By Samantha Warden and Mohammed Mashud
With so much negative connotation over the term GMOs, it’s hard not to believe that genetically modified organisms are an evil coming to infiltrate the food industry. Many blindly believe that GMOs lead to cancer, and companies desperately reassure their consumers with labels of “non GMOs!”- only further contributing the the belief that GMOs are harmful, mutant foods invented by greedy corporate scientists.
What is the logic behind people's fear?
For one thing, the idea of eating something genetically modified and putting it into one’s body may be quite daunting. People don't even know what GMOs are, but believe they are bad, perhaps from their friends, rumors, or unidentified convictions. The idea that natural is good and anything unnatural, or “artificial” is bad for oneself is transferred to the use of GMOs in foods and many conclude that since GMOs are unnatural, they are inherently bad. In support of this are Belgian biotechnologists and philosophers from Ghent University, arguing that negative representations of GMOs are widespread and compelling because they are intuitively appealing. By tapping into intuitions and emotions that mostly work under the radar of conscious awareness, but are constituent of any normally functioning human mind, such representations become easy to think.
The fact is, GMOs were invented with the intention to solve malnutrition, and with 1 person dying of malnutrition every 4 seconds, it is a problem that desperately needs action. Ingo Potrykus, a Swiss scientist, invented his “golden rice” to fortify Vitamin A in the human body, which could solve Vitamin A deficiency in children, a serious condition that leads to blindness.
The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has taken a stance against GMOs and reported research on rats which showed the adverse effects of eating a certain GM potato on almost every single internal organ system, attributing this finding to toxic methods of making genetically modified organism. In an effort to replicate this data, scientists at the National Institute of Toxicological Research fed an experimental group of mice GM potatoes and a control group non-GM potatoes. When the rats died, histopathological investigation was conducted on their organs which showed no significant differences between the experimental and the control groups. The same conclusion was made in a different experiment involving mice fed GM and non-GM tomatoes, and GM and non-GM red peppers. These mice were fed 7,000 times the amount of average human consumption of tomatoes and red peppers for 30 days, and still the histopathological report found no difference in the overall health of the kidney, spleen, liver, and reproductive organs of these mice.
So, what can we do? We, the ones who understand GMOs, who want to remove this senseless belief from people’s minds, the ones who want to spread the truth. I for one always ask this question every time I read an article that discusses a problem in society. Read to the end but the author almost always finishes the article with no solution, no fix to the issue. It is easier to talk about a problem, everyone can see that, but the solution is not as clear.
The best way, and maybe the only way, to clear this misconception of GMO’s and to finally get people to become educated about GMOs and not ruin the idea of GMO’s any further, is to provide information. The truth about GMOS, will give true understanding to what it is and what it can do to to change the world. And I am not saying it metaphorically, but literally change the world. GMO’s only alter the genes of the product/food. When on eat this genetically modified food, the genes/DNA of the consumer does not change. I’ll repeat that again for some that didn't get the last part. Just because someone ate a modified food does not mean that the consumer’s DNA will also be altered and the consumer is now genetically modified. Genes do not work like that. The phrase, “ you are what you eat” is taking too literally in context to GMO’s. When one is consuming any food/crop that has been genetically modified, the food is broken down completly an in our digestive systems, we have nucleases, which are enzymes that break down DNA and RNA into simple nucleotides to be of use for the body. And the nucleotides of any genetically modified crop is the same as any other food, or any other organism alive: A, T, G, C. So there isn’t any way for the food/crop’s DNA to “merge” or alter the consumers DNA and the consumer become a different being.
The future of GMOs are bright, and they can help get one step closer in ending world hunger or even disease.