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Hanss 1 Ian Hanss Professor DeRise GWRTC 103 0031 22 October 2013 GMOs: A Revolution or Degradation of a Nation?

? Every day Americans go through their lives and eat their meals without putting much thought at all into what is in their food. They may count how many calories they eat, or how many carbs are the snack bar they just ate, but not what their food actually consists of. Seventy five to eighty percent of all processed foods in America, including food in grocery stores, contain genetically modified organisms (Studies Show). Now, people may ask what exactly is a genetically modified organism (GMO)? Scientists create them in a lab using very precise biological processes. They eliminate or introduce specific genes into these organisms to produce new ones that have more desirable traits than the original organism (Whitman). Is changing the course of nature really the best idea? Although this may sound like a revolutionary scientific leap, GMOs harm the environment and the people who eat them. They do not always produce the expected yield or desired result either. All in all, GMOs are detrimental to nature and the greater good of society. Genetically modified foods and organisms are prevalent in America. Since the 1990s, food companies like Nestle and General Mills have been using the process to make GMOs in order to make more money (Hennessey). In other words, the ingredients associated with GMOs are cheaper than regular or organic ingredients. This is not how the food industry should be run. Rich companies become richer by producing and feeding genetically engineered foods to the masses while countless consumers

Hanss 2 remain ignorant as to what they eat. Numerous European countries have extensively informed their citizens to the dangers of GMOs, and all of Europe labels what foods contain GMOs. Many have placed specific bans on some GMO crops and seeds while others like Italy and Switzerland have even completely banned GMO crops (Onusic). Something seems fishy with genetically modified foods, especially if all of these well developed nations have placed bans on them. Genetic engineering has helped a variety of scientific fields in the past like preventing disease from spreading by implanting anti-viral genes to fight diseases; however, the process is slightly more complex when it comes to food. To make GM foods, the gene with the desired trait is implanted into the crops genome. Undesired problems occur frequently when going through this process though. The crop that has the gene inserted into it could cause mutations in the current or future generations, leading to crops that produce allergens or cause other health problems (Wohlers). Along with the creation of GM foods, the process of reviewing them doesnt seem adequate either. The FDA regulates how GM foods are reviewed based on the statement: A substance may be considered to have a history of safe use as a food if it has been an ongoing part of the diet for several generations in a large genetically diverse human population (DeFrancesco). GMOs have not been around long enough to completely determine how they affect the population that consumes them, so reviewers cannot determine the long term consequences that stem from them. Therefore, this reviewing statement is faulty and seems to be raising some alarm to the matter of GMOs. An alarming number of Americans oppose GMOs, raising the question why are they so widely used in America? According to a recent study, over half of Americans claim that they would not buy GMOs or GM foods (GMO Facts). Some movements are working towards labeling GMOs and even

Hanss 3 eradicating them for good including: the Non-GMO Project, Millions Against Monsanto, and Label It Yourself. All of these campaigns inform consumers about GMOs, the risks associated with them and advocate the labeling of GMOs. They have made progress on influencing policymaking as well and nearly passed laws for labeling (Wohlers). An outstanding majority (91%) of Americans want GMOs to be labeled (GMO Facts). This would mean that a seal would be put on anything in the grocery store that contains GMOs. Corporations that produce GMOs obviously fight against labeling and have been able to do so successfully thus far; however, public opinion is quickly changing and they will not be able to hold up in the coming years. While GMOs seem to be ineffective and almost detrimental, scientists have proven that there are some positive aspects of them. First, they have an increased resistance to many things like pests, herbicides and weather. Resistance to pests means that less of the crops will be eaten and destroyed while resistance to herbicides means that less toxins will be released into the environment and on the crops themselves. The crops are able to stand up to much colder and hotter climates allowing GM crops to grow in many different areas of the world (Wohlers). The soil that is used by them is much easier to reuse as well. All of these factors lead to a larger yield of food, making it easier to feed the hungry people of the world. Many components of GMOs are undoubtedly positive, but at what price do they come? Genetically modified crops hurt the environment more than they do well for it. GMOs are an invasive species, meaning that they are unintentionally spread throughout ecosystems. They negatively affect the ecosystem itself and are destructive to the functions of the ecosystem (Wolfenbarger). An outstanding amount of GM crops indirectly kill off many insects. Sometimes this is due to the pesticide genes implanted in them and sometimes not. Along with

