs really do matter. We’re publishing three  two responses: one from Tom Philpott , whose work long graced these pages and who is now at Mother Jones ; and, today, one from Ramez Naam , author of  The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet .  (We’d planned to run another response from  Denise Caruso ,  author of  Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet  but that piece did not materialize.)

The folks at Grist have kindly allowed me to pen a guest post here with a few thoughts on Nathanael Johnson’s excellent series on genetically modified foods and in particular his most recent piece on what he learned from 6 months investigating the GMO debate: that none of it really matters .

This most recent piece nails several key points that often go completely missed. When we get down to the specifics, we find that today’s GMOs are neither planetary panacea nor unbridled poison. The passionate, emotion-filled debate is more about the lenses through which we see the world as it is about genetically modified foods themselves. The GMO debate is often an emphatic and barely-disguised metaphor for our larger debate about whether technology is destroying the world or saving it, whether we should try to control nature or live within it.

That’s not to say the debate, when it touches on GMOs themselves, is balanced. The scientific consensus is that GMOs are as safe to eat as any other food , that they reduce soil-damaging tillage , reduce carbon emissions, reduce insecticide use , and reduce the use of the most toxic herbicides in favor of far milder ones. GMOs have limitations, and some of their benefits are threatened by the rise of pesticide resistance. Even so, on balance, GMOs are safe and produce real benefits. As I wrote at Discover Magazine last year, GMOs achieve many of the goals of organic agriculture . (To balance that out, let me state that I also wrote there that GMO supporters should embrace sensible GMO labeling .)

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But Johnson is also right that, in the U.S., the stakes are not at present world-changing. U.S. farmers could likely get by without GMOs. We might see upticks in toxic pesticide use and river runoffs, in soil-harming tillage, and in carbon emissions, but none of those would prove catastrophic. There might be a very slight reduction in crop yield, but not by much, and not for long. The vast majority of us would never notice.

Even so, I think there are two important reasons we should care about GMOs, and view them, certainly not as panaceas, but as imperfect but important tools that can improve the lives of millions of people right now and possibly have an impact on billions of lives and millions of square miles of nature in the decades to come.

Why We Should Care — The Long Term

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN estimates that we need to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 . Either we do this on the same land we have today, or we chop down forest to create farms and pastures to meet that demand, something no one wants to do.

Jon Foley at the Institute on the Environment points out, quite rightly, that it’s meat consumption, not population, that’s driving global food demand. So we could, instead, reduce meat consumption . That’s a noble goal. Unfortunately, meat consumption has roughly quadrupled in the last 50 years , primarily driven by increasing wealth in the developing world, with no sign of stopping. I welcome any practical plan to reduce meat consumption worldwide, but until then, we have to find a way to keep boosting food production.

Another way to feed the world is to close the “yield gap” between farms in the rich and poor worlds. Farmers in the U.S. grow twice as much food per acre as the world overall, largely because they can afford farm equipment, fuel, fertilizer, and pesticides that many farmers in the developing world can’t . Some of this gap, undoubtedly, will be closed as poverty drops around the world. But it’s unrealistic to assume that all of it will.

What are we to do? On the horizon are some GMOs in development that could provide a dramatic boost here.

  • Better photosynthesis. Corn and sugarcane grow nearly twice as much food per acre as the crops humans eat most: rice and wheat . Why? Corn and sugarcane have a better way of doing photosynthesis — of turning light, plus water, plus CO2 into carbohydrates. This newer system is called C4 photosynthesis. Researchers around the world — funded by nonprofits like the Gates Foundation — are working on creating C4 Rice and C4 Wheat. Those crops could grow 50 percent more food per acre.
  • Self-fertilizing crops. Fertilizer boosts plant growth by adding nitrogen, and access to fertilizer is one reason rich nation farms grow so much more food per acre than their developing world counterparts. But fertilizer runoff is also responsible for the Gulf dead zone and similar zones around the world. Some crops, though, can fertilize themselves by pulling nitrogen from the air. Legumes, like soy, peas, and clover do this. Another nonprofit funded GMO research area is to transfer this ability to cereal crops, creating self-fertilizing wheat, corn, and rice . That would have two advantages: It would boost yields for poor farmers who can’t afford additional fertilizer; and it would cut down on nitrogen runoff that creates these ocean dead zones.

These are just two projects among many, along with creating more drought-resistant crops, more salt-resistant crops, and crops that have higher levels of vitamins and minerals that people need.

Now, let me be very clear. Most of these are research projects. They’re not in the here and now. They’re not going to arrive this year, and probably not in the next 10 years. And we do continue to make great progress in improving crops through conventional breeding. But we’re unlikely to ever get to, say, C4 rice or C4 wheat through conventional breeding.

The bigger point here isn’t that we absolutely need GMOs to feed the future world. If we banned all future GMO development and planting, we’d most likely muddle through in some way. Humanity is good at innovating, particularly when our back is to the wall. But we’d be fighting this battle to keep increasing food output with one arm tied behind our back. We might make less progress in boosting yields, without GMOs, meaning food prices would be higher, hunger would be higher, or we’d have more pressure to chop down forests to grow food.

