Have you heard of the Golden Rice ?
Last week while doing my research on Genetically Modified Organisms, I came across an article from the British Medical Journal stating that vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under age five each year in parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia. The children go blind and die within a year. To address the problem, scientists came up with a GMO rice with added beta-carotene, which the body turns it into vitamin A. The move was brilliant since rice is a staple food in the countries affected by the deficiency. However, Green Peace activists have so severely protested and repeatedly misrepresented the facts regarding GMO`s that India decided to revoke their license to operate production of golden ride. Green peace continues celebrating their victory while thousands of people die due to poor nutrition. As stated by Greenpeace co-founder and former president Patrick Moore “anti-GMO activists are killing children”.
My wake up moment
I spent a few years being scared of GMO`s. I had so much anxiety regarding this subject that I would give my child a pack of Oreos before I gave her conventionally grown strawberries at the supermarket. I tried to consume organic as much as my budget would allow, until organic became an overused word in the mainstream media. Now I realize that my assumptions were based on feelings of fear of the unknown and not real facts.
Yes Europe also agrees that GMO`s are safe
I decided to learn more about my enemy GMO. If it is so bad how come it is so good? I came across a 1 hour and 43 minute debate video. It was a very intelligent, energetic and unbiased debate and at the end I was sold on GMO`s. Here is a link to the debate, https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=gmo+debate+&&view=detail&mid=46C07FD782710AB9D3DD46C07FD782710AB9D3DD&FORM=VRDGAR
I did not stop there though. I`ve learned many things including that there are 1700 studies out there proving that GMO`s are safe to consume and safe to the environment. The World Health Organization, the European Academy Sciences Advisory Council, The Royal Society, The National Academy of Science, The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the European Food Authority and every major regulamentory agency in he world all seem to agree that GMO plants and animals are safe for consumption and beneficial for the environment.
How are GMO`s made?
Genetic Engineering is as natural as many natural processes: the desired trait like disease tolerance is identified in nature —> the gene from the trait is transferred into the seed –> the plant is tested to see if it is safe for people, animals and environment. You can learn more by going to http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/how-to-make-a-gmo/
Let`s look into some of the benefits of GMO conventional farming:
1. GMO`s are safe to consume – We have been moving genes from the beginning of times through trial and errors. The difference is that now we can do it with the use of technology in a more controlled and efficient way. It takes 15 years of research, strict testing and approvals from the different health organizations before a GMO is launched in the market.
2. Less use of pesticides – A lot of people link GMO`s with pesticides, but GMO crops require less pesticides usage. German University professors released a comprehensive analysis of 147 studies stating that the use of pesticides was reduced by 38% since GMO seeds came in the market.
3. Less tilling of soil – Tilling is the process of overturning the soil to loosen it so oxygen and water can reach the area where roots will grow. Tilling contributes to erosion by drying the land, therefore more water is needed for irrigation since the moisture is lost in this process. Tilling also contributes to the release of carbon monoxide by disturbing the soil. According to Robert Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto, CALM DOWN NOW, taking away GMO seeds would be the equivalent to putting on the road 26 million cars in terms of pollution.
Before I get to number 4…since I brought up the “monster” … Monsanto is only one of he companies that sell GMO seeds. The fact that Monsanto sells GMO seeds does not automatically make GMO seeds bad. I am not even sure that Monsanto is bad. I `ve read that a lot of the accusations against them are false. But don`t listen to me. If you think Monsanto is so evil, do your own unbiased research. Now if you are against big corporations taking over the food industry then you should probably also look into the profits of Wholefoods supermarket.
4. Less land – A new study by Hanna Treu from the university of Humboldt in Germany shows that organic farming needed 40% more land than conventional crops. Conventional farming uses less land and prevents deforestation.
5. More nutritious food – In several parts in the world, hundreds of people die everyday from malnutrition and the majority are children. GMO`s have the ability to change that situation by adding nutrients to staple foods like rice.
6. GMO`s help farmers around the world get out of poverty – According to the Food and Agriculture organization, half of the world`s poor population are farmers. A few strong GMO seeds give farmers the opportunity to raise a healthy and profitable yield with less resourses. Alison Eenennaam, Genomics and Biotechnology researcher at UCDAVIS states that GM seeds helps increase farmers yields by 22 % and profits by 68% .
7. GMO`s prevents food waste – One example is the non browning apple and potatoes that were recently approved to be sold in the market. In this case scientists removed the enzyme that is responsible for the vegetables turning brown. This change will reduce the bruising that occurs with handling, it will also prevent large waste at schools, restaurants, supermarkets, households, etc.
8. Larger production and more affordable food – More resistant plants result in more yields, more yields result in more competition and better prices for us. Because Organic food is harder to grow and requires more resourses it ends up costing more. In 2014 the North Carolina State published a study saying that organic foods add $3,000.00 a year to the average family grocery bill.
9. GMO has helped save plants from going extinct – A good example is the Hawaiian papaya. The papaya ringspot virus nearly wiped out the crop. Scientists developed a GM papaya called rainbow papaya that is resistant to the virus. Now Florida Oranges are being attacked by pests. GM seeds can help solve that problem as well.
10. Advances in medicine – I know this is not related to farming but did you know that the first genetically engineered product was human insulin? Genetically Engineering is used to create biopharmaceutical drugs and it has helped save millions of lives.
Do GMO`s pass the sustainability 4 pillars test???
Are GMO`s safe for environment? Yes. Conventional farming uses less water, less land, less pesticides and releases less carbon monoxide.
Are GMO`s socially fair? Yes. Farmers get less exposure to pesticides and their labor is less intense. It also gives consumers the advantage to eat better foods.
Are GMO`s economically feasible? Yes. Conventional farming produce more yields with less investment. Farmers save money and we have cheaper prices.
Are GMO`s culturally acceptable? Besides the attempt of anti-GMO activists to ban products, GMO`s have been integrated in our culture for the past 30 years.
Organic is great and so are GMO`s. Why can`t we have both?
As you can see, I am not against organic foods. I am against activists and mainstream media propagating biased information. Why throw away years of advancement in technology because anti-GMO activists feel a certain way?
My humble advice would be the same advice I gave in my previous article, shop at farmer`s markets and local farms. Many of these farmers apply organic practicing without putting a label on it.
Did this article help answer some of your questions? Please let me know what you think and if you feel frisky please like and follow 🙂
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