Table of Contents
Nowadays, genetically modified organisms have become a common reality. More and more of them are bred every year. Many scientists state that GMOs are very helpful in the conditions of growing population and increasing demand for food because they can provide higher volume of production and better characteristics of products. At the same time, many researchers argue that GMOs are not studied properly, and they may produce bad effects on human health and environment. This paper will study the negative effects of GMOs.
Harm of GMOs to Health
GMOs were proved to do harm to health, which can be various and affect different organs and organ systems. GMOs may be reasons for different diseases. They can cause allergic reactions. After GM soy was introduced into the UK market, the rate of soy allergy cases grew rapidly, in about 50 per cent. Skin prick allergy tests showed there are people who react to GM soy, and, at the same time, wild natural soy is not harmful to them. The reason is that GM soy contains more soy allergen than the wild one. Even in cooked GM soy, the content of this allergen is seven times higher than in organic soy. Moreover, GM soy contains other new allergens, and their dangers are not studied well yet. Not only soy can be harmful and cause allergies. The biotech industry has stated many times that Bt-toxin causes no harm to humans and mammals because a natural bacteria version was used as a spray by farmers for a long time. However, the reality is different. There are many people who are exposed to symptoms that look like allergic reactions caused by Bt spray. During the experiments, mice that were fed Bt showed powerful immune responses and damaged intestines. It is important to mention that Bt in GM plants is much more concentrated and toxic than a natural spray. Many allergy tests show that GM crops can be harmful. For instance, the popular GM soy, corn, and papaya that are sold in large amounts can be harmful because they contain GM proteins that are close to known allergens. The danger becomes even more powerful because it GMOs can make people allergic to non-GM products. Experiments showed that GM soy decreased digestive enzymes in mice. It means that organisms may become more sensitive and allergic to different products. Mice that consumed Bt-toxin showed immune reactions to foods that were harmless to them before. Mice fed with GM peas also reacted to a range of products. Therefore, people are likely to suffer from similar allergic reactions (“Health Risks”).
GM foods can cause liver diseases. According to the experiments’ results, rats fed with GM potatoes showed to have smaller livers. Moreover, those organs were partially atrophied. At the same time, rats that ate GM canola had heavier livers. GM soy caused changes to mouse liver cells. Such changes suggest a toxic insult. Therefore, it is a large chance that humans can feel similar problems if they eat GM products regularly (“Health Risks”).
GM products can also cause problems with reproduction. What is worse, they may lead to infant mortality. Most of the baby rats born of rats fed with GM soy died in three weeks. Male rats as well as mice changed testicles that resulted in modifying young sperm cells. Mouse embryos had DNA that functioned differently if the parent mice ate GM soy. The longer mice consumed GM corn, the smaller number of babies they had, and the smaller babies were born. Female rats that regularly consumed GM soy had altered uterus and ovaries. By the third generation, most hamsters that consumed GM soy were sterile. Sheep, cows, and pigs that ate GM corn had fertility problems as well. Therefore, reproductive issues and problems with babies were significant, and it is possible that the similar problems would occur to people who eat GM foods on a regular basis (“Health Risks”).
Supplement of GM food may lead to deadly epidemic. In the 1980s, 100 people in America died because of a food supplement called L-tryptophan. Moreover, another group consisting of approximately 5,000-10,000 people had sickness and disability. The source of contaminants was in the genetic engineering process applied in production. The disease was identified because of unique and fast-acting symptoms. Without deaths, its cause might have never been identified. Therefore, GM products can be very dangerous to health and cause new diseases that are not studied and incurable (“Health Risks”).
GM foods may also cause some gluten-related disorders. It has not been proved completely, but a relation between such disorders and consuming GM products can be noticed. Nowadays, up to 18 million of Americans have gluten-related disorders (Smith, “Can Genetically Engineered Foods Trigger Gluten Sensitivity?”).
Creation of GMO includes gene insertion. It disrupts the DNA and can be the reason for unforeseeable health problems. Mutations are not always predictable, and the results of eating mutated crops cannot be predicted, too. Changes in proteins can alter different natural chemicals in plants and increase toxins or decrease phytonutrients (“65 Health Risks of GM Foods”). Moreover, GM proteins can remain in human organisms for a long time. It was proved that genetic material can transfer to bacteria living in human organism and continue functioning there. As a result, harmful proteins remain in organism and continue functioning, even if a person stops eating GM foods, and it can cause unpredictable effects (“Health Risks”).