Or maybe we’d be just fine. But given the size of the challenge, and the absence of any credible evidence of harm from GMOs, robbing ourselves of this part of our toolkit strikes me as foolish.

Why We Should Care — The Here and Now

The future’s easy to discount. So let’s come back to the present, and in particular, the present reality for the 6 billion people who live outside of the rich world.

Until recently, the majority of the acres of GM farmland in the world have been in rich nations. Today, the U.S. ranks first, followed by Brazil and Argentina (what we’d call middle income nations), and then Canada (another rich nation). That means that when we look at how GM crops perform, we tend to focus on how they do in countries where farmers have access to farm equipment, fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation, and so on. And in those countries we see a real but modest benefit.

In the developing world, it’s markedly different.

India allows only one genetically modified crop: GM cotton with the Bt trait, which makes the cotton naturally resistant to insects and reduces the need to spray insecticides. In the U.S., there’s a broad consensus that Bt corn has reduced insecticide spraying (which is good) but less evidence that it’s increased how much food is actually produced per acre, at least to a significant degree. In India, where quite a large number of farmers can’t readily afford pesticides, and where they lack farm equipment, meaning that pesticides must be applied by hand, the situation is dramatically different.

For the decade between 1991 and 2001, cotton yields in India were flat, at around 300 kilograms per hectare (a hectare is about 2.5 acres). In 2002, Bt cotton was introduced into the country. Farmers adopted it quickly, and yields of cotton soared by two thirds in just a few years to more than 500 kilograms per hectare.

Between 1975 and 2009, researchers found that Bt cotton produced 19 percent of India’s yield growth , despite the fact that it was only on the market for 8 of those 24 years. The simpler view is that Bt cotton, in India, lifts yields by somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent. You can see for yourself in the graph below.

Why does this matter? There are 7 million cotton farmers in India. Several peer reviewed studies have found that, because Bt cotton increases the amount of crop they have to sell, it raises their farm profits by as much as 50 percent , helps lift them out of poverty and reduces their risk of falling into hunger . By reducing the amount of insecticide used (which, in India, is mostly sprayed by hand) Bt cotton has also massively reduced insecticide poisoning to farm workers there — to the tune of 2.4 million cases per year.

You may perhaps be wondering: Don’t GMOs lead to more farmer suicides in India? And while farmer suicides in India are real, and each one is a tragedy, the link is false. Farmer suicides have been going on long before GMOs, and, if anything, the farmer suicide rate has slightly dropped since the introduction of GM seeds.

In China we’ve seen similar impacts of Bt cotton , with multiple studies showing that Bt cotton increased yields, boosted the incomes of 4 million smallholder farmers, and reduced pesticide poisoning among them.

All of this is to say that GM crops have more impact in poor countries than rich ones. Where other types of inputs, like fertilizers, farm equipment, and pesticides are harder to afford, GM crops have more to offer. That can help increase food, reduce pressure on deforestation, and lift farmers out of poverty.

But the world’s poorest countries, and in particular India and the bulk of sub-Saharan Africa, don’t allow any GM food crops to be grown. India came close to approval for a Bt eggplant (or Bt brinjal). Studies showed that it was safe, that it could cut pesticide use by half, and that it could nearly double yields by reducing losses to insects. But, while India’s regulators approved the planting and sale, activists cried out, prompting the government to place an indefinite moratorium on it. Similar things have happened elsewhere. The same Bt eggplant was supported by regulators in the Philippines who looked at the data, but then blocked by the court on grounds that reflected not specific concerns, but general, metaphorical, and emotional arguments that Nathanael Johnson describes as dominating the debate.

That’s a pity. Because if Bt food crops could produce similar size gains in the developing world, that would be a tremendous benefit. Insect losses are a tremendously larger challenge in India and Africa than in the U.S. Boosting the amount of food that a farm produces by half or more means less hunger, more income for farmers (still the majority of the population in the world’s poorest countries), and more ability of people to pull themselves out of poverty.

The same arguments that kept Bt eggplant out of the Philippines  have also been used, often by western groups, to keep GM crops out of virtually all of Africa, as documented by Robert Paarlberg in his powerful (and to some, infuriating) book Starved For Science .

I have absolutely no doubt that the opponents of genetically modified foods, and particularly those campaigning against their planting in the developing world, are doing this with the best of intentions. They fully believe that they’re protecting people in Africa, India, the Philippines, and elsewhere against poisons, against corporate control of their food, or against destruction of their environment. Yet I wish more of them would read Nathanael Johnson’s carefully thought-out series here and in particular his argument that most of the debate is highly inflamed .

Most of the perceived ills of genetically modified foods are either illusory or far smaller than believed. And what the data suggests is that the benefits, while modest in the rich world today, might be quite substantial in the future, and are already much larger in the parts of the world where the battle over GMO approval is most actively raging.

