Should we fear GMOs?

Two of the articles this week featured the food topic of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.  The popular documentary Food Inc., painted a dismal portrait of the world to come with Monsanto and their production of genetically modified seeds.  There debate about GMOs is not just about public health, but also about economics and efficiencies.  The article “GMO labeling debate simmers”, tried to give “both sides” to the debate on GMOs, but I think it raised more questions than it answered.  It portrayals Monsanto in a negative light, and seems to imply that Monsanto, by not putting their name on some of their fields, is trying to hide the fact that they are producing crops in the Michigan.  True, many people do not like large companies with a monopoly on the market, but is Monsanto really doing the public a huge disservice?  Some would argue that they are creating crops that are going to alleviate famine and malnutrition in many countries.   

The article mentions that there is little knowledge about GMOs long-term safety, but also points out that there is little evidence to suggest that GMOs are unsafe.  The article states there is a correlation between rise in disease, chronic illness, obesity, infertility and the time GMOs came into the market, but fast-food restaurants, hormones used in chicken and beef, and consumption of high-sugar drinks have also been on the rise in the past twenty years.  Who is to say GMOs have anything to do with it?  There is also a correlation to the amount of ice cream consumed on a beach and likelihood of a shark attack, but eating ice cream doesn’t cause shark attacks.  To suggest GMOs are to blame seems hasty and based off little information.  The article tries to give both sides of the story, but seems to instill more fear rather than comfort that GMOs do have very many positive aspects.  Can our world continue to survive without them?

The short blurb “Crop cop” http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/keith_kloor_genetically_modifi.php?page=2 highlights how the journalistic coverage of GMOs has been all too unfair.  What does everyone else think?  Are GMOs too heavily scrutinized in the news?  Would you support mandated GMO labeling on consumer products?  What would that accomplish?

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About Katie Barbour

Student, aspiring high school math and chemistry teacher. Interested in education, food safety, and nutrition.

7 Responses to “Should we fear GMOs?”

  1. GMOs reduce crop diversity and makes them more susceptible to widespread disease, pesticides that accompany and are necessary to growing GMO seeds are harmful to animals and end up in stormwater runoff, and seeds are patented which gives monsanto a monopoly on GMO plants, putting small scale farmers out of businesses because they also have the right to sue if the pollen from their patented seeds somehow ends up in a neighboring farmer’s yard. Now while I am not saying that GMOs are bad for us nutritionally, because I don’t think there is science to back that up yet, I do think that the GMO economy is dominated by a number of large players, Monsanto included, who work with the federal government to make profit and produce more food. Louise Clipone highlights another problem with GMOs which is that “The federal Farm Bill — a behemoth piece of legislation that is renewed every five years …also pumps billions of dollars of subsidies into corn, soybeans and wheat.” These are some of the most commonly genetically modified plants, and when they are so much cheaper to produce than locally grown or diverse species of plants, Americans are eating much more of them because they are more affordable. Now, more people might be getting fed but are they really getting the nutrition they need? I would definitely support GMO labeling so that consumers know what is truly behind the process of creating this food source, and so that they can control what goes into their bodies.

  2. As far as GMO’s in the news go, I feel like it depends on where you get your information from. My preferred sources all tend to skew to the “GMO’s Suck” group. I can’t disagree, if we’re talking opinions, but like most things it’s shrouded in grey area. GMO corn is a huge pest, and issues like business monopolies, policing of small farmers, and local environmental damage, the effects too great to list here, are all factors that make it such a seemingly apparent danger. However, you can bring up things like Golden Rice, a Vitamin A-rich GMO strain that is being planted alongside heritage crops in areas with eye problems, which is in almost all aspects a positive. GMO reporting seems to miss the big picture, and very easily picks a side. In the end, many people can agree that Monsanto is monstrous to create plants that resist pesticides, which encourages overuse, fattens only their wallets, and wrecks landscapes. Many news reports seem to confuse Roundup-Ready GMO’s with GMO’s as a whole, which is a problem for the consumer who doesn’t necessarily know enough about these new plants to know better.

