Genetically Modified Opinions

Ryan Redding

In the past few years there has been a trend sweeping the nation. A scary sounding three letter acronym has caused millions of people to pay nearly 50 percent more for what they put in their grocery cart. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are organisms that have had DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. While reading that definition may make you want to run to your nearest Whole Foods, trust me GMOs are essential to society.

There are over seven billion people in the world right now, almost all of which have a very similar diet. With the population set to double by the end of this century, we must adapt in order to accommodate so many people. Genetically modifying plants is the only foreseeable way to make sure that so many people can survive.

GMOs need fewer inputs (like water and land) to grow food. Many are drought resistant and are built to fight off diseases. They are made to resist bruising during shipping and handling which makes them more appealing to buy. Also genetically modified food can last up to ten times longer than organic.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world will have to grow 70 percent more food by 2050 just to keep up with population growth. Due to climate change most of the world’s arable land will be extremely difficult to farm on, but GM crops can produce high yields by growing on dry and salty land.

The first GMO to hit the market was the FLAVR SAVR tomato in 1994. The story of the FLAVR SAVR is an interesting one, as it shows exactly how the world would react to GMOs nearly a decade later. When the FLAVR SAVR tomato initially came to stores it was successful, selling nearly 2 million cans in its’ first couple of years. The fact that the tomatoes were genetically modified was not hidden, it was actually labeled on the can. These tomatoes were a scientific breakthrough as they allowed fresh fruit to have a longer shelf life and have a cost less than organic tomatoes.

However, in 1998 a man named Dr. Arpad Pusztai announced on a broadcast that feeding rats genetically modified potatoes resulted in “biological effects” that “could” be attributed to the process of genetic engineering. Soon after there was a sharp decline in FLAVR SAVR tomatoes, and the product eventually was pulled from shelves. After the broadcast was released, Dr. Pusztai conducted a further independent analysis of the data and found his initial findings to be incorrect, the FLAVR SAVR tomatoes however never returned to stores.

I make it a point to sit down with my grandparents every few weeks just to talk. Typically the conversation tends to shift toward “the good ol’ days.” Both of them growing up in the deep south, a thing they recall that surprises me is how long it took to prepare a meal. My grandfather grew up on a farm and he often tells stories of picking crops from the field and making sugar cain syrup. Making dinner was an all-day affair that required help from both of his brothers in the field with him, and his six sisters in the kitchen.

With the creation of genetically modified crops, our generation no longer has to spend all day in the fields or in the kitchen. The extent of our cooking (if we do not just go out to eat) is heading over to the store, buying a few packaged ingredients to mix together and then throwing it in the oven.

The main arguments in defense of organic food are that they are healthier and better for the environment. To quote Donald Trump from the first presidential debate “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!” GM food products must be “rigorously tested” before they can be sold. The testing process can take up to ten years and must include evaluate the potential risks to humans and livestock as well as potential risks to wildlife and the environment. Genetically modified crops are among the most tested products in history.

I have a hard time dishing over an additional ten cents at Cookout for the tomato slice on my Big Double, so the fact that people are willing to pay so much more for organic food is amazing to me. Everyone wants to feel like it is the old days where you can step outside and pluck an apple from the tree. Genetically modified food may seem frightening but the truth is that in order to sustain our busy paced life and not spend every second working on dinner, we must be acceptable to adapting.