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Genetically modified organisms are plants and animals that biotech scientists inject genes into to create organisms that cannot naturally occur. GMOs were first introduced to the U.S. in 1996 and today most of the food sold in the U.S. is GMOs. The main reason people around the world accepted GMO food was to end world hunger, especially to help the Third World countries, as the population of the world is on the rise. GMOs are known to benefit farmers and consumers alike. Farmers benefit a lot from the GMO crops, as with more crops comes more money. GMOs are also said to be beneficial for consumers, as they contain added nutrients and vaccines to help consumer’s health.
It has been 20 years since GMOs were introduced in the U.S. Throughout these years many things have changed and GMOs have become part of people’s daily lives. Even the way GMO crops are created has changed over time. Biotech scientists have created new ways to grow plants faster and tastier. To do this, scientists have created herbicides that make these crops resistant from chemicals. Biotech scientists have also made new ways to insert DNA into plants and animals, which can introduce new traits that scientist may selectively breed for. All these changes in GMO production have also affected agriculture, livings organisms, and spread pollution. Biodiversity is adversely affected by harmful pollution in the environment. After decades of research on GMO crops, countries across the world have either banned or started labeling GMO food, because many people believe GMOs are the cause of many diseases, such as cancer. The American government should start labeling GMO products so Americans can lead a good and healthy lifestyle.
For one thing, GMOs were made to benefit consumers. As the world’s population is on the rise, it can possibly lead to world hunger. In his article, “Recommendations from a Meeting on Health Implications of GMOs,” George Amofah states, “The UN projects that world population will increase by 25% to 7.5 billion by 2020.” The introduction of GMOs enables countries to prevent food shortages with mass food production. GMOs were developed with a certain amount of nutrition added to them to benefit people’s health and also to prevent disease. In “Benefits You Get from GMO’s,” Janet Renee states, “Biotech companies are developing crops that have higher vitamins and minerals, as well as enhanced antioxidant content which can be used to help prevent chronic diseases.” Another big factor that is known to benefit people is vaccines. In “Health Risks and Environmental Issues,” the author states, “GMOs can improve health in developing countries by delivering drugs and vaccines by inserting them into fruits and vegetables like bananas and potato crops.” Though GMOs have some benefits, putting them on the market with no research is not only putting consumers’ health on the line but also affecting animals and the environment.
Though many argue about the health implications of GMOs, sources have proven that GMOs are actually putting consumers’ health at risk. The movie Seeds of Death talks about research on sheep where the sheep were allowed to graze on BT cotton plants after harvest. Afterward, one in four sheep died within five to seven days, with an estimate of 10,000 dead sheep. Many cases like this have occurred around the world, causing more and more risks – not just for humans and animals, but also the environment. In “The Dangers of GMOs,” the author talks about how the rate of allergies has skyrocketed from when they were first discovered. “There is a cross-reactivity between soy allergies and peanut allergies, and so it may not have been a coincidence that peanut allergies doubled in the United States between 1997 and 2002, five years after GMOs were introduced” (Smith). Though it is not yet proven, many believe GMOs are the cause of cancer. In Seeds of Death, a researcher did research on rats where they fed them genetically modified corn for 90 days, which resulted in the rats getting tumors, their immune systems breaking down, and many other health risks, including pre-cancerous tumors. GMOs are not only affecting humans and animals, but also agriculture, as more chemicals are introduced to the environment.
The production of GMOs has had a great effect on agriculture, as companies are using more and more chemicals on the crops. To remove toxins from food, biotech scientists have introduced pesticidal chemicals. Big companies like Monsanto have created their own way of removing toxins by creating “roundup ready” crops, which can withstand herbicides. According to the article “Health Risks and Environmental Issues: GMO’s The Debate Heats Up,” “Farmers planting RPs soys are using two to five times more herbicide than farmers who use integrated weed control method” (Williams). Which means more and more toxic chemicals are being introduced to the soil, air, and even water, which is increasing pollution in the environment. As more and more Roundup Ready crops are planted, the use of pesticides has been increasing, which leads to superweeds. Roundup Ready crops use chemicals like the Glyphosate, which creates superweeds. Farmers spray a lot of pesticides on crops, the weeds die and the crops start to thrive. In “Soil Biodiversity: Functions, Threats, and Tools for Policy Makers,” the author states:
Genetic modifications are used to improve quality and productivity. The existing molecular techniques involve the insertion and integration of a short segment of DNA from another organism into the genome of the plant, to add single characteristics to the plants breeding line and variety. (Nuria)
GMO crops are the source of pollution in the soil organisms because they can have an indirect impact on soil biodiversity.
Modern agriculture very much depends on the use of chemicals to control weeds, pests, and even fungi. Many living organisms are affected by these chemicals, for example, bees. Bees are frequently exposed to the chemicals, which are poisoning them. In “A Historical Review of The United States and The Factors That May Affect Them,” the author states, “The substances that are being used have changed, damage from acute toxicity is not the only threat to bees. Instead, sub or behavioral changes, both from short term and long term exposure, increasingly came into focus” (VanEngelsdorp). The chemicals sprayed on these plants are killing insects and animals. Another example is butterflies. Corn is sprayed with pesticides, which is killing many butterflies across the world. In the article “The Butterfly Effect,” the author states, “20 percent of monarch caterpillars died after munching on BT corn” (Stix).
Biotech scientists have created a hormone called Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin Hormone (rBST) which they inject into cows to increase milk production. In “Got Hormone-Free Milk: Your State May Have Enough Interest to Let You Know,” the author states “rBST is sold in America under the name Posilac, this hormone is estimated to increase a cow’s production of milk between seventeen and forty percent per day” (Thornley). The use of this hormone is known to increase pus production and lead to a shorter lifespan and increased diseases like mastitis in cows. Many believe that the consumption of milk from cows injected with rBST has an effect on human health.