Hanss 4 killing important insects, such as bees, insects could develop resistances to these crops and pesticides resulting in super-insects that are not affected by pesticides whatsoever (Wohlers). GMOs cause damage not only to the environment, but also to the people that live in it and consume them. While some genes placed into GM crops are there to help humans, such as implanting vitamin A to combat childhood blindness, an increasing number of negative effects come from them. These plants that are resistant to viruses can create new viral diseases through the biological characteristics embed in them (Wolfenbarger). Humans should not eat foods that may create completely new viruses. This negative aspect alone seems to outweigh all of the positives of GMOs. Along with diseases being created, GM foods can increase allergies in people that consume them. Infants prove to be especially susceptible to this because their immune system is still growing. Studies have shown that people who have allergies to certain foods have shown worse allergic reactions to the genetically modified counterpart of that food (Wohlers). GM crops produce toxins and release them into the soil they are planted in and into the organisms, including humans, which consume them (Wolfenbarger). A toxin is defined as any poisonous substance of plant or animal origin. So when GMOs are consumed, a poisonous substance is consumed, proving that GM foods and organisms are harmful. As stated earlier, many countries around the world have already placed bans on some or all aspects of GMOs. Currently a debate is occurring in America not for the outlaw of GMOs, but simply for the labeling of them. Although 91% of American citizens voted for the labeling of GMOs, America is still the largest advocate of GMOs in the world. This may be due to the large number of FDA employees that have ties back to large food companies. In fact, the head of

Hanss 5 the FDA used to be the vice president of public policy for the company Monsanto, a food company that produces and grows GM crops and places growth hormones in cattle and other livestock (Bonnette). A former vice president at a company that produces GM foods is now the head of the FDA, America is the largest advocate of GMOs in the world, and 91% of Americans want GMOs labeled. If that doesnt raise a few eyebrows, I dont know what will. People that support GMO labeling should not be held back by such a small number of people with power who support genetically modified crops. Despite the strong support for GMOs coming from powerful governmental positions, there is hope for the fight against GMOs. In the past twenty years, the years in which GMOs have been introduced and widely used, support for labeling has risen 10% from 81% to 91%. Recently in California, an act was nearly passed which would have mandated the labeling of any food or agricultural product containing GMOs. The only reason the act was not passed was due to the fact the various GM food producing companies funded the campaign against it. These companies efforts totaled to about $32 million, while the support for the act totaled only $4 million (Wohlers). This shows how strong the movement actually is; the act was nearly passed with only one eighth of the money of the opposing campaign. People want to know what is in their food. Consumers should have a right to make their own informed decision on whether or not they want to buy GM foods. They should be educated in the matter so they know what they are buying as well. Consumers cannot make the choice to buy GM foods if they do not know what contains GMOs and what does not. If they do not know what GMOs are and what foods they are in, consumers will continue to eat GMOs blind to the harm they are causing to themselves.

Hanss 6 There is a considerable amount of proof and even more speculation that GMOs harm the soil, the insects and animals around them, and the humans that consume them. They are invasive to ecosystems, they kill large numbers of insects and animals, they create new disease and allergies, and they contain toxins that release into the soil around them and people who eat them. So what can be done to avoid GMOs? Shopping at whole foods and farmers markets is the easiest choice. Most of the food at these markets is natural and organic and more than likely is GMO free. If you want to get serious about GMOs, join one of the many movements against them and vote for their labeling. Although GMOs have not been around long enough to completely determine if they are universally bad or good, it is never a good idea to consume toxins or disease creating foods.

Hanss 7 Works Cited Bonnette, Edward. "The Revolving Door: FDA and the Monsanto Company." Independent Voter Network. 501 (c) (3), 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013. DeFrancesco, Laura. How Safe Does Transgenic Food Need To Be?. Nature Biotechnology 31.9 (2013): 794-802. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2013. "GMO Facts." Non GMO Project. Non-GMO Project, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. Hennessey, Rachel. "GMO Food Debate In The National Spotlight." Forbes Magazine. LLC, 03 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. Onusic, Dr. Silvia P., PhD. "The Current Status of GMO's in Europe." Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. WordPress, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. "Studies Show GMOs in Majority of U.S. Processed Foods, 58 Percent of Americans Unaware of Issue." PR Newswire. UBM Plc, 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. Whitman, Deborah B. "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" CSA. ProQuest, Apr. 2000. Web. 17 Oct. 2013. Wohlers, Anton E. "Labeling Of Genetically Modified Food." Politics & The Life Sciences 23.1 (2013): 73-84. Academic Search Complete. Web. 22 Oct. 2013. Wolfenbarger, L.L., and P.R. Phifer. The Ecological Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Plants. Science 290.5499 (2000): 2088-093. Science/AAAS. Highwire Press, 15 Dec. 2000. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Hanss 8 This work, for which I received no unauthorized assistance, complies with the JMU Honor Code. Signed _______________.