Modern humans live in a world where technological advantages have mostly made life better. It is now possible to travel across the country in a matter of hours or receive an organ transplant, things that would have been unheard-of less than a hundred years ago. However, not all technology is so benign and one area of concern is genetically modified organisms — crops and plants whose very DNA has been altered for the purposes of achieving disease resistance, increased nutritional value or a longer shelf life. The debate over this continues and below are reasons that everyone should consider before exposing themselves to GMO food.
Lack of Long-Term Study
One thing that many GMO critics point to as an area of concern is that there have been no long-term studies or independent verifications of the safety of genetically altered food. Very few people would, for instance, take a medication that had not been studied and deemed safe by the FDA or some similar body. Yet that is what is happening when people consume GMO food, and this exposure happens every day and most people are not even aware of how many daily products have been genetically modified.
Possibility for Allergic Reaction
Another potential issue with modified foods is the question of allergies. Many children have developed life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. The question is: if a gene from, for instance, a peanut plant is introduced into the genetic sequence of another plant, can this cause an allergic reaction in vulnerable individuals? There is no definite answer to this. However, an idea to introduce a gene from nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of this particular issue.
Damage to the Immune System
There are many who are also worried about the effect that GMO’s could have on the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. A 2008 study on rats showed that those who had been fed genetically modified foods for 30 days displayed signs of a reaction in their immune systems and an altered number of cells which regulate immune functions in the body. Damaged immunity would make humans more vulnerable to illnesses and may even increase the risk of developing serious conditions like cancer.
Dependence of Developing Countries
Promoters of GMO’s often point to the fact that this modification can help the developing world with problems like malnutrition, and point out as an example the golden rice that was modified to have high levels of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a common nutritional deficiency in developing countries, but products like the golden rice can actually increase the dependency of such countries on Western products and make it harder for them to develop on their own.
Lack of Control
Especially since labelling laws in United States in particular in relation to GMO’s are practically non-existent, people have essentially lost control over what they eat unless they are willing to follow an exclusively organic diet (which is not economically feasible for many). For instance, if a certain vegetable has been modified with animal genes, this raises issues with those who are vegetarian or vegan or those who have dietary restrictions for medical or ethical/religious reasons.
These are all issues to consider carefully. They are also good reasons to avoid GMO’s as much as possible until more is known about their potential risks.
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