GMOs are neither poison nor panacea. What they are is a toolkit, a varied one, with real benefits to the environment and millions of people today; with the real potential to have a larger positive impact immediately if they’re allowed to; and with the possibility of a dramatically larger benefit down the road as the science behind them improves.

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Crop flops: GMOs lead ag down the wrong path

Panic-free gmos, finally, a gmo debate without shouting, ok, gmos matter — but the noisy fight over them is a distraction, what i learned from six months of gmo research: none of it matters, 20 gmo questions: animal, vegetable, controversy, how to ‘decouple’ emissions from economic growth these economists say you can’t., there’s a reason exxon’s ceo says its emissions are your fault, texas will add more grid batteries than any other state in 2024, why one southern california city is updating its zoning code after decades of environmental issues, modal gallery.

114 GMO Essay Topics & Examples

To write a GMO argumentative essay, you will need an engaging topic that you will be able to explore in detail. Find it in the list below!

🏆 Best GMO Essay Topics & Examples

🔍 good gmo research paper topics, ✅ interesting gmo argumentative essay topics, ❓ research questions about gmo.

Our experts have gathered GMO essay topics that will be great for a variety of assignments. You can examine the advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified foods. Or talk about the harmful effects of pesticides. Besides, click on the links to read GMO essay examples.

