Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Genetically Modified Food

Eleventh-grader Jamie weighs in on genetically modified food:

"Genetically modified organisms" sound downright terrifying to the layperson. "You want me to eat something that's been created in a lab by a bunch of mad scientists?!" one might ask. That's the stigma speaking. It's all based on misconceptions. People are afraid of the unknown, and that fear is contagious.

The article I read induces fear with statements such as, "You’ve been eating it for a long time and no one has told you," as if it were a shocking secret that people have been trying to cover up.

Requiring that foods made with GMOs be labeled as such would only perpetuate these unfounded fears. It would create undue concern.

Unknown does not necessarily mean bad, but as the article mentions, it does not necessarily mean good either. The article fails to mention, however, the scientific process behind it. Consider the following background information: plants, and all known living organisms, have spent billions of years evolving into what they currently are. One aspect of this is random mutation of genes. A plant's genetic code may change for the better or for the worse because a base ( A, T, C, or G) is substituted for another or omitted. This is completely natural. Scientists, at least in a simplified version, achieve the same effect by purposely changing the code. The main difference? It isn't random. It is far from random and every base in every gene is calculated to do only the desired effect, whether that is protecting it from insects or increasing its nutritional value, or other beneficial traits. Then they are inserted into their place in the DNA. 

Ideally , this all goes perfectly according to plan and nothing is overlooked. We are all human though and have to consider the possibility that some food do have harmful long-term effects.

A better solution is to ensure that only the GMOs that have been studied and tested to a sufficient degree ("sufficient degree" is up to the experts to determine) should be allowed out into the public. Fortunately, there is such a system: the Food And Drug Administration. If someone believes that its standards are not high enough or rigorous enough, and that harmful GMOs get through the system, which is entirely possible, then complaints should be directed to the FDA, not the entire category of GMOs.