GMO Benefits and Potential Dangers
Written By: Sahaer N
Edited By: Kayla M
Designed By: Sandra Ateyib
Published By: Linda Qi
GMOs are “Genetically Modified Organisms”, containing DNA that has been changed using genetic engineering. There are genetically modified animals used for research purposes, but food production accommodates many plants and crops which have been genetically modified.
For thousands of years, humans have been using special breeding techniques on cattle and dogs to give them specific or desired traits. But in recent decades, biotechnology has become very advanced which allows scientists to directly alter specific DNA in crops or animals.
The method of breeding, or crossbreeding, can take a very long time and cause unwanted characteristics or traits in an animal or plant. The targeted modification of animals and plants, however, does not lead to the problem of undesired traits or attributes in crops or animals.
Some GMO animals in the U.S have been stated safe to eat by the Food and Drug Administration, such as salmon, which has been genetically modified to grow faster.
Benefits of GMO:
The first genetically modified plants were introduced in the mid-1990s for human consumption. Today, 90 percent of crops such as corn, sugar beets, and soybeans on the market are GMOs. In Canada, GMO foods include canola, corn, potatoes, soybeans, sugar beets, and alfalfa. There are many benefits to GMO food production, including:
- Genetically modified crops can raise higher yields and are more resistant to pests and diseases which is a good thing for farmers because they won’t have to buy many pesticides to grow a high supply of quality food.
- GMO crops also have a longer shelf life along with higher yields which is a good thing for consumers because that will lead to lower prices on food for them.
- GMO crops taste better and are more nutritious.
- GMO potatoes also get more desirable traits such as producing fewer cancer-causing substances when they are fried. Dangers of GMOs:
Genetically engineering typically does change an organism (plant or crop) in a way that would not occur naturally. And this causes a lot of disagreement and curiosity in people, on whether genetically engineered food should be made for human consumption. There are some downsides to GMOs, including:
- Unexpected or harmful genetic changes.
- It is common for scientists to insert genes into a crop or plant from an entirely different organism which does raise the possibility of allergic reactions that could be caused by some GMO foods.
- There is also a concern that GMO crops can spread DNA to other non-GMO plants, animals, or foods.
- Genetic engineering can alter the nutritional value of food.
So far, all GMO foods that are allowed for human consumption haven’t caused any of the problems listed above. And, of course, Health Canada does regulate assessments to make sure about the safety of GMO foods that are sold in stores for human consumption. In Canada, genetic engineering on food has been done for 23 years and there has not once been a single case of illness.
In the future GMO food will play a critical role in providing enough food for human consumption. It is expected there to be over nine billion people in this world by 2050, which means farmers will need to produce 70% more food, which could be done by advanced genetic engineering and modifying crops to be produced at a much faster rate to keep up with consumption. It is likely for scientists to add medical compounds to food to enhance health and provide better nutrition. Due to this, in the future consumers who disagree with the idea of GMO foods will likely change their minds.
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