The Truth

My topic is about whether or not GMOs are safe to eat.

My research this semester has not changed my stance by much (being that GMOs are safe to eat). Though my stance has now gotten slightly more complex, it is still basically the same. I have come to find that there have been many, many studies done on GM foods regarding human health, and have found no evidence that suggests that GM foods pose a threat. I am a believer in science and facts, and I encourage the use of the scientific method and embrace scientific theories. That being said, I also believe in falsifiability. If the theory is “GMOs are safe to eat”, I want to find any piece of real evidence that proves that wrong; not try to verify what I already think is true, because that doesn’t help find the truth at all. The fact that I’ve found absolutely nothing that falsifies my theory can only lead me to believe that GMOs are safe to eat. If in the future, there is a real study that actually proves this theory wrong, then I am absolutely ready to change this stance. But as of now, I stick with my position in this topic.

 

The common alternative facts regarding my topic are:

  1. GMOs cause health problems such as liver failure, kidney failure, reproductive failure, cancer, etc.
  2. GMOs are hazardous to the environment.
  3. There are pesticides in GM foods that are slowly poisoning people.
  4. GMO DNA will transfer to your bloodstream.
  5. The United States needs to label what is genetically modified and what isn’t, if not, then the government is trying to hide something.
  6. Organic foods are healthier than GM Foods.

 

My research definitely helped me respond to all of these.

I did not intend on directing my site to any audience in particular simply because going in to this topic, I didn’t know much about it myself and was willing to change my stance if my research persuaded me to do so. If I had to say there was an audience, it would be directed towards anyone who is concerned with the safety of GM foods. Anybody can browse my site without feeling pressured to possess any background knowledge of the topic or feel attacked by anything I’ve said. I wanted to make a site that everybody could read, whether the person was a farmer, scientist, 8th grader, or a scientist in 8th grade who loves farming.

 

I’ve learned that not everyone knows the truth, especially when it comes to genetically modified foods. Many alternative facts such as the ones listed above are perpetuated throughout traditional media such as TV, radio, etc., and social media where anyone can put up and spread fake news like YouTube and Facebook. Perhaps scientists and academic institutes who report real findings on GMOs are just not as good as reaching out to the people than regular people that everyone can relate to who base most of their beliefs off of experience. The truth is that GMOs aren’t anywhere near the big bad foods that people make them out to be, and not enough people know about it.

 

I have learned that no matter what, at the end of the day, people choose to believe what they want to believe in whether it is the truth or not. For humans, what they perceive to be real is what their reality becomes. If someone really and truly thinks that an apple is an orange, then no amount of evidence is going to sway their position.

If farm animals eat GMOs, then GMOs will be in meat, dairy and eggs.

Definition: The idea that when livestock consumes genetically modified feed, that genetically modified DNA will be passed to their meat, dairy, eggs, etc.

This idea first started appearing when news broke out of a study that suggested that GM feed was harming livestock. It suggested that pigs that were raised on GM feed experienced higher rates of intestinal problems.

The impact of this idea has caused much protest in society. Many internet documentaries began appearing such as this one, which seem to show the perspective of all the people who are anti-GMO including farmers and scientists.

The audience most affected by this are farmers. If scientific evidence actually shows that GM feed harms their livestock, then their farms would be at economic risk from loss of livestock.

It’s estimated that over 70 percent of harvested GMO crops are fed to food producing animals. However, GMOs have never been detected in food that came from animals that were fed GM feed.

Almost all the food that humans and animals eat contains DNA and proteins. The DNA and proteins found in food are processed by the digestive system. During digestion, any DNA from your food is broken down into the basic components that make up all DNA. Similarly, proteins are broken down into one or a few of the amino acids that exist in nature. Studies were done to measure the potential for DNA to be transferred into animal tissue. No intact GMO DNA has been detected in animal tissue.

Alison Van Eenennaam, Ph.D., extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis, conducted a 29 year study that involved trillions of meals of GM feed. She states that, “Genetically engineered crops are digested by animals in the same way as conventional crops. Evidence to date strongly suggests that feeding livestock with genetically engineered crops is equivalent to feeding unmodified feed sources in terms of nutrient composition, digestibility and feeding value.” She also explains that “Genetically engineered DNA, or the novel proteins encoded therein, have never been detected in the milk, meat or eggs derived from animals fed genetically engineered feedstuffs. Several studies have documented that small fragments of plant-derived, but not genetically engineered, DNA can pass into the tissues of animals that consume the plants.”

GMOs Harm the Environment

Definition: Genetically modified organisms have more adverse effects on the environment than positive effects.

People have been questioning the environmental impact of GMOs ever since they were first being commercially sold. In 2000, just a year after GM crops began to overtake farms, DB Whitman wrote an article that described some of the environmental concerns that people had regarding GMOS. One of these concerns included that GM corn was causing high mortality rates in monarch butterflies.

This idea has made a great impact socially, with many anti-GMO people using this as another reason to protest GM crop production. These people are mainly concerned with the increased pesticide usage. The government has several organizations doing everything possible to calm the public by keeping GM regulations very strict.