  • Is Genetically Engineered Food the Solution to the World’s Hunger Problems? However, the acceptance of GMO’s as the solution to the world’s food problem is not unanimously and there is still a multitude of opposition and suspicion of their use.
  • Objection to the Production of Genetically Modified Foods Contrary to the objections presented by the public concerning the introduction and use of GM food, some of the big world organizations seem to be reading from different scripts.
  • Business Ethics-Labeling Genetically Modified Food The consumer protection agency has done little to enhance the labeling given that they believe that these products that are genetically modified are just similar to the natural ones hence no need to be labeled […]
  • Consumer Judgment on Genetically Modified Foods A clear understanding of the genetically modified foods in terms of their risks and benefits could help determine the preferences of consumers for genetically modified foods and GM labeling policy.
  • Is Genetically Modified Food Safe for Human Bodies and the Environment? The following is a discussion of the benefits of using genetically modified foods. A different concern adjoining GM foods is the bringing in of new allergies.
  • The Debate Pertaining to Genetically Modified Food Products Some of the concerns raised are genuine, but then, the advantages of embracing the use of genetically modified food products outweigh the disadvantages.
  • Genetically Modified Foods and Environment It is on this background researchers that are in the field of genetic engineering and biotechnology have come up with a concept of genetic modification in attempt to address this limitation to farmers.
  • Will Genetically Modified Foods Doom Us All? One of the most desired outcomes from a crop is the ability to grow tolerance to the effects of herbicide. One of the more recent innovations in the field of GM foods is the invention […]
  • Analyzing the Prospects of Genetically Modified Foods Despite being the leading producer and consumer of GMFs products across the world, the US practice of embracing GMFs has elicited a major dilemma in the country ranging from human health to environmental challenges.
  • Genetically Modified Foods Negative Aspects This paper highlights the negative aspects that are associated with genetically modified foods; genetically modified foods expose people and the environment to risks.
  • Genetically Modified Food Essay In spite of the perceived benefits of genetic engineering technology in the agricultural sector, the production and use of genetically modified foods has triggered a number of issues pertaining to safety and consequences of consumption.
  • Can Genetically Modified Food Feed the World: Agricultural and Biotechnological Perspective Undoubtedly, the practice of tissue culture and grafting in plants is never enough to quench the scientific evidence on the power of biotechnology to improve breeding and feeding in living organisms.
  • Should All Genetically Modified Foods Be Labeled? According to this scholar, members of the public are always comfortable with the idea of not labeling the genetically modified food.
  • Overview on the Effects of Genetically Modified Food It is the use of selective breeding that allowed for the creation of wide varieties of plants and animals, however, “the process depended on nature to produce the desired gene”.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms and Controversial Discussions in Australia The controversy of the GMOs issue as mentioned above is as a result of the clash between the benefits and negative impacts where some people the anti-GMOs believe that the risks despite the number are […]
  • Genetically Modified Foods Projects The plan should be formed once the project’s participants have been chosen and it should be communicated to the members and should continuously be used as a reminder of the mission of the project when […]
  • Genetically Modified Corn in the United States of America This paper does not only asses the impact of GM maize to the agricultural sector but also highlights the risk and beneficial factors the technology has caused to both environment and the public health sector […]
  • Genetically Modified Food of Monsanto Company However, over the years the company has found itself on the hot seat in regards to the safety of some of its products.
  • Proposition 37 and Genetically Engineered Foods The discussion of Proposition 37 by the public is based on the obvious gap between the “law on the books” and the “law in action” because Food Safety Law which is associated with the Proposition […]
  • The Effect of Genetically Modified Food on Society and Environment First, whether or not genetically modified food provides a sustainable food security alternative; second, what the inferences are of genetically modified food for bio-safety in addition to for human safety and health; and third, the […]
  • Ecological Effects of the Release of Genetically Engineered Organisms Beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms, mites, nematodes, woodlice among others are some of the soil living organisms that are adversely affected by introduction of genetically engineered organisms in the ecosystem since they introduce toxins […]
  • GMO Production: Reasons and Potential Effects The purpose of this essay is to examine the reasons and possible effects of GMO production. People interfere in the DNA of organisms to improve their characteristics and make them more beneficial for humans.
  • Green Acres Company and GMO Products The case at hand concerns Green Acres Inc, which is one of the largest multinational producers of canned fruit and vegetables, known for the use of organic suppliers of their products.
  • Growing GMO Seeds: Monsanto Corporation This paper analyzes Monsanto’s case by focusing on the company’s ethical culture, the costs and benefits of growing genetically modified seeds, and the management of harm caused to plants and animals.
  • Monsanto Agricultural Corporation and Genetically Modified Food Mandatory Labeling
  • Genetically Modified Food: Monsters or Miracle?
  • Genetically Modified Food: It’s the End of The World as We Know It
  • Risk, Genetically Modified Food and the US and EU Divide
  • Genetically Modified Food and Drug Administration
  • The First Death Caused by Genetically Modified Food
  • Banning Unlabeled Genetically Modified Food
  • Comparing Consumer Attitudes Towards Genetically Modified Food in Europe
  • Arguments for and Against Genetically Modified Food
  • The Issue Surrounding the Health Dangers of Genetically Modified Food
  • The Harm Negative Effects of Genetically Modified Food
  • Genetically Modified Food Must Be Regulated
  • Genetically Modified Food and Its Effects on The Environment
  • Genetically Modified Food and Its Effects on Humans
  • Trade Standards and the Political Economy of Genetically Modified Food
  • Advantages and Disadvantages About Genetically Modified Food
  • The Genetically Modified Food as the Risk in the Society
  • Controversy over Genetically Modified Food
  • Cultural World View and Genetically Modified Food Policy Preferences
  • Genetically Modified Food Are Pandora´s Box to Humans and the Environment
  • Biogenetics: Genetically Modified Food and Food Supply
  • Eat Genetically Modified Food: It ‘s Not Bad for You
  • Positive and Negative Impact of Genetically Modified Food
  • Potential Market Segments for Genetically Modified Food
  • Information Policy and Genetically Modified Food
  • Critique Genetically Modified Food Assignment
  • Genetically Modified Food Are Not Good For the Human Race
  • The Dangers and Safety of Genetically Modified Food
  • Genetically Modified Food and Americans Right to Know
  • Should Genetically Modified Food Be Labeled?
  • Analyzing Anti GMO Golden Rice Argument
  • Finding Common Ground Among the GMO Jungle
  • Contested Accountability Claims and GMO Regulation in the European Union
  • Controversy Surrounding GMO and the Food Industry
  • Genetic Engineering: Using Biotechnology in GMO
  • GMO and Its Effects on Health, Super Weeds, and the Impact
  • GMO Food and Distribution Should Be Illegal
  • GMO: Nutrition and Genetically Modified Foods
  • GMO Regulations, International Trade and the Imperialism of Standards
  • GMO Testing Strategies and Implications for Trade
  • HGH for Humans Like GMO’S for Food
  • How Does GMO Affect on Us and Our Health?
  • Market and Welfare Effects of GMO Introduction in Small Exporting Countries
  • Labeling Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Natural Versus Artificial Selection and the Issues of the GMO
  • Analyzing Non-GMO Plant Breeding Techniques
  • Psychological and Sociological Effects of GMO
  • The Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
  • The Flaws and Failure of Genetically Modified Organisms
  • The Great GMO Debate on Genetically Modified Organisms
  • Untested, Unsafe and Unhealthy GMO Foods
  • China’s GMO and Adoption of New Technology
  • Consumer Preference and Market Simulations of Food and Non-Food GMO Introductions
  • Europe’s Regions Demand Power-Sharing over GMO Crop Decision
  • Frankenfood: GMO Foods and Their Effects on Us and the Planet
  • Genetic Testing and the Human GMO
  • GMO and Its Effects on the Economy
  • GMO Biology Basis, Social and Ethical Dilemmas Associated with GMO
  • GMO Contamination Price Effects in the U.S. Corn Market
  • GMO Products Needs for Be Regulated, and Product Packaging Needs
  • Should Government Enforce GMO Labeling?
  • Why Are GMO Products So Harmful?
  • Who Pays the Costs of Non-GMO Segregation and Identity Preservation?
  • What Are the Similarities and Differences Between Genetically Modified Organism and Organic Food?
  • What Are the Flaws and Failure of Genetically Modified Organisms?
  • Can Systematic Reviews Inform GMO Risk Assessment and Risk Management?
  • What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of GMOs?
  • Are GMO Policies “Trade-Related”?
  • How Does GMOs Affect Us and Our Health?
  • What Are the Requirements for Transparency in the GMO Industry?
  • Why Are GMO Foods Bad?
  • How Genetically Modified Organisms?
  • Should Mandatory GMO Labeling Really Hurt the Economy?
  • Are GMO Genetically Modified Organisms?
  • What Are the Safety and Health Effects of Eating GMO Foods?
  • Beef Labeling After BSE: Do Consumers Care About BSE Testing and GMO Labeling?
  • What Are GMOs and How Are They Affecting Consumers?
  • Are GMO Foods Better Than Organic Foods?
  • Technological Risks: GMO, Gene Editing, What Is the Problem with Europe?
  • “Does Contain” VS “Does Not Contain”: Does It Matter Which GMO Label Is Used?
  • Are GMOs the Silent Killer?
  • How GMO Effect Life?
  • Are GMO Products Really That Harmful?
  • Why All the Fuss over GMO Foods?
  • Without GMO Food Crops, Will We Have Enough Food?
  • Are GMO Foods Safe?
  • Why Should GMO Labeling Exist?
  • How Will the GMO Debate Affect the WTO and Farm Trade Reform?
  • How Is Visual Unsupported Claims Used by Simply Anti-GMO Proponents – Genetical?
  • Which is the Labeling For GMO Foods?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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  • v.12(3); 2020 Mar

