Southern New Hampshire University
Abstract This paper discusses the impacts of GMOs on human health, the environment, and the economy. It talks about potential effects on humans including increased allergies, cancer risks, and new diseases. The impacts of GMOs on the environment include ecosystem disruption, “superweeds” and “superbugs”, and effects on nearby species. Impacts on the economy effect farmers and world trade. Lastly, some possible solutions are outlined including organic and ecological farming, labeling of GMO products, and regulations and alternative uses for GMOs.
Genetically Modified Organisms: Impacts on Health, the Environment, and Economics “Genetic engineering is the biological equivalent of splitting the atom and has equally, if not greater, hazardous consequences for humankind. – Dr Robert Anderson, Member of the Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics”(Rees, 2006, p.3). Advances in the field of genetic engineering have brought genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to our grocery stores. Proponents of genetic engineering promise that it will deliver products of better quality, better variety, and higher nutrient density which will benefit both the grower and the consumer. Opponents of genetic engineering doubt the claims mad by the big agriculture corporations and insist that more testing is need to verify GMOs effects on humans and the environment. These two groups are at odds, putting the consumer in the middle of their battle. The effects of genetically modified organisms must be addressed and they include the effects on human health, the effects on the environment, and the effects on the economy. The 1940s saw the birth of industrial agriculture in developed countries; it is the practice of farming with artiﬁcial fertilizers and agrochemicals, such as herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides (Rees, 2006). Genetic engineering (GE) is the process of adding a gene or genes (the transgene) to plant of animal DNA (the recipient genome) to confer a desirable trait (Rees, 2006). In the 1990s the agbiotech industry began to consolidate due to the increasing expense for the corporations to create new chemicals (Rees, 2006). A new area for profit opened with biotechnology which is the patenting of new or changed genes and by 2001 only four corporations sold practically all genetically modified (GM) seeds (Rees, 2006). These corporations include Monsanto, who produces and sells a staggering 91 per cent of GM seeds, Bayer, DuPont, and Dow (Rees, 2006). To ensure the viability of their newly created products, many organizations appeared to lobby for the interests of the biotech industry including the International Service for the acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), American Soybean Association (ASA) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), and many many more (Rees, 2006). According to Magner (2003), “There are many potential, or at least unresearched, health effects involved in GM crops and foods. There is a risk involved when genes known to be harmful to living things are inserted into consumables. This is the case for GM potatoes and other crops (particularly soy and corn). These GM crops have had inserted into their DNA a gene that produces a naturally occurring pesticide. The pesticide, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), is toxic to certain insect pests. When the gene is inserted into the crop seed, every cell of the growing plant contains this gene. When people eat these GM foods, they ingest the pesticide” (p.129). One of these health effects is an increase in allergies. In the 1980s, a new strain of celery, which grew better and lasted longer on supermarket selves was introduced (Magner, 2003). However, it had to be recalled when people who handled it or ate it broke out in severe rashes