by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© July 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
A controversy in agriculture has to do with the use of genetically-modified organisms or GMOs. These are agricultural crops and animal species that have been modified genetically using modern methods of gene substitution in order to produce foods with special characteristics or qualities.
It is important to know that crops and animals have been bred for certain characteristics for thousands of years. However, the new GMO technology is much faster, and offers more possibilities, such as combining the genes of a plant with those of an animal or even a human being, to create new varieties of organisms.
GMO corn, soybeans and perhaps a few other crops are already common in the United States. Most of Europe has rejected this technology.
Arguments in favor. The proponents of this type of bio-technology, which is actually about 20 years old, say that it can provide us with more food to feed a growing world, with crops that resist pests better, and perhaps other benefits.
Arguments opposed. Those opposed to GMO foods say they are not safe and not needed. The problems with GMO foods are discussed in detail below.
Others say the GMO foods should be labeled, and then let the citizens make an informed choice. Proponents oppose labeling because they are afraid people won’t buy GMO foods if they label them.
In America, some states have had referenda to force the labeling of GMO foods. The large food companies are spending millions to defeat these initiatives.
Meanwhile, farmers in other nations around the world are reporting more and more problems with “biotech” products.
PROBLEMS WITH GMO FOODS
1. Crop yields. One of the main promises of GMO technology was to increase crop yields. However, so far GMOs have increased agricultural yields only about 1% in 20 years. In contrast, traditional plant breeding has yielded far higher advances in crop yields, up to 1% per year.
2. Contamination, cross-pollination and perhaps destruction of the older, perhaps more delicate species of plants and animals. There is some evidence of this, and some consider it an environmental and health disaster of monstrous proportions.
In other words, once the GMO crops and animals become established, it is very hard to stop them, as they can reproduce themselves, at least in some cases.
3. Worsening nutrition. While a few GMO foods are created for improved nutrition, such as a vitamin A-enhanced rice, most are not. In fact, they simply continue the slide into poorer and poorer nutritional quality of our food, since the crops are often designed to grow on poor quality soil and not to require a lot of costly fertilizers to grow.
Even before the modern genetic modification programs, the nutritional quality of all of our food was declining. So far, GMOs do not stop this process, and probably make it worse.
4. Patenting seeds and even animals. Another problem is giving too much power to companies that patent seeds and even new animal species. This goes against time-honored traditions of sharing seeds and animals that are seen as gifts from God, not manmade, patentable products.
While these patents may make money for a few select companies, the concept tends to impoverish the farmers and ranchers, who must now pay more for seeds and animals.
5. More pesticides. Some GMO foods require the use of pesticides and special fertilizers that are only available from one or two companies. This costs more, and often gives a few too much power over our entire food supply.
6. Corruption at the Agriculture Departments of government, and elsewhere. A further problem is that our FDA and Department of Agriculture are known to be corrupt and often controlled by large agricultural corporations and others. So it is hard to believe that we are getting really accurate assessments of GMO foods, and more likely that the negative aspects of GMOs are not being revealed to the public.
This is a problem with “the regulatory state” and a bloated central government. It is fairly easy for special interests to infiltrate a single government agency.
7. Not needed. The argument that GMOs are needed to feed a hungry and growing world population are completely specious, in my view. Just cultivating the deserts, as is being done in Israel, for example, would probably double the amount of arable land. This is entirely possible with modern technologies.
More exotic methods to increase our food production are also very possible, such as building huge floating plant beds that would be placed in the ocean.
Another totally specious argument, in my view, is that global warming means that we will need new crop varieties to keep up our food production. In fact, the opposite is true. If global warming occurs, agricultural production could increase, probably drastically. Just ask someone in Canada, Michigan, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Wisconsin, Northern China, or Siberia if they would appreciate some global warming.
WHAT ABOUT GMOs IN FOOD SUPPLEMENTS?
Some people are very concerned about supplements that might contain GMO ingredients. I do not see this as a problem, at this time. Most food supplements are made of chemical extracts from foods. The extracts, such as vitamin C or zinc, can come from GMO or non-GMO plants, or they may be synthesized or semi-synthetic. I do not think that a chemical element like zinc or calcium is any different if it comes from a GMO source.
A more likely problem is the use of GMOs to make food-based supplements because the supplements contain actual foods. However, the amount of “food” in a food-based supplement tablet is quite small, so it may not make that much difference. This is a research area, and I will update this article as more research emerges.
1. We should go very slowly with this new technology.
2. The GMO products should not be allowed to be patented. Of course, this will discourage development of new GMO products, but that is okay with me.
3. GMO-containing foods should be clearly labeled to give people choices.
4. Reports of problems with GMOs must be made public, and made as easy as possible to verify and check.
5. GMOs are not needed, and may not even be that good compared to other more traditional methods of plant and animal breeding.
If you are searching for non-GMO foods, here is a list of trusted sites you can visit.