The following guest blog post comes from Sandra Mills of Carrington College, who has shared the college’s research on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). For more information and reflection on sustainability and food issues, check out Northwest Earth Institute’s two food-focused discussion courses: Menu for the Future and Hungry for Change: Food, Ethics and Sustainability – which also include a variety of perspectives on GMOs.
With the advent of Genetically Modified Foods or GMOs, US consumers came to realize we must be more knowledgeable of the origin of our food. Subsequent studies on GMOs forced us to ask the question: Could the farmer’s hurrah be a cause for environmental and health concerns?
Genetically modified crops not only have the ability to ward off nature’s pests, but also survive harsh weather conditions. You can see how GMOs were perceived to be a major positive development in the agricultural industry. Farmers, by letting their crops be genetically modified, could statistically ensure a higher productivity rate. Today, many still hold GMOs as the scientist’s solution to world hunger. However, environmentalists say that GMO crops are just paving the way to a world without biodiversity. This depletes soil, which in turn, makes the increased bounty you’re now privy to much less nutritious than it may have been if farmed in an organic and nutrient rich soil.
However, organic food options are often more expensive and less sizable for the price, which makes natural food purchases a hard choice for a society recovering from a recession. Let’s face it, as Americans, we’ve also been hard-wired to look for what we perceive to be the best deal based on old time economic models that do not account for current bio-economic issues. Big companies that genetically engineer their crops are able to offer more for less. This is the bottom line: Never in the history of US consumerism have we as a society been made to feel as if our $3.99 fruit purchase is so powerful.
Health concerns have also been linked to genetically modified crops. Crops that have developed a resistance to herbicides require more herbicides to be used. This has been linked to higher death and illness rates. Herbicides are made with chemicals which are not made to be digested by human beings.
With all the back and forth, it may feel easier to stay uninformed, because there is more to this debate than meets the ear. A visual representation of this debate is presented here for the reader to make their own informed decisions about the future of genetically modified foods and how we choose to invest in it: The GMO Debate.