The Gmo Controversy: A 21st Century Food Fight

984 words - 4 pages

In Frankenstein, the famous 19th century novel by Mary Shelley, Dr. Victor Frankenstein's attempt to create new life from stitched-together body parts harvested from a variety of corpses leads to misery, destruction, and death. Nearly two centuries later, consumers face the perilous invasion of "Frankenfoods" – a term coined in 1992 by Boston College Professor Paul Lewis – into the produce aisles of mainstream markets. More commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these are foods that have undergone splicing of genetic material from unrelated plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses for purported reasons that range from vitamin enrichment to enhanced resistance to disease. (Priesnitz 16) GMOs convey a host of threats to human health and the environment. Claims in favor of GMO crop cultivation and consumption must be seen for what they are: Industry-sponsored attempts to cash in on the naiveté of a hungry public. The preponderance of the independent scientific evidence proves the health and environmental dangers of genetically modified organisms, making it incumbent upon the United States to ban the import or sale of GMOs.
Study after study reveals the potential toxicity of GMOs to livestock and human beings. The Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene in crops that have been genetically engineered for insect resistance, for example, proves to be far from benign to people and animals, despite the propaganda spread by its producer, chemical industry giant Monsanto. A 2012 report based on a long-term rat feeding study conducted by French researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team found that a diet of genetically modified corn containing Bt causes tumors, organ damage, and premature death in rats. (Tweed 14) Yet, citing “independent research,” proponents of GMOs contend that consuming GM foods containing Bt is safe. Such claims should be regarded with suspicion, as a closer examination of the studies upon which they are based reveals an insidious truth: Many of these research studies are, in fact, funded by industry. An independent review undertaken in 2011 looked at 94 articles that reported favorable outcomes with respect to GMOs and found overwhelming indications of conflict of interest, including authors’ ties to industry in 44% of the articles reviewed. (Diels et al.) The weight of the science-supported evidence that the consumption of GM foods can lead to sickness and death should warrant an abundance of caution by any government that values the wellbeing of its citizens.
In addition to posing risks to health, GMOs threaten the environment, with particular implications for agriculture. Cross-pollination between genetically modified and natural crops is an inevitable outcome of their coexistence, with potentially crippling effects on biodiversity. Horizontal gene transfer (HGT), the natural process by which cross-pollination between crops occurs, is difficult to control, leaving natural crops exposed to the threat of...

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