The lowdown on GMOs The lowdown on GMOs
For the longest time now, GMOs have been a subject of debate between too main groups of people, those who say that GMOs are... The lowdown on GMOs

For the longest time now, GMOs have been a subject of debate between too main groups of people, those who say that GMOs are a step towards saving the Earth, and those who believe otherwise. However, due to a lack of long term intensive studies, the results are inconclusive as of yet. However, let HealthLoco shed some light on any concerns you may have on the efficacy of GMOs and related foods.

GMO

First, let us start with the what. What are GMOs? GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are living organisms that do not occur naturally in the wild. Thus, GMOs are created through human interference, where genes from a species are spliced into the DNA of an unrelated species to give it characteristics it would not normally have. Natural selection and evolution notwithstanding, these gene transfers do not occur anywhere in nature, unless an animal happens to breed with a plant to produce an offspring. For example, genes from arctic fishes have been extracted and spliced into strawberries so as to give it frost-resistant characteristics, which would not happen under the natural flow of events.

The Good

Why make GMOs, though? Here, we delve a little into the good GMOs.

Environmental benefits

As the human race requires a lot of food to sustain itself, and with a growing population worldwide, to cultivate more and more crops to feed the population would require more and more agricultural land, thus sacrificing biodiversity by cultivating previously untouched lands. Yet, with GM agriculture, the same amount of land crops would have a greater yield, thus sparing the biodiversity of the lands which have not been spoiled by agriculture.

Furthermore, with the advent of GMOs, crops now emit less CO2, which goes a long way to protect the atmosphere. Less pesticide is also required now as the GM plants are modified to be resistant to pests on their own.

Barley

Resource benefits

As there is a greater yield of GMO crops using the same amount of land, water and fertiliser, this translates into the principle of “more bang per buck” efficiency, which saves a lot on costs and space. Additionally, GM crops are also made drought resistant, which lessens their need for water.

Some GM crops have also been modified so that they contain nutrients and vitamins which they would not normally have had. Take the pink pineapples, for example, which are a variant of pineapples that have been given lycopene from tomatoes, which gives it it’s colour and cancer inhibiting properties.

In the case of the carica papaya, which was plagued with the papaya ringspot virus, this variety of Hawaiian papaya was brought back from the verge of extinction through genetic modification, which made it resistant to the virus and allowed it to survive.

The Bad

However, as was mentioned previously, there is still a lack of long term research done on the consumption of GM foods, and what it might do to our bodies. Thus, it might be that GMOs may have an unprecedented detrimental effect on our bodies, but we won’t find out till it’s too late.

Yet, with the lack of distinct harmful side effects to the human race at this point in time may hint at a promising future ahead with GM foods.

Another concern of GM foods is one of ecology. There is a possibility of a GMO breeding with an organism in nature, which may lead to a collapse of the species. For example, a GM salmon escaping into the wild and breeding  may disrupt the nature’s flow of the ecology, and cause untold damage to the environment and the other organisms.

GM corn

Currently, majority of the GM crops only make up a small number of all agricultural activity, namely soy, corn, canola, papaya. Yet there is sometimes great difficulty in distinguishing the GM foods from the natural ones, revealing the widespread nature of the GM activity.

Ultimately, there is absolutely no basis as of yet to be rejecting GMOs, apart from a million myths and rumours and concerns on what could happen. That said, just stick with whatever you’re comfortable consuming, and you won’t go wrong.

Wayne Chan

An idealist at heart, Wayne struggles to reconcile the world in his mind and the world at large. Still, he's not going to let his internal strife stop him from positively impacting the world!

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