GMO foods are genetically modified organisms that have had new genes from other organisms added to their existing genes, according to Brown University. The university says the goal of such genetic engineering is to give the original organism new characteristics, such as disease resistance. Although GMO foods may have several benefits to your health and the general well-being of the farming industry, it may also present several potential drawbacks.
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Cons: Allergic Reactions
GMO foods can present significant allergy risks to people, according to Brown University. Genetic modification often mixes or adds proteins that weren't indigenous to the original plant or animal, causing new allergic reactions in the human body. In some cases, proteins from an organism that you're allergic to may be added to an organism that you weren't originally allergic to, prompting the same allergic reaction experienced from the first organism.
Pros: Insect Resistance
Some GMO foods have been modified to make them more resistant to insect pests. The University of California in San Diego reports that a toxic bacterium can be added to crops to make them insect repellent, yet safe for human use. This can reduce the amount of pesticide chemicals used on the plants, thus potentially reducing exposure to pesticides.
Cons: Decreased Antibiotic Efficacy
Some GMO foods have had antibiotic features built into them to make them immune or resistant to diseases or viruses, according to Iowa State University. When you eat them, these antibiotic markers persist in your body and can make actual antibiotic medications less effective. The university warns that such ingestion of GMO foods and regular exposure to antibiotics may be contributing to the decreased effectiveness of antibiotic drugs that is being noticed in hospitals around the world.
Pros: Environmental Protection
Oklahoma State University reports that the increase of GMO crops and animals often requires less chemicals, time and tools, and may help to reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion. This can improve the general beauty and health of the environment surrounding farms and contribute to the sustaining of better air and water quality, which can indirectly benefit your personal well-being.
Cons: Gene Transfer
A constant risk of GMO foods is that the modified genes of the organisms may escape into the wild. Brown University warns that herbicide-resistant genes from commercial crops may cross into the wild weed population, thus creating "superweeds" that are impossible to kill with herbicides. A related risk is that the escape of genetically enhanced animals and vegetation can create new super-organisms that can out-compete natural animal and plant populations to drive certain species into extinction.
Pros: More Nutritious Foods
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reports that some GMO foods have been engineered to be more nutritious in terms of mineral or vitamin content. Not only does this help you get the nutrients you need, it can also play a significant role in battling malnutrition in the developing world. The United Nations advises that vitamin A-enhanced rice is helping to reduce global vitamin A deficiencies.
- Brown University: What Is Genetically Modified Food?
- University of California-San Diego: 20 Questions About GMO Food
- Iowa State University: The Debate on Labeling Genetically Modified Food
- Oklahoma State University: GMO Facts
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations: Weighing the GMO Arguments