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Genetically Modified Products, Perspectives and Challenges

Dimitrios t karalis.

1 Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Thessaly, Volos, GRC

Tilemachos Karalis

2 Obstetrics and Gynecology, General Hospital of Trikala, Trikala, GRC

Stergios Karalis

3 Internal Medicine, General Hospital of Trikala, Trikala, GRC

Angeliki S Kleisiari

4 Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Thessaly, Trikala, GRC

It is a common ground that humans have always modified the genome of both plants and animals. This intrusive process that has existed for thousands of years, many times through mistakes and failures, was initially carried out through the crossing of organisms with desirable features. This was done with the aim of creating and producing new plants and animals that would benefit humans, that is , they would offer better quality food, more opportunities for people to move and transport products, greater returns to work, resistance to diseases, etc. However, creating genetically modified organisms does not proceed without conflicts. One part of the equation concerns objections made by disputants of genetically modified organisms to the manipulation of life, as opposed to defenders who argue that it is essentially an extension of traditional plant cultivation and animal breeding techniques. There are also conflicts regarding the risks to the environment and human health from using genetically modified organisms. Concerns about the risks to the environment and human health from genetically modified products have been the subject of much debate, which has led to the development of regulatory frameworks for the evaluation of genetically modified crops. However, the absence of a globally accepted framework has the effect of slowing down technological development with negative consequences for areas of the world that could benefit from new technologies. So, while genetically modified crops can provide maximum benefits in food safety and in adapting crops to existing climate change, the absence of reforms, as well as the lack of harmonization of the frameworks and regulations about the genetic modifications results in all those expected benefits of using genetically modified crops being suspended. However, it is obvious that the evolution of genetically modified products is not going to stop. For that reason, research on the impact of genetic modification on medical technologies, agricultural production, commodity prices, land use and on the environment in general, should therefore continue.

Introduction and background

Biotechnology has developed many procedures that specialize in genetic recombination; the attempt to move genes from one organism to another or to change the genes present in a specific organism results in the expression of new attributes that originally were not there. The above procedures that allow gene alterations of a food or an organism result in Genetically Modified (GM) food or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). The concept of gene altering has initiated many debates, with one side criticising the unknown effects and risks on both public health and the environment, and the other supporting the genetic modification's benefits on economy and hunger elimination. This article attempts a literature review on Genetically Modified Products, and specifically the possible risks that they pose, the benefits of their production and use, as well as some basics concepts that have been described and analyzed in current published writings.

Possible risks of using genetically modified products

Environmental Hazards

There is strong evidence that genetically modified plants appear to interact with their environment [ 1 ]. This means that genes introduced into genetically modified plants may be transferred to other plants or even to other organisms in the ecosystem [ 2 - 3 ]. Gene transfer between plants, especially among related plants, results in genetic contamination and is carried out by the transport of pollen [ 4 ]. Because natural wild plant varieties are likely to have a competitive disadvantage against genetically modified crops, they may not be able to survive, resulting in the reduction or disappearance of wild varieties [ 5 ]. Changing biodiversity worldwide will result in increased resistance of several species of weeds, others to dominate and others to decline or disappear, thus creating a complete and general deregulation in ecosystems [ 6 ]. It is a common belief in scientific circles that research needs to be continued to assess the risks and benefits of crops more accurately and adequately.

Risks to Human Health

There may be allergenic effects - especially in people who are predisposed to allergies - or other adverse effects on human health [ 7 ]. Experimental studies in animals have shown weight gain, changes in the pancreas and kidneys, toxic effects to the immune system, changes in blood biochemistry among other effects [ 8 , 9 ]. Moreover, the lack of large-scale long-term epidemiological studies that lead to safe conclusions about the allergenic effects of genetically modified plants makes researchers skeptical about the use of genetically modified products. This is because the introduction of a gene that expresses a non-allergenic protein does not mean that it will produce a product without allergenic action. Also, allergies from genetically modified products may be more intense and dangerous, as the allergenic potential of these foods is stronger than that of conventional plants [ 10 , 11 ].

