Kayla Slater, Columnist
The use of genetically modified organisms in food, or GMOs has become the topic of a controversial public debate. Recently, Washington voted on whether GMOs should be labeled. This proposal was turned down. Large corporations such as Kellogs and Monsato have prevented the law from passing. Yet consumers have expressed interest labeling and the debate will continue. So what exactly are GMOs?
Genetically modified foods are crops whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified for a specific and desirable trait. A desirable trait in an organism’s DNA is taken from that organism and put into another. About 68 percent of crops in the U.S. are genetically modified. Benefits include the ability to increase nutrient content, improve taste, reduce cost and food can grow faster and stay on the shelves longer. Crops are also genetically modified to resist pests and diseases, so less pesticides are needed and farmers can rely on their crops. Farmers produce more food using this process, which decreases famine and starvation and is especially important for developing countries.
Why then is there a huge anti-GMO debate and why the push for labeling? Even though the FDA regards GMOs as safe and the world health organization believes genetically modified foods are not likely to present risks for human health, there is no adequate testing and more evidence is needed. Many of the concerns with GMOs are socially constructed concerns, but evidence does show that GMOs may have potential health risks and may negatively impact the environment. Changes in the DNA of an organism can lead to unexpected and harmful changes, which can introduce allergens and toxins and lead to antibiotic resistance. But, there is no evidence that shows the long-term effects of GMOs.
Since little is known about the long-term health risks of GMOs, consumers are concerned and lack trust in producers that do not want to label GMOs. But why? For one, labeling would be difficult because of traceability. Second, liability issues. Third, it would require more labeling, increasing the cost of food and lastly, corporations seem to be more concerned about profit than consumer’s welfare. The issue has turned into a marketing debate, losing the focus of science.
The big question is… whether or not GMOs should be labeled and are they harmful for your health? I will leave that up to you to decide after presenting the evidence and logic behind this controversial debate. Ethically, I believe GMOs should be labeled, so people can decide and know what they are putting in their bodies. After all, we have all heard the saying, “we are what we eat.”