Other views: Still too many unknowns in GMO foods and crops
In response to an article published Monday, May 23, "Farmers' biotech plantings continue to grow": Everyone should be aware of not only the benefits, but also the adverse effects of genetically modified crops. The telephone study mentioned in the...
In response to an article published Monday, May 23, "Farmers' biotech plantings continue to grow":
Everyone should be aware of not only the benefits, but also the adverse effects of genetically modified crops. The telephone study mentioned in the article found 64 percent of nearly 407 adult shoppers polled didn't know what genetically modified foods were. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed didn't believe or didn't know these foods are found in grocery stores.
Genetically modified organisms are new life forms that do not occur in nature and break the natural boundaries that exist between species.
This should not be confused with traditional plant breeding or traditional biotechnology. A cow and a soybean will not breed in nature, but in the laboratory, scientists can hypothetically take a gene from a cow, insert it into a soybean, and essentially create an entirely new organism.
Genetic engineers can manipulate genes from bacteria, viruses, animals, plants and even humans.
After the man-made organisms are released into the environment, they reproduce, and there is no way to recall them. Right now, the long-term environmental effects of GMOs are unknown. They only began to be released into the environment on a large scale in the mid-'90s. The technology currently used to genetically engineer living organisms such as plants or animals is crude and imprecise. There is little or no understanding of the effects of genetic engineering (GE) on DNA and the organism as a whole or of how this might affect offspring in future generations.
The agrochemical companies that produce GE seeds require farmers to sign legal agreements specifying how to farm and promising not to save seed.
They also expect farmers to pay royalties, and then aggressively sue farmers who they believe are using their seeds without signing such agreements.
Unfortunately, when there is contamination on a field planted with non-GM seeds from a field planted with GM seeds due to pollination, many farmers are finding they have genetically engineered crops on their land whether they asked for it or not and may be forced to pay the royalties. I feel this may lead to the decline of small family farms, which are a large part of our culture and our livelihood in North Dakota.
Because little is known about the long-term effects, it cannot be concluded that genetically altered plants do not pose possible health or environmental risks. When foreign genes are randomly inserted into other genes, the network of DNA in the new organism that is created may be disrupted. This may lead to instability of the new organism, could create new toxins or allergens, and may also cause changes to the nutritional value.
Also, many genetically engineered crops contain genes which are resistant to antibiotics. This could severely undermine the effective treatment of diseases if the antibiotic resistance is transferred to bacteria which are harmful to human and animal health.
As a consumer, I believe that whether you are for or against genetic engineering, you need to make yourself informed of the pros and cons. And if you don't know both sides of the story, you cannot declare whether it is right or wrong.
Narum is a senior plant sciences student at North Dakota State University. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org