Resistance to Antibiotics

We must note from the outset that the use of antibiotic-resistant genes has stopped in most mutated products. The main problem now lies in the widespread use of antibiotics in feed which, as a natural consequence, end up in the human body through the consumption of dairy products and meat, and thus create resistant germs in the human digestive system [ 12 ]. However, more research and studies are needed to determine the differences between transgenic plants from traditional plants and whether genetically modified plants pose additional risks to the consumer public [ 13 , 14 ].

Benefits of using genetically modified products

Hunger Elimination

One of the arguments put forward by advocates of genetically modified products is to eliminate world hunger, a perception that has encountered various reactions [ 15 - 16 ]. A series of extensive and long-term research has shown that the benefits of growing genetically modified crops in the fight against global food shortages and hunger have been significant. The steady increase in the global population has led researchers to focus on the benefits of developing genetically modified products, rather than the potential risks they pose each time [ 17 ].

Economic Benefits

A number of studies show the economic benefits of using genetically modified products. Between 1996 and 2011, farmers' income worldwide increased by $92 million from the use of genetically modified crops. Part of the revenue is due to the more efficient treatment of weeds and insects, while another part is due to lower overall production costs. The greatest economic benefits have been achieved in the US, Argentina, China and India, while at the same time, production costs have fallen sharply [ 18 ]. At this point, however, there are conflicting reports [ 19 ].

Insect Resistance

Bacillus thuringiensis (or BT) is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide. During sporulation, many BT strains produce crystal proteins (proteinaceous inclusions), called δ-endotoxins, that have insecticidal action. This has led to their use as insecticides, and more recently, to genetically modified crops using BT genes, such as BT corn. The main target of these plants is to combat the European Corn Borer insect which is responsible for the destruction of maize crops with a loss of up to one billion dollars a year [ 20 ].

Nematode Resistance

Parasitic nematodes are responsible for much of the crop losses. They attack many different plants by destroying the root system. Nematodes, which are essentially a worm species, survive in the soil in very difficult conditions for many years. Chemical control of nematodes is prohibited because there is a high environmental risk. The only natural way to deal with this is through crop rotation (the practice of growing a series of dissimilar or different types of crops in the same area in sequenced seasons), but this is often not possible due to the high financial cost [ 21 ]. Thus, the introduction of genes from nematode-resistant plants seems to be the only way to deal with the problem [ 22 ]. 

Resistance to Herbicide Round Up

It is common ground that the use of herbicides and pesticides in general causes serious problems for the environment and, consequently, for human health. We know that in areas where wheat is cultivated, that is, where the use of herbicides is increased, the number of child births is clearly decreasing, complications in childbirth occur, and children are born with serious health problems mainly related to mental retardation and autism spectrum [ 23 ]. Genetically modified products enable farmers to use a smaller amount of herbicides. Genetically modified soy beans produce an enzyme resistant to the action of the herbicide. The herbicide Round Up destroys the action of a plant enzyme, thereby destroying the plant. Genetically modified plants, however, produce a glyphosate-insensitive form of this enzyme, making it resistant and not affected by the action of the herbicide [ 24 - 25 ]. Researchers are divided on the effects on human health and animals [ 26 ].

Cold Resistance

An important advantage of genetically modified plants is the creation of varieties that are resistant to cold temperatures that would normally result in the plant freezing and destroying the plant, thereby losing production. Since the mid-2010s, because of the rapid global change in climate and because plants cannot adapt to rapid temperature changes, scientists have turned to transgenic plants to address the problem [ 27 ].

Heat Resistance

In the near future, continuous global warming (as scientists at least claim) will have disastrous consequences for plants, especially in areas where water shortages are already occurring. Creation of modified genes (Sh2 and Bt2) can help plants withstand high temperatures [ 28 - 29 ].

Basic concepts related to genetically modified products

The Notion of Substantial Equivalence

The concept of substantive equivalence has been introduced in the debate on genetically modified products to ensure that these foods are safe [ 30 ]. The principle of substantive equivalence holds that if the genetically modified product contains substantially equivalent ingredients present in the conventional product, then no further safety rules are required. In this way the principle of substantial equivalence is a method of evaluating genetically modified products and finding negative factors (such as allergens due to the presence of new proteins) [ 31 , 32 ].

The Precautionary Principle

According to the precautionary principle, any new genetically modified product should not be made available to consumers unless there is first-hand evidence that the product is safe or if there are serious conflicts and conflicting opinions of researchers on the safety of the product in question [ 33 ]. Many researchers, however, have argued that the precautionary principle can act as a deterrent to the evolution of science and society, as it may stop or delay any new technology which is capable of solving environmental or economic problems [ 34 ]. We should note, however, that criticisms have been raised about the utility and the way the precautionary principle works [ 35 ].

