The Great Debate: Yes GMO or No GMO
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are surrounded by a lot of controversy. People genuinely fear for their health if they eat GMO food, others are concerned with the environment and what their introduction could do to surrounding vegetation. But does GMO automatically mean it’s bad?
Crop protection is one of the main objectives of GMOs. The intention is to give the crop a resistance against insects and infections, and a tolerance to herbicides.1 The resistance against insects for example is achieved by introducing a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis into the DNA. This allows the plant to produce a certain protein that attacks the digestive system of certain pests. 3,2 Luckily, these proteins are not harmful to the human digestive system and we can happily enjoy our food.
GMO crops could also be an opportunity to feed the growing world population. Crops could be engineered to have an increased nutrient content. In our growing world a lot of people live in underserved regions and rely on a few single crops, that are not necessarily nutrient rich, and GMOs could be a remedial action. Through their resistance to pests and infections, yields could also significantly increase. One of the examples of a GMO currently in use is Golden Rice, which was modified to counteract a Vitamin A deficiency and comes hand in hand with a humanitarian project. 4,5
But GMOs are not all sunshine and rainbows. Quite a lot of people fear GMOs.
People have genuine fears concerning GMOs. The most prominent ones are the possible risks of consumption. Are they going to make us sick? Are they good for the environment?
Possible allergic reactions through the gene transfer between organisms is one of the main concerns in the GMO and health discussion. The other worry is that health can also be negatively impacted when we eat GMOs. Genes from the GMO are feared to transfer to the human cells and once they are in the cell alter our own DNA. So far, during tests, no allergic reactions have been found and the probability of transfer of genes is low.1,6
Voices that are concerned for the environment are equally as loud. People are concerned that the genes from GM crops can be passed to wild species, making invasive species even stronger. (like some kind of superweed).1,6 There is reporting of an intermixing of GM genes to wild species, but extensive measures can be taken against that because when it comes to GM crops, the safety of animals and environment comes first and foremost.7
The public concerns surrounding GMOs have also reached politicians. In the European Union, GMOs, their production and use, are heavily regulated. Before any plant that is genetically modified enters the market, it must go through strict trials and risk assessments. They need to be traceable and properly labeled. Various regulations and directives ensure the safety of humans, animals and the environment.7
A list of GMOs currently in use can be found in this GMO register.
What about a… ”Maybe GMO”?
Of course, the debate can go on longer than this. However, at this point in time, scientists and researchers conclude that the GMOs in the market are not harmful for us. New GM products will go through extensive testing and will only enter the market when proven not harmful to humans and the environment. Science is an ever-advancing field, so we will get more and more insights and new developments in the coming years.
What do you think about GMO crops? Are you all for it? All against it? Or are there certain cases in which it’s acceptable? Let us know your thoughts below!