There is also some evidence that GM food consumption can lead to autism in children. About 20 years ago, this disorder was not that spread. However, the number of children with autism is growing. In the USA, in 2008, 1 boy in 54 had autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The growth was very significant, and the reason for it has been found by Don Huber, a professor working in the Purdue University. He studied pigs, cows, and rats fed with GM crops and discovered that those animals showed specific neurological, physiological, and behavioral symptoms. Those symptoms were very close to autism symptoms. The most dangerous thing is that those animals were fed with GM soy, which is also eaten by children and adults in America. Therefore, there is a threat that it causes the same symptoms in children, and thus they can become autistic (Smith, “Are Genetically Engineered Foods Promoting Autism?”).
Dr. Don Huber described the behavior of rats that were fed with common corn and GM corn. Those who ate common corn were common rats with natural behavior of pets. They were calm, and it was easy to catch them and put on a hand. The rats that ate GM corn were absolutely different. They were very irritable, and it was hard to catch them. They avoided other rats. It can be stated that those rats were asocial. They avoided communication. Similar effects were noticed in pigs that ate GM plants. They were very aggressive and could even bite and eat each other. Such behavior has clear antisocial patterns, and it is very similar to autistic behavior. Therefore, the growing number of autistic children can be explained with the growing GM food consumption. The danger grows because toxins from GM crops can move from the organisms of pregnant women to the organisms of the fetuses. In 2011, a study in Canada showed that 93 per cent of the pregnant women who were tested showed Bt-toxin that contained in Monsanto corn in their blood. 80 per cent of their unborn fetuses had that toxin, too. Therefore, it is a large chance that children can become autistic and have other diseases caused by GM food even if they do not eat it (Smith, “Are Genetically Engineered Foods Promoting Autism?”).
As the risks of GM food for children have been already mentioned, it would be useful to focus on them and study some risks in detail. It is commonly known that children are often much more sensitive to different negative influences of environment that adults are. Children are subject to much higher risks from all potential dangers of GM products. Their young, fast-developing organisms are under the highest risk. Children are much more susceptible to allergies than adult people are, and, as it was already stated, GM foods can cause dangerous allergic reactions. Children are more susceptible to nutritional problems, especially problems with milk. Children are also under the risk of antibiotic resistant diseases. Thus, the Institute for Responsible Technology states that:
Children's bodies develop at a fast pace and are more likely to be influenced and show the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods. That is why independent scientists used young adolescent rats in their GM feeding studies. The rats showed significant health damage after only 10 days, including damaged immune systems and digestive function, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver and potentially pre-cancerous cell growth in the intestines. (“Higher Risks for Children”)
Children are from three to four times more susceptible to allergies. Kids under two years old face the highest risk. Their reactions to allergens can be the most dangerous, especially if those allergens are new. Even little amounts of allergens may bring about very detrimental effects. Breast fed infants may receive dangerous allergens that are consumed by their mothers. The most problematic GM food for children is GM corn, and it is used in a wide range of products. It is the main reason for the growing percentage of children with allergies. Children are very sensitive to GM allergens in milk and other products. Therefore, it is necessary to control their diet in order to avoid allergic reactions and other health problems (“Higher Risks for Children”).
Harm of GMOs to Animals and the Environment
As it was mentioned above, GM foods can be dangerous to different animals. Laboratory and farms animals were already mentioned. However, other animals are at risk, too. Our pets can suffer from toxins that are contained in GM products because they eat them, too. The greatest problem is that pet food industry uses GM products widely, and they are added to pet food in large amounts. There are many proofs that such ingredients can be harmful to pets. GM corn and soy are used in pet foods very often. They are used as ingredients, and many farm animals are fed on such products, and then their meat is used to produce pet foods. Therefore, many dangerous toxins can be found in pet foods (Fox).
In the middle of 1990s, when the use of GM products in pet food production began to grow rapidly, the cases of health problems among cats and dogs became more common. The most common diseases included asthma, different allergic reactions, skin problems, colitis, liver diseases, immune diseases, and many other problems. As similar problems with human health were noticed in the same period, it is very likely that both people and animals suffered from regular consumption of GM products. The studies showed that GM products in pet food can cause RNA variations that, in their turn, produce different effects on animal organisms. Animals that eat GM products show hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters that differ much from established normative. Experiments on rats showed that, after eating GM foods, they had the same diseases as cats and dogs. Moreover, they showed higher death rates than rats that did not eat GM products, as well as problems with reproduction. Therefore, our pets are at a great risk. The problem is that GM ingredients in pet food are often hidden; therefore, even if people choose foods for pets carefully, they still have a chance of buying foods with GMOs (Fox).
