3 Problems with Genetically Modified Foods
Scientists have used genes to engineer a variety of things in our everyday, most prominently food and agriculture. Genetically modified foods offer a solution to various problems and give us a whole host of new fruits and veggies, but they come with their own set of known problems.
1. They kill butterflies and bees.
One the greatest benefits of genetically modified foods is that they can be tailored to have inherent resistance against pests and weed killers, allowing for larger yields. Unfortunately, that natural resistance can’t distinguish between all insects, even the beneficial ones like butterflies and bees.
Sacrificing a few butterflies and bees for greater crop yields shouldn’t be an issue, right? Except that bees and butterflies do more than make honey and look pretty. Bees and butterflies are essential to the pollination process, supporting a third of all food crops. Honeybees alone are responsible for 80 percent of that third. Accidentally killing so many bees and butterflies would considerably collapse the world food supply. Considering the butterfly population is already at a historical low and that bee populations drop at an exponential rate—about a 30 percent decline each year—we can’t afford to lose many more.
2. They create superpests.
A plant with a built-in insecticide gene gets rid of so many unwanted bugs, but the gene often only targets weaker, common bugs. The strongest bugs survive, creating a whole new class of superpests that is resistant to the gene modifications and any insecticide sprays. The bugs actually develop immunities.
These immunities don’t apply to bugs alone. Weeds are becoming much hardier, showing no response to widely used herbicides. That forces farmers to use even more stringent chemicals to kill the bugs and weeds, which means higher operating costs and heightened pollution levels.
3. They damage biodiversity.
Biodiversity refers to the wide range of life on the earth and is important because everything, even the smallest blades of grass, plays a pivotal role—what we know as the circle of life.
Industrial farming alone damages biodiversity by clearing land and growing only one kind of plant. Farms that plant genetically modified crops are so much worse. These farms produce a single type of plant but each of those plants is genetically identical. Having such homogenous crops isn’t a great idea. That means all the plants in the crops require the exact same growing conditions and have the same non-immunities, making our food supply more vulnerable to pests, diseases, and changes in climate. The lack of biodiversity also leads to animal birth defects and declines in wildlife populations, soil organisms, and ecosystems.
4. They may contribute to obesity.
Genetically modified foods cause problems for the environment and nature’s preferred ways of producing quality, healthful food, as stated in the above three points. That might not make a big difference to some people, but what if you realized that these GM foods can actually have a negative effect on your body?
A study of the effects of GM foods on rats revealed that rats that were exposed to GM foods were fatter and had more health problems than their counterparts. And how about the fact that mass-produced GM crops that we have today are less nutritious than crops 50 years ago?
There are many factors of obesity, and many proposed solutions, such as those outlined by economist Peter Orszag in this Bloomberg article. Offering healthy meals to kids at school would be a great start, but what if those “healthy” lunches are filled with genetically modified foods? Could one of the solutions to the obesity epidemic be to stop raising GM crops?