Featured image from Earth Justice – (http://earthjustice.org/features/engineering-an-environmental-disaster-2)
The dreaded GMO, or genetically modified organism.
Cause of high debate levels and discord among the trending vegan or environmental movements, scientists, and consumers alike. Working in retail in a bath & beauty shop, I cannot count how many times I get asked these questions in succession: “Are your products organic?” followed by “are your products GMO free?”
I believe the argument against GMOs in terms of health and human welfare are largely formed without any literature, any research, and any background. There is no evidence or research that proves that consuming or relying on GMOs as a food source or in your everyday healthcare or beauty products will cause any kind of harm. The strains of fruits and vegetables that we eat every day are in some way, shape or form GMOs. In order to get certain crops to survive in new climates or against invasive pests, their genetic structures have to be modified. If you use cotton or flax, eat tomatoes, or smoke/chew tobacco – guess what? It’s been genetically modified at some point in its existence. Most crops in the United States have been at some point or another, and there is still no linkage of health issues to what we have been eating. There is more literature on how meat consumption is linked to health issues, so before you hoist the ”anti-GMO” flag for health concerns, maybe consider switching around health priorities.
The argument against GMOs and in terms of the environment however, is a different story. With certain crops or plants, GMOs are considered necessary in order for the strain to survive without using pesticides or insecticides. This leaves herbicides, or the chemicals used to destroy “weeds”, that are then used to create what we have been taught is the perfect agricultural situation. Herbicides cause immediate damage to the environment around them by killing pollinators and then getting left behind in the soil. Chemicals in the soil then become part of the water cycle through runoff and cause damage to aquatic ecosystems. So really the focus against GMOs should primarily be how they contribute to harm in all ecosystems, not that we may get cancer from it. One of these is proven to be true, one of this is entirely hearsay.
A large part of the cause for the bee population decline is due to pesticide and herbicide usage, yet humans are more concerned about non-existent health issues from genetic modification. Monarch butterflies accidentally ingest herbicides and pesticides and are dying off at exponential rates; this species is at risk for extinction. Another issue for that population is that native milkweed (NOT tropical milkweed) is considered a weed to humans because it is not pretty colors or elaborate in its leaf patterns, so we automatically get rid of it. This plant is necessary for the monarch’s growth and life cycle; the plant has compounds in it that help the larvae form the exoskeleton of the butterfly. How should these insects, and vital parts of our environment, feel when we are raising a ruckus about a non-existent problem, but then destroy their habitats and food and spray them with chemicals for our own benefit?
This debate is a prime example of humans picking up an environmental cause for human concern and not the bigger issue: the environmental concern. I am definitely pro-GMO for human consumption because there is no reason to fear them. I am definitely anti-GMO for what it does to the world around me. The greater lesson here is to fight for a cause for something more than yourself, and seriously do research before you stick a bunch of bumper stickers on your car and talk about how you’re so anti-GMO. Be anti-GMO for the right reasons, not the non-existent ones.
Articles for further reading that come from credible sources (which is highly important in this argument):
- WebMD – What You Need to Know About GMOs
- AgMag – Are GMOs Bad for the Environment
- One Green Planet – The Environmental Impact of GMOs