  3. While I do not personally support GMOs as a food source, I find the article quite offensive, even from an objective standpoint. Kloor makes a slew of sweeping statements about political stand-points and beliefs. I have never agreed that this is a good way to argue any point. Rather than perpetuating stereotypes, I think it would be more effective to put forth solutions that both parties can agree on. I agree with the author that far too often, the methods of arguing the validity of GMOs are irrational. Furthermore, being a proponent of organic foods, I would not support the governmental mandate of GMOs.

  4. As a biologist, I find GMOs quite threatening to our future. Mostly it is the thought that often consumer choices are not given when it comes to this, Only time will give rise to the proper epidemiological studies that may possibly prove or disprove the health claims given to GMOs.

  5. First of all, I know it’s completely irrelevant to the structure and content of this article but it’s my initial reaction and I’d like to share: I was kind of shocked when I started reading this article because it’s actually about my hometown which has never really been more than a small farm town – so it was cool to come across that in this class. but even moreso! the farmer he talks about, Dave Cheney, was the father of my best friend from elementary school. I played on this farm! Okay moving on, I’m more surprised because with as little as I know about GMOs, I never knew Mason had one of the only two Monsanto farms in Michigan, which really emphasizes how much they go through to be discreet. Through this article and what I’ve heard, it definitely seems that the GMO problem is more of an economic one than anything. The only reason they don’t have the labeling is for economic reasons – not that they are trying necessarily trying to hide anything for health reasons, but they are trying to still appeal to a certain market of people who would go out of their way to avoid GMO products. I think the news definitely scrutinizes GMOS a lot, but maybe for skewed reasons. I’ve noticed a lot of focus on how the products could be potentially damaging for health reasons, but it seems the economic monopoly over seeds and because they can hide the information on their products are bigger problems.

  6. Chad, your comment is so interesting to me. And I agree even though my first reaction to the article was a positive one. I originally thought that the approach to the article was fairly balanced. I thought it raised the right questions and left us understanding the basic debate revolving around GMOs.

    But looking again, I agree with you that really the article revolves around stereotype, things that the public has heard about often. It basically gives us a breakdown of exactly what we already understand, or think we understand, about GMOs. I think that’s why the article left me content with the way the issue was reported–I had heard it all before. We’ve got the ending quote talking about GMOs as the answer to the world food crisis (juxtaposed to local food’s inability to solve world hunger, of course), GMOs affecting human health, and GMOs as “mainstream in the commodity crop industry.” A good article wouldn’t touch upon these widespread “beliefs” or rumors you could call them, but would explain why and how. If you’re going to talk about how GMOs can be the solution to the world food problem, you better tell me how those crops are getting to the hungry, because as far as I know, they aren’t giving genetically modified food away to anyone. Give me data supporting the way GMOs affect people’s health. The journalist implies that it doesn’t really exist, but I don’t believe that.

    The job of the journalist is to dig up and reveal the truth that people don’t already have access to, or the truth that “sweeping statements,” like you said Chad, distract us from. I hate that the article uses the word “mainstream,” too. Why mention that GMOs are now “mainstream?” Is that a journalistic fact? Does that mean we should trust them because others do? What is the journalist implying?

    Just quickly, too, what’s the focus of this article? If it’s about Michigan’s involvement with GMOs, then actually FOCUS on that instead of on the generalizations.

  7. katiebethhalloran Reply October 3, 2013 at 3:52 am

    I would support GMO labeling. It can hardly hurt to give people more information about what they’re eating, and at this point the GMO companies’ fight against labeling is only making them look petty and suspicious. I wouldn’t blame America’s recent health issues on their invention. But there is a decent chance that GMOs threaten crop biodiversity and the natural ecosystem. Is it worth the risk to produce a slightly more nutritious soybean?
    I also agree with chadkels opinions on Kloor’s piece.There are valid scientific concerns with GMOs, including how the modified seeds will react in wild populations. Kloor doesn’t address these concerns. Instead he reverts to attacking the critics. This isn’t about about democrats vs republicans or right vs left, this is about science and long term analysis and nothing else. I’m sorry that Kloor seems to feel otherwise.

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