Nearly most of the crops that are grown in the US have been touched by science. Having genes that have been manipulated, genetically modified crops are becoming more and more popular in the country, with people liking the fact that they provide certain perks, such as larger yields, insect resistance and faster growing traits. However, they also do not come with criticism, where many people believe that research on the technology is not sufficient. In order to get a better understanding of genetically modified crops, it is best to take a look at their pros and cons.
List of Pros of Genetically Modified Crops
1. They are a technology that has already been going on for many years.
Genetic modification and engineering is nothing new, where people have been already manipulating crops and food for many years, using methods that range from classical selection to fermentation. It is just the latest form of biotechnology that is using the most precise method known. Basically, creating these crops is different from the traditional methods of plant breeding, as it transfers genes from one species to another, crossing biological barriers.
2. They are mostly believed to be safe.
Proponents say that there are actually no inherent differences between food items produced from natural crops and those from genetically modified crops, similarly containing DNA that comprised of nucleotides. This technology works by moving a piece of DNA from one plant breed into another, without introducing a foreign substance and with the new gene merely prompting the modified crop to show a desired trait. Also companies wishing to release a product or seed from a genetically modified crop are required the safety of these things. And if a certain product was created from an organism that contains a known allergen, it is required to undergo some tests for safety.
3. They have improved quality and taste, as well as increased nutrients.
Genetic modification in crops allows flavors of its products to be improved. For example, pepper can become spicier, corn can become sweeter and bitter gourd would become palatable without losing their original nutrients. Better yet, this technology makes it possible to enhance the vitamin and mineral content of food, providing benefits to consumers. This advantage is especially important to people in developing countries, who do not always have access to essential nutritional resources.
4. They help ease the environmental impact by human activities.
With the way it is practiced today, agriculture sometimes damages the environment, like any other human activity. Now, genetically modified crops can help ease such negative impact by creating plants that are insect resistant, allowing farmers to dramatically reduce the use of insecticides. Also, the technology can create next-generation seeds that will allow farmers to maintain high yields, while using fewer amounts of chemical fertilizer and water. While critics point out the creation of super pests and weeds, which are highly possible, these dangers can be prevented and are manageable.
5. They can help reduce world hunger.
With genetic modification, even the smallest subsistence farmers will be able to produce larger, more reliable and profitable crops for the market, as well as able to grow more food for their families. This means that we will be able to directly address the problem of hunger and malnutrition among poor consumers, especially in the developing countries. In the long run, genetically modified crops are considered to be a solution to ensuring that food production can keep pace with the growing population, which is expected to double 12 billion by 2050. The rate of growth of food production has declined in the past decade, with the latest round of increase driven by Green Revolution methods, such as using high-yielding hybrid seeds, extensive amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. However, these technologies do not have the capability to support food production growth for the coming decades without resorting to things that can severely damage the environment. Now, GM crops are believed to be able to support such growth.
List of Cons of Genetically Modified Crops
1. They are not entirely believed to be safe.
Truth is, there are also a number of independent studies of the health effects of genetically modified crops that do not have confidence in their safety. In an experiment in Scotland, for example, mice that were fed with modified potatoes containing lectin fared poorly and even suffered damage to their internal organs. While supporters have attacked the study, it entails the need for more research at the very least.
2. They contribute to the increased occurrence of allergic reactions.
Many studies show that consuming genetically modified crops has increased people’s risk of acquiring allergies that are food-related, with symptoms including fatigue, rashes, headache and nausea.
3. They alter the way nature works.
Genetically engineered crops are believed to do wide-reaching damage to the environment. For example, insect-resistant plants might harm insects that are not their intended target, such as monarch butterflies. Also, target insects could develop resistance to these crops, requiring farmers to resort to using more aggressive measures to control the problem, such as extensive use of chemical sprays. As previously implied, the technology could also allow the transfer of genes from one crop to another, creating “super weeds”, which will be immune to common control methods. Moreover, viral genes added to crops to confer resistance might be transferred to other viral pathogens, which can lead to new and more virulent virus strains.
4. They require labeling.
Food labeling can incite fear, causing the public not to accept food items made from genetically modified crops. As you can see, consumers might object to consuming of GM foods on the basis of health, ethical and religious concerns. Lack of evidence that proves that GM products are unsafe must not be taken as proof that they are actually safe.
5. They only have little to no economic value.
While genetically modified crops might be resistant to herbicides and pesticides, as well as contain more nutrients, they actually contribute little to the farmers’ profits. They take more time to mature and more effort to grow compared to natural crops.
Now, do you think that genetically modified crops are good for society or not? Do their benefits outdo the risks? By carefully weighing the pros and cons listed above, you can be a better judge.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.