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In today’s society it’s rather uncommon for a grocery store to carry nutrition that is purely organic due to the fact that nearly 60-70% of all processed foods have genetically modified ingredients. This would especially include anything that contains the infamous high fructose corn syrup since corn or maize is the most heavily genetically modified produce in the world. When corn or other produce is genetically engineered they are declared a GMO which stands for “Genetically Modified Organism.” GMO corn is currently thought by some to be directly linked to the death of nearly 37 million bees in Canada after all these insects perished after the fact that fields of GMO corn crop were planted. However correlation does not equal causation. This GMO corn is sprayed with two common pesticides that are actually illegal in most of Europe, called Imidacloprid and Clothianidin. Both of these are used to prevent crop from being damaged or eaten by insects that could result in mass losses for big corporations and all their farmers. These insecticides are known to find their way into the pollen and nectar of plants which in turn can affect beneficial insects, specifically bees. Each team of news or environmental reporters tend to put their own spin on what is going on exactly and what is to blame but in reality no one quite knows for certain. Articles are suggesting that there may be an uninterrupted link between GMO corn and the death of all the bees but contrary to these ideas, the corn may actually be more indirectly linked to these deaths through the use of certain pesticides and insecticides on them.
There are a variety of sources that, of course are claiming that genetically modified foods aren’t harmful and are just as safe as eating the traditionally grown produce. Katherine Tallmadge, a registered dietitian, recently wrote an article for the website LiveScience.com that shares the views on GMO crops and produce from several perspectives. The U.S. government views the produce as no different than if it was grown all organically and subdues them both to the same tests as far as the short term safety of the consumption of produce. She even provided a quote from the FDA saying that “The foods are generally as nutritious as foods from comparable traditionally bred plants… [They] have not been more likely to cause an allergic or toxic reaction than foods from traditionally bred plants.” She provides a outlook on how the government is viewing this new era of GMO. However, there are most certainly many opposing views as to how GMO is damaging the environment and in the long run, everyone who consumes such products containing GMO produce.
In recent years soy and corn have become crop giants taking up a large share of acreage in the U.S. which is displacing the variety and diversity in the environment. According to Tallmadge a different farming system should be devised, with a much wider variety of plants and produce, “one that uses fewer resources, is more sustainable in the long term and is healthier for the planet and people.” Soybean oil is the main reason as to why soybeans are in such high demand from farmers. There’s hardly a kitchen in the world you can go into that won’t contain anything with soybean oil in it which isn’t a good thing because soybean oil contains omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are requirements of the human body, but soybean oil is providing an immense supply of them that is going to cause more harm than good in the long run. So what does this have to do with being genetically modified anyway? Everything, because since soybeans already grow fairly quickly compared to most produce, with the help of genetic modification they grow even quicker and in much larger masses leading to over usage in foods.
Both of these crop kings are sprayed with pesticides and insecticides to protect farmers’ investments under orders from big corporations. Since these two are taking up such a large amount of acreage in the US this provides a much higher chance for bees come in contact with the pesticides leading to their eventual demise. The fact that the produce is genetically modified is looking more and more innocent as far as a direct suspect to what is killing off the bees but may in fact be doing so indirectly. Because these crops have so many universal uses in the world they have an extremely high demand so as a response farmers all over the US are growing primarily these crops, leading to their use of the insecticides that may more likely be the actual cause behind the disappearance of the bees. Other countries realize this and have taken action against as said in one of Organic Health’s articles, “After record-breaking honeybee deaths in the UK, the European Union has banned multiple pesticides, including neonicotinoid pesticides.” But why isn’t the US doing the same? After all “US scientists have found 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen, lending credence to the notion that pesticides are a key problem.” (OrganicHealth.co) This further shows to prove that there are multiple factors that need to be considered before jumping to conclusions on what exactly has caused the death of all these innocent bees.
