GMO stands for "genetically-modified organisms" which basically refers to plants that are created by using the latest biologic techniques for human and animal food consumption. This used to be done by conventional plant-breeding methods but that is very time consuming and not always accurate. Genetic engineering can create plants exactly the way we would like them with much greater speed and accuracy, plus they are resistant to herbicides and their nutrition content has been improved.
Advantages of GMOs
Reduced Pesticide Use
Farmers spend tons of money on pesticides to keep their crops from being eaten by insects but most people do not want to eat food that is covered in chemicals. GMOs like corn, for example, could be grown without pesticides which would save costs to farmers in bringing a crop to market.
Crops Resistant to Weed Killer
Instead of removing weeds by tilling the soil, farmers often spray large quantities of weed killer to destroy weeds which is a very expensive process that requires quite a bit of time and effort to prevent the weed killer from harming the crops and the environment. Crops can be genetically engineered to be resistant to weeds so only one application of weed killer would be necessary, limiting the costs and dangers of excess run-off.
Crops Resistant to Disease
There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.
The Disadvantages of GMOs
Harm to Other Crops and Species
For example, a study published in Nature magazine showed that pollen from GM corn caused a high death rate among Monarch butterfly caterpillars. Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed plants, not corn, but the fear is the pollen from the GM corn could be carried to other fields through the wind where the caterpillars could eat the pollen and die. There is agreement that this study must be evaluated further but there is concern on both sides of the issue.
What Is the Solution?
There are several possible solutions to the problems mentioned above. Genes are exchanged between plants via pollen so there are two ways to ensure that non-target species will not receive introduced genes from GM plants. One way is to create GM plants that are male sterile (do not produce pollen) or to modify the GM plant so that the pollen does not contain the introduced gene. Cross-pollination would not occur, and if harmless insects such as monarch caterpillars were to eat pollen from GM plants, the caterpillars would survive.
Other Health Risks
There are many children throughout the United States and Europe who have developed allergies to peanuts and other foods which are life-threatening. The possibility of introducing a gene into a plant might create more allergic reactions or create a new allergen altogether so labeling of GMO foods is critical in more ways than one.
Please continue on to The GMO Debate-- Part 2 to read the conclusion of this article.
Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit www.sgfit.com or write to Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.