GMOs – Going Against Nature?
Editorial by Lois Courchaine
There are always different sides to a story, and it’s no different with GMOs. For those of you that aren’t in the “know” about GMOs, the acronym stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Defined as:
“Plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.”*
Sound like a 1960’s science fiction movie? Unfortunately, it’s all too real. Why on earth are we being sold a bill of goods about engineered foods, when (according to experts) there aren’t really any benefits, but are serious concerns about health problems and environmental damage caused by this Frankenstein-like agricultural practice?
Tinkering around with the genes of plants and animals has been going on for decades. But now, it’s very big business; with just a handful of powerful multi-national corporations at the helm of food production. Agricultural plants are one of the most frequently cited examples of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to Dr. Theresa Phillips, writing in Nature Education
“Some benefits of genetic engineering in agriculture are increased crop yields, reduced costs for food production, reduced need for pesticides, enhanced nutrient composition and food quality, resistance to pests and disease, greater food security, and medical benefits to the world's growing population. Advances have also been made in developing crops that mature faster and tolerate aluminum, boron, salt, drought, frost, and other environmental stressors, allowing plants to grow in conditions where they might not otherwise flourish.**
While this might sound like dream come true, proceed with caution; your dream could turn into a nightmare. Do we really know all the long-term consequences of GMO’s? The answer is no.
This underscores a bigger question though. Should you do something, just because you can? Should you do something just because it comes with huge profits? Most of us would agree that playing it safe is preferable, especially when it comes to what we’re putting into our bodies. The Precautionary Principal states that: “When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” In other words, every effort should be made to ensure the public health and safety (including the environment) is placed before profits.
The Pandora ’s Box that is GMOs has been opened though, and getting it completely closed again is unlikely; especially given that big business is involved. That being said, according to public opinion, what most people are concerned with is the lack of information on what exactly they are eating. Most people, when given the choice want to know what’s in their food. After all, if you buy a banana, you expect to eat a banana, and not a plantain, right? When it comes to nature and human health, it’s better to be safe than sorry!