The Safeguard Clause

The safeguard clause allows Member States of the European Union to prevent the circulation and sale of genetically modified products which may be harmful to citizens [ 36 ].

The Cartagena Protocol

The purpose of this document is to protect the world's biodiversity by instituting stringent rules on the transfer of genetically modified products from one country to another [ 37 ].

Labeling of Genetically Modified Products

The appearance of genetically modified products has resulted in the need for labeling of these products [ 38 ]. Genetically modified foods should have a special label indicating that they contain genetically modified ingredients. However, as simple as it sounds, the issue of genetically modified products labeling is particularly complex and difficult, as there are important questions about how labeling will be done [ 39 ]. For example, it has been argued that products containing either modified protein or foreign DNA should bear a special label. However, there are genetically modified products that do not contain modified protein or foreign DNA, so there is the debate whether these foods, although modified, require special labeling or not. [ 40 ].

Ethical Concerns

The key ethical issue regarding the cultivation of genetically modified plants is that the creation of these crops is essentially an interference with the natural flow of life. The ethical dilemma arises as to how to find the middle ground in the use of genetically modified products, given that different countries have different perceptions of the importance of risk, with many countries banning the use of genetically modified products, while companies producing these products focus on profits, and do not take into account the problems that may or may not arise. The problem here focuses on the high degree of uncertainty about the impact of using genetically modified organisms, while the arrangements proposed are usually shaped by financial and political interventions [ 41 ]. Consumer attitude is also of particular importance, as consumers are buying and paying their vote of approval at the same time. Consumers are divided into two categories, the consumers who favor the genetically modified organisms and those who oppose them. Consumers' views are influenced by the information they are offered each time, the existing regulations, the confidence they have in the government in regulating the issues that arise, and what they are prepared to pay [ 42 ].

Ethics and the Environment

Environmental ethics plays a dominant role in discussions concerning biotechnology and genetic engineering, as many of the arguments presented against genetic engineering have to do with whether it is morally right to genetically modify organisms and the environment, as this may have serious environmental impacts. This shift is evident even in product ads, where companies say environmental protection is a priority for them [ 43 ].

Ethics and Animal Rights

Specifically with regard to animals, modern ethical and philosophical considerations hold that animals, like humans, have rights and that these rights should in no way be violated [ 44 ]. Animals need to be treated as living organisms and not as commodities or human services. Introducing genes into animals and carrying out experiments can lead to drastic changes in the physiology and behavior of the animal. The results may not be desirable, and in some cases, they may even be disastrous [ 45 ].

Patenting Living (Genetically Modified) Organisms

The creation of new organisms inevitably leads to the need to register them and allocate their ownership. But even in the case of registration of a novel product, the 'owner' of the new organism must ensure that the genetic modification does not cause undesirable effects to the environment and humans, as he will be responsible for any problems that may arise [ 46 ].

Conclusions

In recent years there has been enormous technological progress in the creation of genetically modified organisms. There is no doubt that in the future there will be a continuum that will be influenced by both scientific developments and public attitudes towards genetically modified organisms. Creating genetically modified organisms, however, does not proceed without conflicts; there are the disputants of genetically modified organisms who see their production as a manipulation of life, as well as conflicts regarding the risks to the environment and human health. Even though, it is obvious that the evolution of genetically modified crops is not going to stop. Research on the impact of genetically modified crops on agricultural production, commodity prices, land use and the environment in general should therefore continue. Additionally, it is necessary to inform the consumer in order to understand the role of modern technology in crops and agricultural production, and in particular to understand the importance of genetic modifications. In any case, there should be strict and enforceable rules for the use of genetically modified organisms, an assessment of the potential risks of genetically modified crops and clear references to the effects and the results of genetic modifications, both on the environment and on human health.

The content published in Cureus is the result of clinical experience and/or research by independent individuals or organizations. Cureus is not responsible for the scientific accuracy or reliability of data or conclusions published herein. All content published within Cureus is intended only for educational, research and reference purposes. Additionally, articles published within Cureus should not be deemed a suitable substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional. Do not disregard or avoid professional medical advice due to content published within Cureus.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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Gmo Labeling: Debating The Pros and Cons

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Historical evolution of the gmo labeling debate, arguments for gmo labeling, arguments against gmo labeling, political and regulatory dimensions, conclusion: navigating a complex discourse.

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Genetically Modified Foods (GMO), Essay Example

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Whether individuals are okay with it or not, we live in a world today where genetically modified foods (GMOs) are everywhere. What is meant by this is that unless an individual only eats organic foods day in and day out, he or she is invariably putting GMOs into his or her mouth every day. After becoming cognizant of this actuality, individuals often worry that they might not be buying the correct and safest products for their families. Therefore, it is imperative that all individuals become aware of the pros and the cons that come with GMOs. (WebMD)

To start off, individuals must come to grasps that at this time and age, it would be increasingly difficult to live a life eating only foods that do not contain GMOs. While this may seem alarming to some, there must be room for clarification as to what exactly are the purposes for GMOs. Often times, food is genetically modified for simple reasons, such as to grow grapes without seeds inside of them. However, other times, modifications are much more drastic, such as changing the color or the taste of a specific pepper. What this means is that scientists are able to acquire a desired taste by combining science with nature.

