As a girl who grew up in the agriculture industry and knows that’s where her career is, I admit the question of how sustainable my industry operates, weighs on my mind often. The predicted growth of the world population of 9 billion people by 2050 doesn’t help matters either. My stance and understanding on the matter of genetically modified organisms are developed from the following thus far. According to http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/ GMO’s are “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. Such methods are used to create GM plants – which are then used to grow GM food crops.”
So why are they created? Is it just for profit? No. “GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both. Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers so have concentrated on innovations that farmers (and the food industry more generally) would appreciate. The initial objective for developing plants based on GM organisms was to improve crop protection. The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.” To me this says the idea for GMO use is designed for good.
So are the the GMO’s safe? That is honestly incompletely determined but so far we know “Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods. GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous use of risk assessments based on the Codex principles and, where appropriate, including post market monitoring, should form the basis for evaluating the safety of GM foods.” I still feed more and more research needs to be done on the safety of GMO’s to settle the disputes.
Lastly my question was how are potential human health risks assessed. “The safety assessment of GM foods generally investigates: (a) direct health effects (toxicity), (b) tendencies to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity); (c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties; (d) the stability of the inserted gene; (e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and (f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion.” Overall I feel that the risk assessments for GMO’s are good but know that more and more research needs to be done on the safe and effective use of GMO’s.
I know that the GM organisms are not a perect technology and there is still much research to be done. I also realize that it is going to take both organic and conventional producers to grow food for the predicted population of the future. As the number of farms shrink in the U.S. but food production increases I am proud of my industry. Nonetheless, I realize we have much to learn, much to improve upon but believe my generation will have what it takes.