Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic makeup has been artificially manipulated through genetic engineering, in a laboratory, to achieve desired traits. The topic of GMOs has been one of much contention in the past few years, with proponents of its use believing that the benefits should be harnessed and opponents suggesting that they should be banned. While the jury may still be out on this, one thing is for sure, there are several lies that we have been fed about GMOs. Let’s debunk these!
1. GMOs are not Adequately Tested for Safety
Many believe that GMOs are unregulated, but this is far from the truth. In fact, there are strict biosafety protocols employed by governments to ensure that all genetically modified products are tested to ensure they do not threaten the lives of people, animals or affect the environment. There are agencies whose responsibility is making sure that protocols are adhered to and these crops are safe for consumption. The nutritional value, types of modifications and chemicals used on GMOs are all monitored.
2. GMOs Destroy the Environment
While the destruction of the environment by GMOs is a popular narrative, this is untrue. Research shows that GMOs are an ally in saving the environment. Herbicide tolerant crops destroy the surrounding weed without affecting the crops. Therefore, the soil does not have to be tilled often, thus maintaining soil health, reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions. Reduced tilling of the soil results in greater water retention, less run-offs and a reduction in water pollution. In addition, fewer pesticides are used by farmers of GMOs while increasing crop yields. This means that less land is used which results in decreased deforestation and harm to our already fragile ecosystem. So this technology helps conserve water, protects land and improves air quality.
3. GMOs are Affecting our Health
Studies continue to show that there is no correlation between GMOs and the health problems we experience. The consensus by the vast majority of health experts is that the available GMOs have no more health risks than conventional foods. These foods are closely studied and experiments have shown that GMOs do not cause toxicity that adversely affect organ health or function, affect pregnancy or offspring, nor is there evidence of gene transfer between GMOs and consumers.
4. GMOs are Not as Nutritious as Traditional Crops
GMOs are just as nutritious and healthy as traditional crops. It has been tested and proven that GMO crops have the same nutritional value as traditional crops. In fact, genetic engineering has the capability to produce biofortified crops, that is, the nutritional quality of staple foods can be enhanced through genetic engineering. This has been done with Golden Rice which is fortified with vitamin A. Such foods are expected to improve the diet of people with inadequate nutrition.
5. GMOs are Killing Bees
The population of bees, particularly honey bees, has been on the decline for some time. Between 2008 and 2013, the population of bees in the US declined by 30% and in Spain, about 80% of beehives was lost in that period. Bees play a pivotal role in the ecosystem and so, this trend is cause for concern. However, GMOs should not be blamed. The excessive use of agricultural chemicals has been identified as one of the factors negatively affecting bees, but remember, pest resistant GMOs result in fewer pesticides being used. Other factors resulting in the decline in the population of bees include diseases, mono-cropping and climate change.
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