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Genetically Modified Organisms

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Consumer knowledge of GMOs is low in general, according to studies based on direct consumer surveys. A survey conducted by the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers University found that US consumers as a whole were fairly uninformed about GMOs, with just 48% knowing that GMOs were available in supermarkets and only 31% believe that they have most likely consumed a GM product.

The majority of participants also self-rated their knowledge to be poor; 48% said that they knew very little about GMOs, whereas 16% felt they knew nothing at all, compared with 30% knowing a fair amount and just 5% knowing a great deal about GMOs. But familiarity with genetic modification seems to vary by country. A cross-cultural survey comparing the knowledge of consumers in the United States, Japan, and Italy showed that US consumers were more likely to be at least somewhat familiar with GMOs (40.9% reported being somewhat or very familiar) compared with Italian (just 28.0%) and Japanese (33.3%) consumers (Wunderlich & Gatto, 2015).

Although GMO-related information may not always come directly from scientific sources, the public tends to trust these sources over alternative sources. More recent surveys revealed similar results, with consumers trusting university scientists the most, followed by farmers, environmental organizations, government agencies, grocery stores, and food manufacturers (in that descending order). We can conclude that although GM products have been in the food industry for decades and continue to increase in use, consumer knowledge and awareness are not improving accordingly. Careful assessment of shortfalls in consumer knowledge of GMOs should be established that can lead to the development of guidelines and policies to improve consumer understanding and knowledge.

Future studies should critically examine methods of published scientific information to consumers by using popular channels of information to help increase the volume and quality of GMO-related information available to the average consumer. Furthermore, the education of those responsible for distributing scientific knowledge through such public media sources is of crucial importance in order to avoid risk communication, because their explanations of biotechnology directly inform the public. All in all, these sources should be honest, accurate, provide both pros and cons, should only try to inform the public and not convince them about GMOs.GM crops have many potential advantages of raising agricultural productivity and reducing the need for pesticides because GM seeds have been modified to be more resistant to insects and another pest. Even though the seed is more expensive, these GM crops lower the costs of production by reducing inputs of machinery, fuel, and chemical pesticides while at the same time due to more effective pest control, crop yields are often higher (Qaim, 2010). Moreover, the nutritional content of the crops can be altered as well, providing a denser nutritional profile than what previous generations were able to offer.

For instance, second-generation GM crops involve enhanced quality traits, such as higher nutrient content. “Golden Rice,” one of the very first GM crops, is biofortified to address vitamin A shortage, a common condition in developing countries that leads to blindness and entails higher rates of child mortality and infectious diseases. Widespread production and consumption of biofortified staple crops could improve health outcomes and provide economic benefits in a very cost-effective way, especially in rural areas of developing countries. A recent simulation shows that Golden Rice could reduce health problems associated with vitamin A deficiency by up to 60 percent in rice-eating populations (Qaim, 2010).On the other hand, there are great fears about unexpected consequences of GM crossbreeding which involves mating between different species. For instance, genes that are ‘mixed’ between animals and plants are one concern regarding GM foods. Tomatoes that have been engineered to have a longer shelf life had genes inserted from flounder. This kind of genetic manipulation may trigger some kind of disease to be spread across different species. Another ethical issue that may arise is that vegetarians that do not eat food containing animal genes (Murnaghan, 2017).

Additionally, there is the possibility of triggering allergies or disease in humans. Given that a gene could be extracted from an allergenic organism and placed into another one that typically does not cause allergies, a person may unknowingly be exposed to an allergen that could lead to an allergic reaction. There is also the fear that new allergies could occur from the mixing of genes from two organisms (Murnaghan, 2017).

Finally, ethical concerns are also raised regarding environmental impact such as our ability to contain GM crops in a specific area and stop an unwanted spreading of them. (Murnaghan, 2017).Until now, it seems that the benefits do not outweigh the risks because assessing long-term effects of GM foods is one of the greatest challenges of this biotechnology. The unpredictable element of GM foods and the fact that this technology is relatively new means that knowing in advance what might go wrong is difficult to assess and there is the danger of ostrich’s fallacy. There are also criticisms of the corporations who produce these foods that encourage issues around long-term effects because some people believe these companies are unethical and that they essentially try to ‘cover up’ evidence showing negative long-term effects of the foods.

Also, the issue of deciding who will be liable for unexpected consequences should be a vital one to examine. Will it be the company who engineered the product, the growers, the government and regulatory bodies who approved it or the supermarket that sold it? These are all important issues that need to be investigated. Unexpected consequences of GM foods should be a concern for virtually anyone – including supporters of GM foods.

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Genetically modified organisms. (2018, April 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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