Humans are also greatly affected by GMO crops, as they risk many health factors, even diseases like cancer. Biotech scientists have also engineered animals like fish to grow twice as bigger, faster, and wider. These fish are not only unhealthy, if they were let out in the ocean, the whole fish community would be at risk of extinction. Amphibians are also exposed to pesticides. In the article “Anuran Amphibians as Indicators of Changes in Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecosystem Following GM crops Cultivation: Monitoring guidelines,” the author states, “Frogs and toads may become contaminated, for instance, migrating terrestrial amphibians can be over sprayed it can get plant material” (Boll).
Contamination in animals and plants has spread. In “The Dangers of GMOs” the author gives an example of contamination: “The contamination of papaya comes from the two sources. First there’s the cross-pollination of the trees from the wind that carries seeds, and second, because people who eat the papaya just throw the seeds away “(Smith). Biotech scientists are trying to create different species by manipulating human and animal DNA. Scientists are event starting their own species of fish and sheep. In 1996, scientists cloned a sheep named “Dolly” from an adult sheep somatic cell and DNA, which later died in 2003. Cloning animals can put many in danger, as some species come out less domesticated than their predecessors. In “Control Through Contamination,” the author states
Genetically engineered crops can be classified as a ‘living pollution’ because they can reproduce themselves. Once a GE crop exists in the environment, its pollen—containing unique combinations of genetic traits whose long-term effects have not been studied—can be passed on, causing contamination in other plants from the same species.
This is something mankind cannot control, and it may lead to mass extinctions of animals or even humans in the future.
All over the world, people are offered GMOs, not knowing if the food they are consuming is even safe. America should take the next step to start labeling GMO products for the safety of the people, despite the cost. Though many argue about the cost of labeling GMO products, it will give consumers the assurance of knowing what is going in their mouth, GMO or not. Today, many consumers are unaware that many processed food include GMOs. Many argue that adding labels will raise the cost. When people become aware of GMO products they will be more careful of what they are buying, which may lead companies to have to change their ingredients. In “The Status of GMO Labeling in the Laboratories of Democracy,” Martin states, “On the contrary, label changes are a frequent and ordinary part of doing business. Every year, we make changes to between 25% and 50% of our packaging. Over the last 7 years, we’ve gone through three full packaging redesign projects.” Throughout the year, manufacturers make changes to their products that require label adjustments, so labeling products for GMOs should not cost a lot. In fact, labeling products is not necessarily going to cost America anything, it is the ingredients that will have to change. The only things that is going to cost the consumers is that food may become more expensive as retailers and brands change their ingredients, which may affect the poor. Also, many farmers may go out of business, as fewer people want their products. Companies like Monsanto, which make so much profit, may actually go out of business if these changes are made.
Labeling GMO products is important because consumers have the right to know about what they are consuming. When people see the GMO label on products, they are most likely to think of it as a impure, unnatural and unhealthy, which is what companies are afraid of. Consumers should have the right to know if the food they are getting is GMO or not. This will also give the consumer the right to choose whether they want GMOs or not. Many GMO manufacturers are afraid that giving the consumer the chance to know will decrease their profits because they know that consumers are going to stop buying their products. In 2012, Californians almost passed a proposition that required the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms, but fell short “53% to 47%” (California Voters Reject Prop 37). Proposition 37 was the proposition that would require food manufacturers and retailers to change the methods they use to produce many food products. Proposition 37 was estimated to cost Californians $1.2 billion, which would make food even more expensive and may affect the poor. Though the purpose of Proposition 37 was not to provide any benefits, with improved information, or to improve product safety for consumers, it could have helped consumers by reducing food choices and driving many food products off the market if they contained GMO ingredients. Many times big companies like Monsanto use the word “natural” to label their GMO products to trick and mislead consumers, especially when it comes to products like fruits, vegetables, and other products that are not completely genetically made. If Proposition 37 had passed it would have most likely restricted companies from doing this. Though the change in GMO labeling could be costly, especially for the poor, it can ultimately help Americans lead a better and healthier lifestyle, as it will give them information they need.
Not only will it help consumers, it would also help the environment if there was to be a decrease in GMO food productions. GMO crops have greatly impacted the environment with pesticides/herbicide tolerance and loss of biodiversity. Many pesticides are leading to the deaths of insects and animals and also affecting the environment to the worse. GM crops are also posing a great threat to the environment, with gene alteration, which may cause the extinction of many species. These pesticides are also easier to spread, as they are everywhere and can flow by wind and water, which is spreading contamination. GMO crops are affecting us all, with so many health risks for all living organisms and even deaths or extinctions of some species. A huge percent of GMO food is made in the U.S, and many Americans are eating GM food without realizing it. With so many health concerns, consumers should know what they are eating and what’s in their food. Many times in the food industry, people overlook the health risks some products contain. Just like with GMOs, many health risks and factors are often covered up by media, government, and food owners to make a profit off of people. The United States should take the step that so many European countries have taken and start labeling their GMO products. This way consumers can have the freedom to know what to buy and what not to buy. The start of GMO mass food production has led to an increase in many diseases, including cancer and increased allergies in the U.S. Letting people know which products have GMO in them will give consumers the choice on what to buy, which may decrease the production of GMO crops, as fewer people would actually buy them. The decrease in the production of GMO might also help decrease many diseases and other health factors. Labeling GMO products will not only help humans and animals but also the environment.
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