GM foods have been on the market for nearly 20 years now and during this period, you have probably consumed GMO in many foods; from dairy products, from soybeans, beets, corn, sugar, rapeseed and cotton seed among others. According to the USDA, 94 percent of all soy and 75 percent of all corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, and 75 percent of processed foods sold are made using GM ingredients.
While introducing genes from other organisms to enhance the characteristics of certain crops or animals may not seem controversial, there are quite a few concerns and for many people, understanding the concept of GMO in order to make reasonable purchasing decisions can be quite complicated. To make this easier, here are the pros and cons of GM foods.
Better overall taste
Flavors can be enhanced through the modification of foods. For instance:
- Corns can be made sweeter
- Pepper can become sweeter or spicier
- Difficult flavors can become more palatable.
Enhanced nutritional benefits
GM foods can be engineered to contain higher amounts of specific vitamins or minerals to provide greater nutritional benefits to those who consume them. This is especially true for developing countries where access to needed resources is not always guaranteed.
More resistance to disease
GM plants can be made more resistant to pests and diseases thus improving yield and reducing costs via reduced care needs. The farmer also uses few pesticides, thus reducing the potential for exposure to the pesticides.
Increased allergy risks
The process of genetic modification adds or mixes proteins that were not indigenous to original organism, resulting in new allergic reactions to those who consume them. In some instances, proteins from an organism you are allergic to may be incorporated in an organism you weren’t allergic to, thus promoting the same allergic reaction you would have experienced from consuming the first organism.
Decreased antibiotic efficiency
Consuming GMO foods that have had antibiotic features added to make them resistant to disease can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics when you eat them as the antibiotic markers may persist in the body.
The risk of modified genes in GMOS escaping to the wild is one of the biggest concerns surrounding GMOs. For example, herbicide resistant genes from crops may cross into the weed population resulting in “super weeds” that are extremely had o kill using herbicides. Another risk involves genetically enhanced vegetation or animals turning out to be super organisms that out-compete natural plant and animal populations to drive other species into extinction.
Lack of economic value
Some GMO foods just as much time to mature and effort to tend, which means that farmers may not derive any economic value from growing genetically modified foods compared to non-GMO foods.
Why should we evaluate the benefits and the risk of GMO foods? The simple answer is that the pros have to outweigh the risks to warrant mass production. GM foods make a lot of sense in places where the resources are thin and people are dying from hunger. However in other places, the risks greatly outweigh the rewards, and organic farming is encouraged.