Let’s talk about GMO

What is it?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. When you hear it come up in conversation it is almost always in reference to food. Scientists will alter the genetic makeup of a crop or animal for one reason or another (typically a financial one). It could be to make the crop more resistant to bugs and weeds or to make an animal bigger. With modern science, it’s difficult to count all the different ways our food sources can be manipulated.

The Good

In theory, GMO is designed to make our food better. If you can change the DNA of a plant, maybe you can grow more of it faster, maybe you can grow it in a place you couldn’t before, maybe it will require fewer resources to produce. You could even (again, theoretically) make food more healthy. The whole point is that you can add or subtract all different kinds of things.

What if you could get all the nutrients needed for basic health from a bowl of rice? What if you could get vaccinations in apples? These are the points that those in favor of GMO will raise. Not to mention the potential benefit on the economy. Ever notice how much more expensive Organic foods are at the supermarket?

The Bad

Well, one bad to get out of the way immediately is that you’re eating genetically modified food. When you eat a regular apple, you know what you’re getting. When you eat a genetically modified apple, you only know what they are telling you that you’re getting. Which leads into the next bad, almost all the good is theoretical.

Something that is not theoretical is the unintentional breeding of super pests. When you make a crop resistant to a bug or a weed, either the bug or weed dies or it adapts to whatever you changed. Two guesses which one has been happening. Now, not only are these super pets able to damage the GMO crop, but they absolutely devastate regular crops. What’s the solution? Change the food’s DNA again? What if they adapt to that? Where does it end?

The effects of GMO on people and the environment are still being assessed, with many concerned about how safe they truly are. This is a somewhat concerning reality, considering that many GM products are on the market for human consumption as we speak.

The Ugly

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in genetics, farming, or even economics. I don’t know from personal knowledge whether GMO will end up helping or harming. I know both sides are telling us opposite things. I know a regular apple never hurt me. I know that changing natural things can have unforeseen consequences. I also know that without scientific advancements people would die of paper cuts. It’s natural to fear new things. Sometimes that fear is a justified sign that we are messing with things that we shouldn’t. Sometimes that fear is just something standing in the way of the discovery of penicillin, or the x-ray. It’s hard to say for now. I can’t blame anyone for falling on the side of healthy skepticism.