The audience most affected by this term are farmers and the companies that sell GMOs because their livelihoods depend on selling GMOs, and they have to undergo all the processes of producing GM crops while abiding by the constantly changing rules and regulations that the government enforces. They also have to deal with the protestors who give them flak for farming non-organic crops.

This term persists because there has not been very much publicity of the all the positives of farming GM crops, and because there has been an increase in glyphosate in the past 20 years.

GMOs help us through the most stressful environmental challenges. They can help preserve biodiversity because increased productivity in already cultivated lands spares less productive lands from being heavily cultivated.  There has been improved tillage practices, reduced insecticide use, and environmentally safer insecticides that contribute to sparing these lands.  According to PG Economics from 1996-2005 GMO crops have led to higher yields and thus could contribute to preventing poverty and food shortages in troubled areas of the world. GMOs help reduce soil erosion by killing weeds and leaving them in the fields to protect the soil and encouraging farmers to practice conservation tillage. They also help with soil moisture retention which leads to less irrigation and have better drought tolerance because of their GM traits. This conserves water usage. GMOs have lead to an 8.1 decrease in pesticide use because of the added trait for insect resilience.

 

Most Crops Are Genetically Modified

Definition: The idea that almost all crops are genetically modified including fruits such as strawberries and crops like wheat.

Though it is unclear as to when or where exactly this idea became popular, it is most likely due to the rise in genetically modified products on the market. Many people think genetically modified foods are everywhere (and there are plenty) but that is because so many products contain some form of corn which is one of the few GM crops.

This idea impacts our culture in an interesting way. Because people have misconceptions as to what is GMO and what isn’t, advertisers have been using that to their advantage. Today there are plenty of foods out on the market that are labeled “organic” or “GMO-free”, which is true but unnecessary. Why? Because many products that are labeled “GMO-free” do not even have a GMO counterpart.  However, because there are so many people who do not know the difference, they end up buying the more expensive, “organic water.”

Or maybe they were coerced into purchasing this “organic rock salt”.

The audience most affected by this idea are consumers and companies. Most parents and gym-rats/nutritionists are very health conscious than say, a 20-something-year-old bachelor who enjoys eating pizza for dinner every night. But you don’t have to be a super-healthy-food addict to be tricked into buying the unnecessarily expensive organic foods. Last week I bought “organic” bananas from Kroger and it wasn’t until I did this research that I found out there are no GM bananas sold in the United States. These companies are affected because the ones who take advantage of the new labeling laws are getting more revenue from making their organic, GMO-free labels bigger and more eye-catching.

This idea persists because people confirm this belief with their experience. People see so many products that are labeled GMO because there may be GM corn or sugar in the food. They also see that manufacturers are needlessly labeling things organic. For example, salt and water as pictured earlier have no DNA, so it is impossible to genetically engineer them.

Today there are only ten GM crops being commercially sold: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, potatoes, squash, and apples.

Alex Jones GMO Meltdown

The video above is a far-right radio host named Alex Jones who seems to have very strong opinions about Monsanto and GMOs. He is extremely against GMOs and the people who encourage the consumption of them enough to say that they are “contributing to the downfall of society.”

His actual rant doesn’t start until 1:37 when he talks about an article published in The Guardian. Jones states that “Every study on the GMO crops that grow pesticides in them, is that it kills the bugs that eat it, and causes liver problems in humans, and all sorts of reproductive problems and cancer.”

I would like to rephrase that sentence and say, “Every study on GMO crops that reveal any reproductive or organ failure has been done by the same person over and over again.” This person I am referring to is scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini, who is known to have a major bias and has been campaigning against GMOs since the late 90s. I have already gone into detail about him and one of his experiments in one of the posts in my Etymology tab. Needless to say, many anti-GMO organizations such as GMO News, Institute for Responsible Technology, Environmental Health News, and Alex Jones cling onto Seralini’s studies as proof that GMOs are very dangerous to human health. From my perspective it is just not a coincidence that a person who has been against GMOs before there was much research on them conducts his own studies that always seem to end up proving GMOs as dangerous, when there has been no other scientific research from anyone else that proves the same thing.

Alex Jones goes on to say that “Cancer rates in England are 3000% what they were in the 50s” and that “England and the U.S. lead the world in cancer.” I’m going to assume that the 3000% he speaks of is just an exaggeration to say that cancer rates have been increasing. I do agree that cancer rates have been increasing (with the exception of lung cancer due to less people smoking in recent years), maybe not by 3000%, but there has been a definite rise. However, this rise in cancer incidence has nothing to do with GMOs. According to Cancer Research UK, the main reason why cancer statistics are growing is because people are living longer. The longer you live, the more time your genetic code has to make errors. Not only that, cancer is on the rise due to change in lifestyle (obesity, sunbathing, less breastfeeding, etc).

As for his statement about England and the U.S. leading the world in cancer, that is also false. According to World Cancer Research Fund International, the report showing the top countries with cancer incidence reveals the U.S. to be #6 with England following far behind at #23. The leading countries are actually Denmark and France.

GMOs Cause Cancer

 

Definition: The idea that consuming genetically modified organisms/foods is linked to cancer or will increase your likelihood of getting cancer or will give you cancer.

