GMOs are transgenic plants or organisms carrying foreign genes.
When the beneficial foreign gene is identified and inserted into the plant, its genomic structure gets changed. This is technically genetic engineering.
These new genes are meant to improve the genetic structure of transgenic plants for beneficial results.
The beneficial genes may belong to a virus, bacteria, plants, or even humans.
GMO Pros and Cons
There is a lot of research and enthusiasm for GMOs due to the economic advantages involved. However, they have certain disadvantages worth considering
Pros of GMO
1. Higher yield
- As the world population is ever-increasing, it is hard to meet the growing food demand.
- So, GMOs are introduced to increase the yield within the same cropping area.
- This way, they help feed a massive population and overcome famines.
2. Avoid food shortage
- GMOs are designed to tackle the shortage of food and to produce food varieties with better nutrient contents or extra nutrients and minerals that are not naturally present in that particular food item.
- The genes responsible for desired minerals and vitamins are inserted to produce genetically modified food.
- This procedure increases the original value, just like the fortification of iron content in chickpeas.
- Due to this, the poor who cannot afford to use milk or other commodities of iron can meet their iron requirement at a nominal price by consuming fortified chickpeas.
3. Increase the shelf life
- GMOs are designed to increase the shelf life of perishable food commodities.
- This genetic modification enables the farmers to avoid postharvest losses due to the enhanced perishability time of particular food items.
- Further, it is much easier to distribute food to far-off places within the country or in other parts of the world, thereby raising the economic gains for the state.
4. Minimize resource usage
- GMOs use fewer resources as compared to non-GMOs.
- So, by using genetically modified crops, energy, soil nutrients, water, and the capital used can be conserved, providing relief to farmers.
5. Tackle drought
- GMOs are designed to tackle drought problems so that the plants grow well in drought conditions or need less water for growth.
- Thus, crop cultivation is possible in water-deficient lands.
6. Insect resistance and Tolerant to pest attacks
- GMO crops are more tolerant of pests, weeds, and other hazardous effects.
- So, in the capital used in pest control, weeds are conserved to provide relief to the farmer.
- Some GMOs produce their own pesticides, like Bt corn and Bt cotton.
- These varieties have genes isolated from bacteria that can produce toxins harmful to insects, causing massive destruction to particular crops.
- So, in this way, GMOs conserve plant varieties from extinction and save farmers’ expenses.
Through this process, the beneficial insects needed for pollination can also be saved as plants produce their own toxins, which would otherwise be killed due to the spraying of insecticides.
7. Mature faster
GMOs are designed to mature earlier than the usual time.
- This enables the crop to escape the insect attack of that particular season.
- The crop duration is also decreased, so both time and space are saved for the cultivation of another crop, which significantly benefits farmers fiscally.
8. Conserve the environment
- GMOs are designed to conserve the environment.
- They greatly affect the environment as they need fewer farm operations.
- The operations like burning fuel and increasing carbon dioxide content due to aerosols can be avoided.
9. Minimize allergies
GMOs are designed to tackle allergic reactions that occur due to some specific proteins.
These allergenic proteins are removed from that particular genomic system, and the product becomes acceptable to consumers.
For example, gluten-free wheat is made by genetic modification.
10. Modulate taste, fragrance and more
GMOs are also designed to attain specific taste, color, aroma, and texture.
This helps create a product that is acceptable to consumers.
An example of such practice is golden rice. Here, the gene from the carrot is isolated and inserted into the rice to impart a golden color to it.
Cons of GMO varieties
1. Unsafe for living
- GMOs are not considered safe for humans, other living beings, and the environment.
- Though the early outcomes are beneficial and magical, the after-effects can be quite hazardous and drastic.
- In short, GMOs act as a short-term solution to a problem and create long-term problems.
- GMOs are considered unhealthy for living organisms as they affect the body’s organs, causing gastrointestinal and immune system disorders.
- They also lead to early aging and infertility, and the toxins produced by GM crops are found in the blood.
- When becoming a part of the genomic system, the new unidentified genes can show additive effects with already present genes.
- This produces specific proteins in surplus amounts and shifts the system from normality, leading to cancers.
3. Herbicide resistance
- GMOs are designed to escape the effect of herbicides used to kill weeds that show competition with the main crop.
- However, over time, weeds evolve and develop resistance against herbicides.
- Thus, more powerful herbicides in greater amounts are necessary, leading to an extra burden on the farmer’s pocket.
- Moreover, the residual effects of toxic herbicides cause drastic effects on human health and lead to various allergies and fatal diseases.
4. Enhance virus
- GMOs are responsible for strengthening various viruses, which have hazardous effects on crops.
- For example, in the case of Bt cotton, a genetically modified crop is susceptible to the cotton leaf curl virus, whereas the previous non-GM cotton crop has natural resistance against it.
- This virus is a major cause of the decline in cotton production worldwide.
- GMOs are considered responsible for creating superbugs as plants produce insecticides on their own.
- The bugs also pass through the evolutionary process and change their genomic structure to survive.
- Thus, new strains of bugs with more resilience arise.
6. Decrease in biodiversity
- GMOs are supposed to be responsible for decreasing biodiversity.
- Due to the inclusion of GM crops, the gene flow occurs to the old natural wild-type, contaminating the gene pool.
- Once contaminated, the previous genes required to tackle epidemic breakout are lost.
- Moreover, due to monoculture cropping, the natural ecosystem gets disturbed as the farming community starts growing, particularly for more profits.
- Hence, due to the demise of other crops, the insects and organisms whose natural habitats are other crops also start to demise.
7. Affect the Non-GMO varieties
- Another concern about GMOs is that they pollute the non-GMO cropping pattern and contaminate organic food.
- It is very difficult to limit GMO seed to the area where it is grown, and it travels too far off places and does contaminate.
8. Lack of freedom for farmers on GMOs
- GMOs are mostly patented and secured by law, so the farming community interested in growing GMOs is strictly bound to prevent contamination.
- If the farmer fails to do so, they are subjected to legal trials.
- Further, the farmers are not allowed to grow F1 generation as well.
Frequently asked questions and answers about GMOs
Are GMO foods cheaper?
GMO foods are cheaper as most farmers have adopted them. Very few grow NON-GMO foods, and due to high demand, NON-GMO foods are more expensive than GMO foods.
Can GMOs cause cancer?
GMO foods can trigger more protein and other component synthesis. So, they could possibly cause cancer, though many claim otherwise. Perhaps the money involved is at stake.
Why are non-GMO foods better?
Because they have natural and even levels of the regular components and also are small in size. Unlike GMOs, which are bigger with little taste.
There is more quantity in GMOs, while there is more quality in non-GMOs.
Do GMOs make food taste better?
I don’t think GMOs taste better than regular natural non-GMO varieties.