GMOs: Friend or Foe?
A rather controversial topic in the realm of sustainability is the use of genetic engineering in food. A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a living thing whose genetic material is altered in a laboratory setting.
A major goal of this practice is to promote food security so that there is enough food provided for everyone and no one goes hungry. With a changing climate and increasing unpredictability in our environment, crops can face many challenges. Scientists can alter the genes of these crops for their protection, to make them resistant to diseases and able to survive in varying conditions. This can result in a higher yield of crops meaning more food that a farmer can harvest and more food for people to eat. Scientists also claim to be able to add more nutritional value to these foods with the hope of solving nutrition deficiencies, especially for those who do not have access to enough food.
However, there are some concerns voiced by people who do not support the use of genetic engineering in our food. There are claims that by making these foods resistant to certain pests and bacteria, those organisms can evolve and become “super pests”. There is also growing concern associated with the increasing resistance bacteria has to antibiotics, some saying that it is because of the antibiotics placed in the food. Another point is that by genetically modifying these organisms, there is little to no variation in the crops. This causes a lack of biodiversity which in turn can cause a lack of resilience in a population of crops. People pose the idea that if an unpredictable challenge arises for the crops and they are not prepared for it, all of the crops will fail since they are all the same. Some people who are anti-GMO believe that we will have to continue modifying these foods for new challenges and will not be able to return to the natural way of evolution because we have accelerated it so much. A final concern is that genetic engineering allows large corporations to keep control over the food industry by patenting their genes and privately owning certain food types. This allows corporations to have a monopoly over foods like corn, which nowadays is grown simply to be processed into pretty much everything besides corn on the cob, like ethanol, sweetener, processed snacks and more..
So where do you stand? Do some research of your own, find reliable sources, talk it out with your family, friends and peers and see what you think for yourself.
Written by Olivia Giovannini-Dolan, Class of 2020