This idea first came about when a team of researchers from the University of Caen in France released results of a long-term experiment done on rats who ate genetically modified corn. The results showed that 50% of male rats and 70%  of female rats died in some groups on diets containing the GM maize compared to the 30% males and 20% females that died in the control group.

Pictures of rats taken from the experiment. Source: University of Caen.

Ever since this story made headlines in 2012, it has made a great impact. It reignited the GMO debate and added fuel to the fire. People who were already anti-GMO stood even firmly on their stance to ban them completely. Even the government of France was considering banning GMOs from the country. Other people who were pro-GMO claimed the experiment was a fraud.

This idea affects just about everyone, however you could say the people most affected by this are pro-GMO companies such as Monsanto, GMO farmers and countless scientists who have reached different conclusions about GMOs. An experiment with the kinds of results such as the one this French team produced would bring the GMO economy crashing down. The reputation of the past scientists who have done similar experiments with different results would be questioned, and even the farmers who produce GM crops would be hit severely from the economic backlash.

This term persists because people who fail to do further research hear that this is true from sources that they trust, such as friends on social media, or cannot distinguish from real or fake news. This particular experiment has been proven to be inconclusive from many scientists and institutes, so much so that the article publishing the experiment has been retracted. One of the main flaws in the processing of the experiment (and there were many), is that the researchers used a type of rat strain that is predisposed to getting breast tumors, especially when given unlimited amounts of food or contaminated corn. They also let the experiment go on for two years, which is very unnatural considering that that is the average rat lifespan and most rat experiments are only done for 90 days. The type of rats they used can get tumors just from aging. Needless to say, this experiment, though was not a fraud, was definitely inconclusive and did not prove anything regarding the safety of consuming GMOs, let alone whether or not they are linked to cancer.

 

 

 

Safe for Us and the Environment?

Carman, Judy and Natalie Parletta. “Is Genetically Modified Food Safe for Us and the Environment?.” Nutridate May 2017: 3-8. Print.

 

This article comes from a magazine based on nutrition and human health.

 

Purpose and Thesis: to give an overview of how these crops are genetically modified, the benefits and risks, considerations for assessing their safety, and how they are regulated. The article discusses the two main proteins that GM crops are made to produce: one to increase its resistance to herbicides so that when it is sprayed, the crop will survive while the weeds surrounding it will die, and the other to regulate insects by creating Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) proteins within themselves so that bugs die when they eat the crop. It also states the various concerns with GM foods such as the lack of scientific technology or knowledge to understand the complexities of inserting a single gene that could cause many non-intended effects, and the unforeseen future of potential genes shifting and mutating that can produce toxic material after going through many generations, as well as the likelihood of concentrations of herbicides present in the food that we eat.

The authors use a good amount of logos and pathos to persuade the reader to be concerned with the safety and unknown future of genetically modified foods. The writers break down the legal regulatory systems being used to monitor GM foods, and reveal that many of these tests are not sufficient enough to be counted as evidence (like testing GM foods on chickens when they have a completely different physiology than humans). Some pathos attributed to this article comes from the urgency and dissatisfaction with the system being used to regulate GM foods. For example, “I didn’t see a single animal study investigating allergic reactions or reproductive health or cancer. I only saw some animal studies measuring toxicology” (5).

 

This connects to my research probe because it sheds light on the safety of genetically modified foods by poking holes in the system used to produce and sell them. It shows many of the tests and laws are too lax for the public to be content enough to continue eating GMOs without knowing the future risks.

Consumer Awareness

Naik, Anil, et al. “Consumer Awareness, Attitude Towards Exercising Their Rights: Genetically Modified Foods.” Aweshkar Research Journal 19.1 (2015): 109-116. Galileo at Georgia State University. Web. 25 June 2017.

 

This publication comes from a research journal.

Its purpose is to focus on awareness of consumers of food they purchase, attitude towards exercising rights, willingness to pay premium for G.M Foods and whether they exercised their rights or not.

 

Thesis: Consumers have a right to choose whether or not to buy food produced from a genetically modified organism. A consumer must be aware of their rights as consumers as well as having awareness regarding GM foods and risks and benefits of genetic engineering. A few studies were conducted to understand the level of consumer awareness of GM foods and to understand the respondents perception towards exercising their rights as consumers.

 

This argument is supported through scientific research and studies done on citizens in India where 7.3 million GM crops are accounted for and there is a mandatory but very loose food labelling system. There are many graphs that show percentages regarding the participants’ awareness of GM foods after completing a survey such as this one:

 

The overall results concluded that citizens in India have relatively low awareness of GM foods as well as their rights as consumers. Only 8% of consumers with GMF awareness exercised their rights by asking for the bill, checking the expiry date, demanding an exchange of goods sold past expiry date, and reading the contents.

 

This connects to my research probe by showing that the public, to an extent, does have a lack of awareness regarding GM foods and the safety of them. In order to have a better regulatory system and to avoid governments and corporations taking advantage of the profits of GMOs, the people have to become educated about the risks and benefits of GM foods, and push for a better regulatory system.