Despite the fact that there have been a variety of tests by the Food Administration in order to ensure that the food that farmers are growing is safe, there have been numerous reports where the food has not been reported in pristine condition. In general, it has been found that the consumption of a variety of foods with GMOs have been proven to increase the likelihood of an individual developing a food-based allergy. While this is not something grave, it is certainly something that should be taken a look at, given that a food that is being produced deliberately directly affects someone’s personal life. (“Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods.” )

Genetically modified foods should not be regarded as dangerous, for individuals would never produce something that puts someone else’s life at risk. However, one should be cautious about what she decides to consume because of the fact that one does not always know what is inside the food that is being consumed.

A setback about producing GMOs is the fact that they do not have much economic value. This is due to the manner in which GMOs take just as long to grow as normal fruits and vegetables, amongst other foods. What this means is that there is no increase in production, so farmers do not have the ability to distribute their merchandise at faster pace. Perhaps the only advantage that GMOs would have within a market is that fact that they would prove to be great competition against other distributors. Other than that, however, GMOs could prove to be incredibly unprofitable.

An upside to GMOs is that often times, they contain more nutrients than the ordinary, unmodified product. This happens because when the fruits and/or vegetables are being modified, new nutrients must be injected into the foods in order to ensure that the foods will indeed be modified.

It is imperative that all individuals become aware of the pros and the cons that come with GMOs. Because of the fact that not many people are aware of what exactly they are putting into their mouths, it is the farmer’s and distributor’s responsibility that they are able to provide individuals with the best product that is available. One’s safety should never be put at risk just so that a profit can be made from selling something that will only make individuals sick. Therefore, individuals should be more wary of what they put into their mouths and consume.

Works Cited

“Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods.”  HRF . HealthResearchFunding.org, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 2 July 2015.

WebMD. “The Truth About GMOs: Are They Safe? What Do We Know?”  WebMD . WebMD, n.d. Web. 2 July 2015.

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Pros and Cons of GMO Argumentative Essay Example

For this assignment I will be defining the pros and cons to GMO. However when I first got this assignment, I had no clue what a GMO was or what GMO stood for. First let’s start off with what a GMO is if you didn’t know already; it is where an organism or DNA is modified by engineering. For example it can be plants, animal’s, bacteria and it also can get sprayed on crops, so pesticides do not eat away the crops. After realizing what a GMO was, I came to find out that there are a lot of pros and cons to it.

They say 70-80% of foods in America are GMO. So, you can imagine more than half of the things you eat have been modified. So that means they are going to be a lot of pros and cons on whether GMO is good or bad for you. First let's start off with all of the pros to GMO. One pro is that over the last 30 years of lab testing and 15 years of field research there has not been a single health risk associated with GMO consumption which is a good thing because we do not want to put our health at risk. Another pro is GMO helps reduce the cost of food and increases nutritional content which helps world hunger which is a plus because we always need nutrition in our body and not only that but it can help people in 3rd world countries who need nutrition too.

Another pro is environmental benefits such as reducing the amount of water and lower carbon emissions and it helps reduce some of the pesticides that could contaminate our crops if we lower the amount of water we have to use to treat our crops could help us in the long term for saving water. Also reducing pesticides is a great thing so they do not eat away the crops and some pesticides carry bacteria. One of the most well known con to GMO is preserving food like chickens and meats which cause it to last longer and taste better. Those are some of the main pros to GMO however all pros will have a con to it. 

For all the Pros listed there are still Cons to all the good things. For example even though there has not been any health issues in the last 30 years we still do not know the long term risk of using GMO. We do not know the long term risk because 30 years is still in some way new because GMO could take a lifetime to cause a health issue or risk to people. For another example is even though helping world hunger and getting more nutrients is great but there is a risk like if there is something over in a 3rd world country that is not over here a unknown toxin could not interact right with a GMO product which could cause people to get sick.

Also a con to spraying crops with chemicals to kill the pesticides is that those chemicals could have harmful bacteria that could hurt people in the long run. Also a con to Preserving foods like chicken and meats is that to preserve chicken or meat you have to give it chemicals to keep its taste and not to go bad also chickens that are injected with hormones to keep it from going bad suffer from ammonia, bronchitis and weakened immune system and I think it is safe to say no one wants to eat a chicken that suffers from those things. Those are some of the main cons to GMO everyone will have different opinions on if GMO is good or bad.

After all there are so many pros and cons to GMO. I think that everyone's opinion on it will be different. I think I lean more to the side of GMO is ok because I have never experienced any health issues caused by GMO. However it is always good to realize what is happening to your foods before they are cooked or before you ever eat them.

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