March, 2009 | Posted by: Ry
For most people, the acronym GM has always stood for General Motors - and quite understandably. We've seen lots of general motors haven't we? But these days - Well, ever since genetically modified food entered the food supply back in the 1990's, the acronym GM has taken on a whole new meaning conjuring up a whole new range of feelings.
The debate on genetically modified foods primarily concerns health and environmental issues, and comes with many pros and cons. Proponents of genetically modified crops claim that they help reduce faming costs and increase food security for developing nations, and are actually safer for consumption and the environment because they reduce pesticide and herbicide spraying. While there is some truth to these claims, the anti-GM movement are very quick to tell the other half of the story - the cons of genetically modified foods.
In regards to reducing pesticides and herbicides, genetically modified seeds are engineered in such a way as to make them more resistant to pests. This is achieved by actually modifying the genetic makeup of the seeds, which is accomplished by introducing genes (sometimes from other plants, but also from animals, humans and bacteria) into the DNA structure of the seeds. This new gene, in turn, actively works to create toxins which make the plants undesirable for pests. It's systemic insecticide on a whole new level.
Some genetically modified crops, like potatoes for example, are actually engineered with a built-in pesticide to keep the pesky tuber moth away. However, this doesn't mean the potato is resistant to the myriad of other pests, insects, bacteria and fungus that potatoes are prone to. In other words, pesticides and herbicides are still needed to grow the GM potato crop - very short of organic farming standards.
Furthermore, in the same manner that bacteria evolves to fend off antibacterial medications, crop pests will eventually evolve and adapt to genetically modified crops. Furthermore, GM farming is anything but fair-trade friendly. Since the entire GM seed movement is controlled by a handful of massive corporations, including Du Pont, farmers will be forced to buy expensive, patented seeds year after year to remain competitive.
Here in the U.S., GM foods, including tofu are floating all around. Throughout Europe, including the UK, GM food growth is strongly opposed. And in places like South Africa, where the bulk of genetically modified crops are grown, food labels are not required to state whether they contain genetically modified substances.