The 37 million bees in Canada the recently died in October of this year were not the first to perish under the supposed suspect of GMO crops and because of this
“The Ontario Beekeeper’s Association, which claims that Ontario has seen a 35% decrease in honey bees over the last two years, recently started a petition calling for a provincial ban on neonicotinoids.” (Snopes.com)
All of these recent bans and desired bans against the insecticides provide support to the argument of environmentalists and journalists allowing them to avoid making many fallacies in their articles. Some articles such as the one posted by OrganicHealth.co may be somewhat misleading as they claim initially in the title that the bees’ deaths are to be blamed on the fact these plants are genetically modified, but even in that article it highlights how a variety of pesticide and insecticides may be to blame. A lot of these articles do however use skeptic language with a rather curious juxtaposition when they speak to their audience using words such as “seems” or “may,” allowing a lot of leeway as far as what or who the true culprit may be, and it can be seen here “What seems to be deadly to bees is that the neonicotinoid pesticides are coating corn seed and with the use of new air seeders, are blowing the pesticide dust into the air when planted.” (EatLocalGrown.com) So when the time comes and theories finally turn to fact, news reporters can fall back on these words, making their articles more viable sources which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because that means they weren’t prematurely claiming their findings as facts before they were even proven.
Another major concern that has previously been mentioned is whether or not it is even safe for people to be eating these foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The ongoing response to this by mainly journalists, environmentalists, and nutritionists is that further study is still needed in order to determine the long term effects because so far the short term effects are fairly minimal. For the most part the genetically modified produce is the same as organically grown produce just quicker and usually grown in larger masses with more success in prevention of insect destruction. But once again, there are those key words thrown in there, “for the most part,” the produce may look the same, but there is a tradeoff for how quickly the produce is able to be grown and the use of pesticides on them. The two even tend to look different than one another as organic produce usually has more vibrant, healthy coloring to it but may be somewhat smaller compared to the GMO produce. And of course, there are more defenses for GMO produce to be capable of supplying more of certain nutrients.
One article posted by GeneticLiteracyProject.org cites the World Health Organization statistic that around 250,000 to 500,000 children in developing countries become blind each year because of a vitamin A deficiency and half of these kids will die after twelve months of this and overall throughout the world two to three million people die each year. But as a response to this Golden Rice was genetically modified to contain “Beta-Carotene and this not only prevents blindness, but also boosts the immune system and contributes to general good health.” (geneticliteracyproject.org) Genetic engineering is a highly controversial subject for some, but it may after all be beneficial to more than just the big corporations raking in all the profits of it. This does not justify the deaths of 37 million bees, but it sheds some light on to the potential for GMO and how the world should divert its blame from claims that GMO produce is ruthless and is killing off all the honey bees. After reading a large variety of articles on GMO effects versus pesticide effects it should be somewhat difficult for people to view genetic modification as the real reason the bees are disappearing when the produce itself is doing no harm to them and in reality it’s something that is purposely done to prevent insects of all kinds from coming in contact with the produce.
Unfortunately many of these pesticides are unbiased in which insects they fend off, but there is progress being made every day in finding resources that will allow more selective insect fighting pesticides. For example “researchers in the United Kingdom have created a nontoxic biopesticide made from spider venom and a plant protein.” (takepart.com) This shows a large step in the general direction that should be taken in order to preserve the population of bees who pollinate over one third of our food. It was rather odd, however that none of the other articles that spoke primarily on GMO and pesticides never mentioned any kind of biopesticide or any solution at all as to how the death of bees and use of pesticides could be compromised. This goes to show that extensive research should always take place to insure more accurate information to readers and prevent any misconception that there are only two options, kill off all the bees or quit using pesticides.
Overall most of these articles provided proficient if not excellent resources and support as to what position they were holding on the subject and how they came to each of their conclusions. Some, of course tended to have some kind of bias whether or not they believed produce should be all natural and that Mother Nature shouldn’t be tampered with in such a way to use genetic engineering for commercial gains. However, there were of course arguments that proved genetic modifications to have very beneficial lifesaving applications that should not be ignored. Mostly the articles didn’t have any bias that one could directly correlate to an organization or corporation that could be altering how they report their findings, and journalism. All in all it’s safe to say for now that most of these journalists, environmentalists, and even nutritionists will agree that certain pesticides and insecticides are to blame for the deaths of the millions of innocent honey bees which further strengthens each and every one of their articles.
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