April 22, 2012
Genetically modified organisms tend to have a negative connotation within society. They’re considered unnatural, unhealthy, and even risky to human health. Yet, the majority of society lacks knowledge on science. People are bombarded each day with articles opposing genetically modified food, arguing that they have potential human health risks and pose dangers to the environment. However, most articles in the news exaggerate the negative effects of GMOs without providing sufficient proof. This negative influence on society has created an automatic opposition to GMOs without considering its many benefits that could ultimately better the world and reduce world starvation.
In reality, GMO’s benefits outweigh its costs by increasing and improving food production. For example, through the insertion of certain genes into rice, people could obtain more vitamin A (A Report on Genetically Engineered Food). In many developing countries, rice is the staple food and often one of the only foods available for consumption. Without receiving enough vitamin A, people in developing countries could face early blindness. However, with the creation of genetically engineered rice that contains vitamin A, people could live a healthier lifestyle regardless of their poverty level.
GMOs can also contain herbicides and pesticides that would not affect the crop itself but would attack certain weeds and pests that try to harm it. In Africa, there is a weed called striga that depletes crops’ nutrients underground (A Report on Genetically Engineered Food). While most weeds can be pulled out by hand, striga begins attacking crop seeds even before it has sprouted. However, through the collaboration among Kenyan and Israel scientists, a herb resistance trait was engineered, allowing crops to continue their normal growth while simultaneously attacking the weed (A Report on Genetically Engineered Food). This engineering feat has allowed farmers in Africa to grow their crops without fear of weeds damaging their crop yield.
These two examples are not the extent of GMO’s functions. They can also quicken growth, prevent pest attacks, reduce the use of fertilizer, and enhance desired traits. Furthermore, they could be better for the environment than conventional crops. Especially since land is becoming scarcer and there is a greater demand for food, GMOs have stepped in to increase the crop yield by being able to resist environmental factors such as salinity, drought, and cold (Biotechnology and the Developing World). Similarly, some GMOs are equipped with traits that require less tilling, which contributes to less soil erosion and runoff. GMOs can promote sustainable farming by encouraging farmers to increase their crop yield, while maintaining the same amount of land and using the same amount of fertilizer (Biotechnology and the Developing World).
Ultimately, genetically modified organisms are nothing to fear. Although media has hyped up the negative effects by appealing to society’s concern for the unknown, the public needs to understand the tremendous benefits of GMOs. They can improve human health by increasing nutritional value. They can also encourage sustainable farming by using GMOs that require less tilling, which benefits the environment by keeping the topsoil intact and reducing fertilizer runoffs into rivers and streams. Sure, GMOs has its drawbacks but every technology has its own faults; nothing is foolproof. But the most important issue is that the benefits exceed their costs, and GMOs does just that.
Kaylee Yang is an undergraduate in the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.