GM plants can also cause harm to the environment. The environment is very important to people, and it is necessary to protect it for future generations. The harm of GMO to the environment can be various. From the beginning of GMO study, many researchers stated that the release of new organisms with artificially modified DNA could have different consequences, and they might not be predicted. Those consequences may not only influence the wild life, but also deeply effect organic agriculture that does not use GM plants. The problem is becoming even more serious because not only crops are modified. More and more plant species are becoming genetically modified. Companies are currently working with different trees and try to modify them in order to make them grow faster and produce more fruit for commercial benefit. There are also experiments with so-called "pharma crops". Scientists’ goal is to breed plants that can "grow" different medicines or ingredients for them. However, the consequences of such experiments can be dangerous (“Dangers to the Environment”).
Crosspollination is a great problem, and it cannot be avoided because this process is natural. GM plants can pollinate ‘normal’ ones. Soy and some other plants do not cross-pollinate, but there are many species that can do that. Corn, canola and cotton can be cross-pollinated. As a result, plants that are not genetically modified can receive some features of GM plants and have the same negative effects on people or animals that eat them. GM sugar beets can pollinate ‘normal’ beets, too, and the scientists do not know the possible consequences of such occurrence (“Dangers to the Environment”).
Besides pollination, GM plants bear other threats. Thus, it was proved that they can be toxic. Several studies have shown that GM crops that produce pesticides are even more dangerous than natural toxins because their detrimental effects are very strong. They can contaminate water and soil. As a result, pesticides not only affect harmful insects, but beneficial ones, too. It was also discovered that some insects that were not harmful before and transformed into pests after being targeted by GM toxins. Therefore, more and more Bt toxin is sprayed, which makes soil toxic. ‘Super weeds’ cause problems, too. Many herbicides were used, and the scientists created GM crops resistant to herbicides. However, many weeds adapted to those herbicides and became so-called ‘super weeds.’ Therefore, the use of herbicides increases. GM plants lose their resistance to herbicides, and soil becomes toxic (“Dangers to the Environment”).
The arguments are that there are many organic farms that do not grow GM plants, and buyers have many products to choose from. However, the problem arises because GM plants can cause contamination of organic plants via soil, water, or pollination. Different measures are taken to prevent contamination. However, they do not always work. For example, in Canada, organic canola farmers sued biotech companies because cross-pollination made it impossible to grow organic canola as it was pollinated by GM plants. In order to grow organic plants, farmers use identity preservation (IP). They try to prevent contamination, which can happen via pollination, storage, or transportation. Therefore, some farm regions developed large zones where GM plants are not grown, and organic plants can be grown in the clean environment (“Dangers to the Environment”).
Reasons to Avoid GM Products
Different dangers of GM foods were described. Therefore, it would be useful to describe briefly the most important reasons to avoid them. First, GM products are not healthy. Different studies on animals and humans showed that they can cause many diseases. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) prescribes non-GMO diets for all its patients.
After GMOs were introduced in 1996, different diseases occurred more often, and it is very likely that they were caused by GM products. For instance, the percentage of Americans who have three or more chronic illnesses increased from 7 per cent to 13 per cent in about 9 years. The most widespread illnesses included food allergies, autism, digestive problems, reproductive disorders, etc. Moreover, children suffer from GM foods even more than adults (“10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs”).
Second, GM plants contaminate the environment, including soil, water, and other plants. GM plants pollinate organic ones, and their seeds can travel far. Therefore, it is very hard or almost impossible to grow plants that are 100 per cent organic. Such situation violates the right of people to buy organic food. GMOs increase the use of herbicides. As many weeds became tolerant to herbicides, their use increased. At the same time, GM plants tolerant to herbicides were developed. However, high use of herbicides is harmful to other plants because they pollute soil and water. Moreover, GMOs can be dangerous to animals that eat them, including pets. Nowadays, most pet foods are produced with the use of GM corn and other crops, as well as meat of farm animals that are fed with GM crops. As a result, pets eat GM products regularly, which proved to cause many problems to their health. If people love their pets, they should protest against GM pet food (“10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs”).
The third reason to avoid GM foods is that genetic engineering can cause dangerous side effects. When genes are mixed, scientists cannot predict all possible consequences. For instance, if a gene shifts to bacteria in human organism, no one can be sure about the effects of the bacteria on the organism. Finally, GM foods should be produced because it was proved that they do not bring economic benefits. Yields of farms that grow GM are not higher than the yields of organic farms. It costs much to develop new GMOs and test them. Their benefits like resistance to insects are lost because of high costs of production. Therefore, it is not clear why people should eat dangerous products if they are not cheaper than natural ones (“10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs”).
The problem is that GMOs are often supported by the government because they bring some benefits to the economy, like additional taxes. The only companies that prove that GM products are safe are the companies that produce them. The majority of independent scientists prove the opposite. Therefore, if the society does not want to consume GM products, it should struggle against them (“10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs”).