Why GMO’s are Controversial

GMO’s oftentime get a bad rap from those outside of the scientific community, and I believe that this stems from the thought that all GMO’s are killing butterflies and making the big agriculture millions if not billions of dollars.

Well… this is partially correct, however the biggest reason that GMO’s were created was to provide a more stable food source for the growing world population. Oftentimes GMO’s, when used for good, give products like Golden Rice, a rice that has more essential vitamins and nutrients than normal rice. These benefits from GMO’s also carry over to making the farmer’s job easier by not having to apply certain pesticides as frequently.

These GMO’s typically used in America allow farmers to use less pesticides because the plant has a special resistance to that pathogen or pest. This however can change when the GMO used are only to make the job easier not necessarily better.  Roundup ready GMO’s are in this category,  allowing farmers to become reliant on spraying more chemicals onto their crops to kill the weeds.

These Round-Up Ready crops make taking care of weeds much easier because farmers can spray Round-Up indiscriminately to kill the weeds, but the plants will survive because of a resistant gene that has been modified into it. This causes problems in the soil system, creating pools of Round-Up which is difficult for microbial life to degrade and use for energy. These pools of Round-Up as well as saturating our crops in chemicals that many dispute about not being good for our health are problems. Not to mention the evolution of Round-Up resistant weeds that are becoming a big problem in modern agriculture. This can be detrimental for life associated with agriculture normal ecological functioning and create “unhealthy” beings. This duality of GMO’s being the best thing since sliced bread and destroying our environment’s natural ecology as we speak is oftentimes why you see such a divide on the topic even though it was initially meant as a benefit for society.

For a bit more of what GMO’s can do to help our society by protecting our crops from pests, survive drought more efficiently, and create more nutritious crops you will see examples of these in Monsanto’s recent videos advertisement campaign on Facebook. BTW Monsanto is one of the biggest producers of GMO’s in America and are oftentimes the ones being criticized by the anti-GMO crowd.

This video exhibits the benefits that GMO’s have accrued for human use and consumption minus added nutritional benefit which is more prevalent oftentimes in third world countries where it is difficult to attain all of their required nutrients. These are the reasons (that I believe or it should be) why GMO’s were created, to create a better life and food source for the growing population.

Another commonly disputed scientific topic and one that is highly controversial surrounding GMO’s is the use of Bt Toxin in GMOs. Used originally to kill insects by inducing a toxin that kills insects from the inside after being exposed to a highly acidic environment, the insects gut. This was great for killing grubs and other pests that were present in the corn system crops that the GMO’s were created for. However it appeared to also kill other insects like Monarch Butterflies; environmentalists were not happy about this at all!

However the scientific journal finding this true had not used sound science so the exact negative effects of Bt Toxin on various insects could not be determined. Sound science must be peer-reviewed, by other experts in the field to conclude that it is okay and true to conclusions.

Still this caused an outrage in environmentally friendly folk that then demonized all aspects of GMO’s even if they are the way of the future and feeding our rapidly expanding society.

This negativity exhibited towards GMO’s may also be rooted in how large corporations treat the “product” of their seed. Many naturalists believe that these seeds should not have patents to them because seeds are natural life, not to be profiteered. This belief along with larger corporations occasionally enforcing strict legal circumstances of these patents on local growers for “using” their crops created some unhappy farmers. These farmer’s “illegal use” of the seeds would be accidental pollen spread from the field next to theirs which was using transgenic crops. This creating the problem that the company would find and reprimand these farmers for something that was largely out of control.

These among many Europeans skepticalness about GMO’s long-term health risks lays the field for negativity surrounding the issue. Yet there has not been many concrete reasons as to why GMO’s are looked upon as so very negative other than the uncertainty and the lack of responsible use of surrounding products.

You may see a few of these contrasting views in a recent email sent by my professor and another constituent on an agricultural list serv here:

“Knowing how the cancer rate has soared in the USA over any other country, I prefer to garden as my grandparents (and those before them) did.  No chemicals.  No synthetics.  I won’t have to worry about my health being affected by how I keep my home & garden nor the health of my kids (or someday grandkids), pets, & friends.

We are far behind many countries in insuring our food is nonGMO and clean.
My sister lives in Spain and says the food even TASTES so much better.

You will never convince me that chemicals are the way to go.
Nature will convince me the bees are dying, the frogs are mutated, and people are getting cancer, as well as other diseases, due to the food they eat and the environment they live in.

We have to stop thinking what will save us MONEY and TIME.
In the end, the practices of the last 40 years have done neither.



My Professor’s response:

“I would like to respond to Karen’s comments. Karen is enrolled in a
listserv for horticultural contacts which includes UWEX and non-UWEX
individuals for disseminating UWEX based information. While I would never
want to prevent someone from voicing their opinion, these forums are for
the dissemination of information that is supported by science not opinion
and UWEX is an organization that promotes *science-based* information.
While my intent is not to demean Karen, many of her comments are misleading
and not supported by science.

For example the comment that *cancer rates are soaring in the USA is not
supported by science*.  According to the American Cancer Society “Overall,
cancer incidence and mortality declined among men; and, although cancer
incidence was stable among women, mortality declined.” . Many more
details/nuances can be found in the full report linked here
<http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.29936/full>, but clearly
this comment is not supported by the American Cancer Society.

Similarly *no health impacts due to GMOs* have been documented in the
scientific literature.  A great report from the National Academies of
Science, Engineering, and Medicine states “While recognizing the inherent
difficulty of detecting subtle or long-term effects in health or the
environment, the study committee found no substantiated evidence of a
difference in risks to human health between currently commercialized
genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it
find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from
the GE crops.”. The report can be downloaded from this link

As stated in my original email, my intent was to provide fact-based
information related to glyphosate and its ability to cause cancer. If you
read the blog you will see this information is science-based or the
opinions of nationally recognized experts…”

-Mark Renz

Now I stand with science and looking at the facts that Mark presented, these seem more likely. However I do support scientific skepticism, as long as there is some fact based knowledge being passed in this report as well.  Karen’s response seemed to be steeped in emotions and I believe that this is not the correct way to respond to a scientific source. However doing proper research or urging overseeing boards (governmental agencies, etc.) to look into these criticisms properly.

Sorry for that blurb. I hope you all found it as entertaining as I did!

I believe with proper use and education of how to use these products and making GMO’s safer for our environment there can be no one that can stop the benefits that were originally the GMDream.



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