GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are a complex topic, and one that tends to stir up the emotions of those campaigning for and against GMOs. In fact, the emotions surrounding GMOs can often get so strong that people stop paying attention to what we do and what we do know about GMOs.
Even though the field is a complicated one, there has been a considerable amount of research looking into GMOs. This research has focused on finding out whether GMOs in general are safe for the human population, and also whether individual strains of GMOs are safe.
The truth is that despite all of the debate, there really are some key reasons to embrace GMOs. In some ways, GMOs do have the potential to make some significant and beneficial changes to the food that we eat and the way that it is farmed.
Crops Can Be Weed, Pest and Disease Resistant
One of the key motivations behind GMOs is the ability to be resistant some of the hazards that normally make growing crops difficult. This can change some aspects of the way that people farm, especially by reducing the amount of insecticide that needs to be sprayed to protect crops. In theory, this pattern means that growing GMOs may have less of an impact on the environment than conventional crops.
This can prevent large-scale decimation of crops from disease and pests.
Can Lead to Bigger Yields and Profits
Genetic modification allows for higher yield plants to be produced and can also make it easier for farmers to produce higher yields. The use of GMOs can also act to lower costs, which results in more profit for farmers. This can be a major boon for small farmers that may struggle to compete. Larger yields and profits can also contribute to more food being produced as well.
This makes food cheaper, meaning even low-income earners can afford fresh foods and eat a healthy diet.
May Increase the Environments where Plants Can Grow
One significant area of interest is the way that some plants can grow in environments where others can’t, like in high salt soil. It would theoretically be possible to genetically modify crops to thrive in areas of high salinity or other types of environment stress. This could significantly increase the areas available for growing crops. Such an approach might prove to be critical for increasing crop production or for allowing people to be self-sufficient in areas where it might not have been possible otherwise.
It also means that the threat of overpopulation becomes a non-issue, at least on the food front.
Can Improve Food Shelf Life
Genetic modification has the potential to make food last longer on the shelves. This could play a key role in decreasing food waste and would also make the processes of shipping easier and potentially less expensive. This also means that food could be shipped longer distances, which promotes an increased distribution of food.
Supporting local growers and local businesses is great when you can. But to get the incredible variety of foods we are used to seeing in the supermarkets (and perhaps more in the future), shipping and shelf life become a major challenge.
Can Feed the World
GMOs have the potential to decrease or even stop world hunger because they allow for more crops to be produced, can lower the cost of crops and can even increase the nutritional value of crops. With so much hunger out there, this potential is one of the most heavily promoted arguments for the use of GMOs, and with good reason.
Being able to grow food in one country and then shipping for a very low cost means that international trade will be easier and more cost effective. Using the example above, developing nations will also be able to harvest crops not normally grown.
Can Be Healthier than Non-GMO Crops
I know that some people will fight me on the word “healthy”, but hear me out first! The changes made in GMOs aren’t just limited to changes that make the plants easier to grow. Instead, some changes can directly affect the nutrition of the plant. There has been significant interest in making GMO plants more nutritious, to help combat nutritional deficiencies and to help ensure that people are healthy. This means that GMOs manipulated in this way could be significantly healthier than their non-GMO counterparts.
Imagine being able to eat a single sandwich that had all your daily vitamins in one serving, or having a protein packed glass of OJ in the morning and not needing to supplement breakfast with a whey protein shake!
It is Just Another Agricultural Change
Over time, there have been major revolutions in agriculture and in the way that we produce our food. In many ways, GMOs are just another example of this. One example of this is selective breeding. This process has been used for a long time by farmers and by humans in general. Even though it’s considered ‘more natural’ than GMOs, selective breeding has also resulted in many genetic changes, leading to many of the breeds of plants, crops and animals that we have today. While GMOs may seem extreme, they are simply the next major change to agricultural processes.
All the bananas and tomatoes we eat today were the result of some sort of genetic modification. Now the lines start to get blurry. Is an organic tomato really organic if it's the result of years of selective breeding?
The Risks Are Blown Out of Proportion
Yes, GMOs have their risks. But, the same is true for any new technology, especially when that technology involves a radical change. Regardless of whether we accept or reject GMOs, sooner or later there will be a new approach that has a different set of risks. If we were to reject all new technology because of small risks, then we would never develop or become more effective at what we do.
Many people are stuck on the idea that eating GMO means we are eating a science experiment and will grow extra eyeballs or get cancer. These are non-scientific conclusions that could be considered scare tactics to push an agenda.
Could Even Be Safer than Regular Crops
With so much controversy surrounding GMOs, there is a strong focus on making sure that they do not harm people. This also means that the controls surrounding GMOs are stronger than for traditional crops, and that there is more testing undertaken. This means that any issues with GMO crops could be spotted well before issues with regular crops. That level of monitoring serves to make the crops safer overall and helps to protect the public.
What do you think? I know that there's a lot of controversy surrounding this topic, so let me know your opinion in the comments! Also, don't forget to check out the sister article to this one, called 12 Reasons To Fight GMOs. Which arguments do you think are stronger?