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GMOs

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Lucille Finnegan

on 25 April 2013

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Transcript of GMOs

GMOs:
Harmless? Deadly?
Or Downright Unpredictable? What are they? GMOs refers to Genetically Modified Organisms. These are plants (or animals) that are created through “gene splicing techniques of biotechnology”. Essentially, companies are inserting genes from another species into another. This is often done in hopes of creating crops that won't require pesticides, will need less water to grow etc.
Ex: Taking the "antifreeze" genes from the Arctic flounder and inserting them into a tomato to act as a preventative measure against frost damage. So what's the BIG deal? GMO proponents argue that GMO crops:
Are safe to eat
Increase crop yield
Benefit the environment
Help the small farmer
Reduce the amount of pesticides used
Will assist in the fight against hunger The Reality When scientists implement new genes into a food such as a tomato, there is NO way for the process to be guided. Consequently, the insertion can result in hundreds or thousands of mutations. Such mutations can result in crop toxicity, decreased nutritional value, or cause allergens, among other unpredictable side effects. Studies with animal test subjects have demonstrated the adverse effects of GM crops. Rats, who were fed GM tomatoes, experienced stomach lesions such as ulcers. Mice, on a diet of GM soy, showed disturbed liver, pancreas, and testes functions. Also, 19 studies, in which mammals were fed soy, found consistent toxic effects on the liver and kidney. However, the full extent of health effects are still unknown. Despite the potential hazards to public health, the FDA does nothing to regulate GMOs. Companies producing GM products are recommended to undergo a voluntary pre-market safety assessment. For those who choose to have their product reviewed, the FDA, at the end of the investigation, acknowledges that according to the company's own studies the product is safe, declares that the FDA has no further questions, and reminds the company that only safe products should be put on the market. Harsh, right? What about regulations? But do they really? Currently, companies do not have to label which products have been genetically modified, thus leaving the public ignorant to which foods are GMOs (in the European Union and several other countries GMOs must be labeled). An estimated 80% of products found in the average American supermarket contain GMOs.
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011) Regulations (con.) Crop Yield GMO Safety GMO Safety (con.) Oftentimes, GM crops are hailed as increasing the annual crop yield. GM crops actually can decrease the overall yield. Several studies involving GM soybean and corn crops have found no growth in produce yield. Any increase in crop production in the past decades has been due to improvements in traditional breeding NOT GM crops. Beneficial to the Environment? Hardly. Genes from GMOs can be easily transferred to wild plants and native species (through cross-pollination) and result in "superweeds". Superweeds are weeds that are resistant to herbicides due to the genes transferred from the GMO. "Superbugs" could also develop as they too become resistant to the herbicides used. Furthermore, GMOs could possibly threaten the biodiversity of the ecosystem. Certain GM traits could create such enhancements to an organism that it becomes an invasive species, which then threatens the surrounding organisms. Environment (con.) Already, studies done in 2000, demonstrated the toxic effect of a certain Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria used in crops since it is toxic to a select few species of insects) corn variety on monarch butterflies. The corn's toxicity was lethal enough to kill a monarch's larvae. Luckily, that specific type of corn was not very popular and thus not extensively planted. However, had it been, the monarch butterfly population would have been at high risk of severe population decline. (ucusa.org) Pesticides GMOs are also promoted as reducing the amount of pesticides used in farming (pesticides include herbicides). Bt crops did display a reduction of pesticides used, but other herbicide tolerant GMOs did not. While Bt crops experienced a reduction of 62. million lbs of pesticides used, other GMOs showed an overall increase of 383 million lbs of herbicides needed. According to a 2008 report, herbicide use on GM herbicide tolerant crops rose 31.4% in the span of one year. (saynotogmos.org) World Hunger GMOs cannot solve the problem world-wide hunger. As seen previously, they do not increase crop yield or require less input to receive greater output. Even if they did, hunger is not a problem of lack of food but, rather, lack of proper distribution and the prevalence of poverty. GMOs are useless in this regard. Humans will have to look elsewhere to solve this global dilemma. Works Cited "GMO Myths and Truths." Http://www.saynotogmos.org/ud2012/fp-content/docs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.1.pdf. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
"Environmental Effects of Genetically Modified Food Crops -- Recent Experiences." Http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/environmental-effects-of.html. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2013.
"FAQ." Organic Agriculture: What Are the Environmental Benefits of Organic Agriculture? N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.
"A Collaborative Initiative Working to Ensure the Sustained Availability of Non-GMO Options." The NonGMO Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2013.
"GMO Patents Squeeze Small Farmers." Rogue Valley Community Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2013 Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres) (nongmoproject.org)
Regulations in other parts of the world are an improvement upon the U.S.'s but are hardly strict enough to properly protect the consumer. Regulations (con.) Regulations (con.) Furthermore, just recently, Monsanto (the leading corporation producing GM seeds) and its friends managed to attach a clause to the funding bill that President Obama signed into law. The clause prohibits the Department of Agriculture from halting production of a GM crop once it has been planted, regardless of any evidence that might prove it a danger. This poses the question: In cases such as this, is Congress really protecting the people's interests? Effects on Small Farmers Organic Farming As an alternate to GMOs, some farmers have turned to 0:00-3:08 Effects on small farmers For organic small farmers, GMOs pose a serious problem. Cross pollination can easily transfer the GMO seeds to nearby organic farms and contaminate the crops with GM seed. In this case, organic farmers can no longer ensure that their crop is a 100% organic and lose their status as USDA organic.
Another problem is corporate control of the seed supply. Traditionally, farmers save the seeds from their harvests so they do not have to repurchase new ones for the next season. But with the patenting of GMOs, farmers are unable to do so as it would violate the licensing agreement they signed when GM seeds are purchased. Farmers (con.) Violation of the licensing agreement can occur unintentionally. A farmer whose field is contaminated with GM seed could potentially be sued for copying a patented material. The financial expenses of a lawsuit could be devastating upon the farmer.
Monsanto, by Jan 2010, had filed 136 lawsuits against farmers and the majority were ruled in favor of the company.
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