Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The GMO Lowdown Part 3: GMO Myths and Facts

I'm not one to reinvent the wheel, so for this post, I wanted to share with you a video and two articles that I have found which are really eyeopeners to the GMO debate and many myths that surround them. Check out this video first:

These next two articles give further explanation into other claims that just aren't true or fully explained. I encourage you to follow the links below to learn more:

However, I have decided to highlight a few myths and give you the facts as I have come to understand them:

Myth #1: GMOs cause cancer: FALSE--there has been no scientific linkage between consuming GMO products and cancer. GMO research has actually been useful in helping understand BRCA mutations which in turn could lead to better cancer treatments and even possibly a cure with enough time and resources dedicated. Stay tuned for a post dedicated to this topic in the future!

Myth #2: GMOs are responsible for more herbicide use: Maybe--the most popular GMOs have been created to be pest resistant (meaning less pesticides--yay!) but also herbicide resistant (meaning the farmer can spray the crops and weeds more without killing the crop--not so good). BUT, you should keep in mind that herbicides are expensive and farmers don't want to spend more money than they need to AND they strive to have the best quality products and be good stewards of the land, so it is unlikely they are spraying tons of unnecessary herbicide. I love this quote from the recent Slate article put out by William Saletan: "The more you learn about herbicide resistance, the more you come to understand how complicated the truth about GMOs is. First you discover that they aren’t evil. Then you learn that they aren’t perfectly innocent. Then you realize that nothing is perfectly innocent. Pesticide vs. pesticide, technology vs. technology, risk vs. risk—it’s all relative. The best you can do is measure each practice against the alternatives. The least you can do is look past a three-letter label."
Myth #3: Monsanto will take over the world: Unlikely--Monsanto, DuPont, and other big ag companies don't have evil intentions. All these companies are made up of people just like you and me who have families and want to do good in this world. Yes, farmers may have to buy seed every year, but it takes huge investment on the part of these companies to create better yielding crops that allow for less inputs and more profit for the farmer, while also feeding a growing world. 

Myth #4: GMOs decrease genetic variability: Maybe-I heard this argument for the first time last week. A colleague of mine mentioned that his wife was concerned that if crops are genetically modified, then the DNA will be the same and should a disease come, it could wipe out the whole crop completely. She was also concerned regarding "inbreeding" of such similar crops and the negative side effects of crop existence and quality. I think there is some merit to this concern, however, that's the beauty in heirloom varieties that many farmers are working hard to preserve. In addition, when a GMO crop comes out, there has been research on many other varieties as well, which may have the option to also become commercially available. 

Image result for monarch butterflyMyth #5: GMOs are responsible for the pollinator crisis: Not Entirely--While there has been some concern of milkweed being contaminated with Bt corn pollen, which then in turn affects Monarch butterflies, there isn't a direct relationship between GMOs and pollinator decline. The bigger concern is the loss of pollinator habitat from increased monoculture. Monoculture and increased urbanization has led to a decline in natural bee habitat, which is more directly related to the decline of pollinators. I'll be putting out an article with more details on this soon!

It would be wrong to say that GMOs are completely innocent, but so would saying that a world of non-GMOs would be better. As with anything in life, the GMO debate is a balancing act and all perspectives and consequences must be evaluated.

The last and final part of the GMO low down will feature practical advice when shopping in the grocery store and some clarity on many of labels you see on food products!


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