News & Views
The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Aug 24 2014
Genetically modified organisms (more commonly called GMOs) are organisms or micro-organisms (i.e. plants and animals) whose genetic make-up have been manipulated by artificially inserting components of another organism. This can take the form of transgenic modification, whereby the organism contains DNA from another species, or cisgenic modification, whereby it contains DNA from a member of the same species but doesn’t occur naturally. The latter form is generally viewed as a safer practice, although there are concerns for all types of genetic modification. However, the potential benefits of the practice are practically limitless, so it is imperative to know all of the facts about GMOs before making a judgement. Here are the pros and cons of such a practice:
- GMO practices can be used to produce “designer” crops, which have more nutrients, grow quicker and produce more yield, are more resistant to pesticides and use less fertiliser.
- Artificially implanting DNA from one species to another can save many, many years of research. Waiting for the unpredictable nature of traditional breeding methods can take decades to achieve the required equilibrium; such a goal can be reached instantaneously with GMO.
- GMO experimentation can be used to manipulate animal (and, theoretically, human) cells to be healthier or desirable. For example, the article, Scientists One Step Closer to Male Contraceptive Pill, talks about how genetically-modified mice are helping to research possible male contraception.
- GMOs have been around for almost 20 years, so health concerns related to them should have become apparent by now.
- Change (and specifically, unnatural change) can be good. For example, cleaning and cooking our food may not be natural but it is beneficial.
- Studies have shown that genetically modified corn and soy fed to rats led to a higher risk of them developing liver and kidney problems. These health risks may not be transferable to humans, but they illustrate the unpredictable nature of GMOs on living things.
- GMOs are not always tested thoroughly. The shortest GMO testing times are a mere 90 days, which many fear is simply not enough time to ascertain all of the risks.
- Transgenic modification produces organism types which would never occur naturally, making them highly unpredictable.
- GMOs could affect those with allergies in unpredictable ways.
- Though GMOs were developed with a view to reducing the amount of pesticides used, this is not always the case. As weeds and bacteria become resistant to the pesticide, farmers actually use more, safe in the knowledge the crop will not be affected.
- Often GMO products are not clearly labelled, meaning people do not have the choice to decide whether or not they wish to consume GMO products.
- GMO testing often involves performing experiments upon animals, which some people feel is a breach of animal rights.
What do you think? Having read all the pros and cons of GMOs, are you for or against?
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