In the first part of this article, we waded into the debate on Genetically Modified Organism Foods (GMOs) by sampling arguments for and against. Food experts like David Perlmutter and Sarah Evanega argued against and for, with both bringing up vital points to back their arguments. Excerpts from the official website of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their Frequently Asked Questions, however, allayed fears regarding the safety of GMOs by explaining its role in ensuring the safety of these foods. What is also important to note is the reason why many call for GMO foods.
The growing world population, according to Debating Europe, is expected to expand from the present figure of 7 billion to over 9 billion by 2050, so much so that the United Nations called for doubling worldwide food production in less than half a decade. The rationale behind this call is simple—there will more persons on earth but fewer farmlands.
Interestingly, some of the arguments for GMOs border on the complaints of farmers regarding the effect of pesticide residues. In combating pests, farmers resort to using pesticides. It so happens that these pesticides leave residues that are harmful for human consumption with the WHO classifying the effects of pesticides and other harmful chemicals into carcinogenic, which can cause cancer; neurotoxic, which can lead to brain damage; and teratogenic, which can ultimately damage the foetus. If these farmers could find alternatives or avenues to lessen the amount of pesticides they spray on crops, they would take it up.
Thus, Debating Europe points out that with “rough genetic modification, scientists can give crops built-in resistance to pests”. What it means is a reduced need to apply pesticides which poses both a risk to the consumer and the environment. Many studies have since shown that the introduction of GMO soybean and corn in the United States led to a 13 million kilo reduction in pesticide use in the 12 years leading to 2009. Its help in fighting global warming comes to play as GMOs “also cut farmers’ fuel emissions” by reducing the need for spraying pesticides.
The WHO has made it a concern of theirs and rightly so. The organisation reeled out their reasons for actively involving in GMO foods:
- On the grounds that public health could benefit from the potential of biotechnology, for example, from an increase in the nutrient content of foods, decreased allergenicity and more efficient and/or sustainable food production.
- Based on the need to examine the potential negative effects on human health of the consumption of food produced through genetic modification in order to protect public health. Modern technologies should be thoroughly evaluated if they are to constitute a true improvement in the way food is produced.
While debating the existence of GMOs, many consumers also reason the prices of GMOs as against organic products and for sure GMOs cost cheaper than organic products. Farmers also reckon the environmental costs of growing organic foods as GMO crops do not need as much tilling of the ground like their organic counterparts. All of these come to play when highlighting the rise in GMOs worldwide.
The truth is, whether or not GMO foods are safe for consumption or not remains a big debate. However the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation are working tirelessly in evaluating GM foods by constantly consulting with experts. International bodies are not left out in the evaluation of these foods with top GMO foods like Canola oil, Alfalfa, Papaya, Maize, Cotton, Maize and Milk constantly being assessed daily in a bid to protect public health.
Consumers are therefore faced with a choice: to buy or not to buy GMO foods. But on the surface, it appears GMOs are here to stay for the foreseeable future at least.