OPINION: GMOs are good for crop production, not harmful

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There are so many acronyms in our food these days. MSG, FDA, A&W and other scary abbreviations can make choosing what food to buy difficult for young adults.

One of the most controversial food-related choices is whether we want to buy foods made with genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Unfortunately, there are many consumers who have an unfounded fear surrounding the creation and use of GMOs for food.

The main arguments I have heard against the use of GMOs are that there are dangerous chemicals being put into food crops and the science behind the modification is risky and imprecise.

To an uninformed consumer, these arguments could seem to be true. However, the reality of genetically modifying organisms is very safe.

The process of genetically modifying a crop is similar to cutting and pasting text while typing a paper. Desirable genes are taken from one healthy organism and carefully placed into a target organism to improve its genetic code. The process must be very exact, as any imperfections will result in failure.

Some chemicals may be used on the cellular level to transfer and place the desired genes, but overall, chemicals do not affect the quality of the crop being modified. Once the genes are successfully placed in a target crop, the plants may reproduce and be harvested as usual in stronger, healthier numbers.

The first inaccuracy in the argument against GMOs comes from the claim that there are harmful chemicals in the end product.

While it is possible that there may be pesticide residue on the products, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticide use to the extent that rinsing affected products in the sink will wash off any pesticide residue. No additional unhealthy chemicals are added, as the Food and Drug Administration regulates what goes into making a genetically modified crop.

The second inaccuracy comes from the argument that genetic modification is imprecise and risky.

In all scientific endeavors, there are chances of negative outcomes. With genetic modification, such risks include lower biodiversity and possible transfer of allergenic genes.

However, as mentioned previously, genetic modification is by no means imprecise. The scientists behind the modification must ensure that the gene is inserted correctly and there are no harmful effects before a GMO crop can be released to farmers. Instead of throwing random handfuls of genes at plants, scientists use a precise, delicate process to ensure success.

The final problem I have with the anti-GMO crowd is that they spread fearmongering and false information.

There are currently 11 genetically modified products available for American consumers to purchase, including corn, papayas, squash and others. However, anything that is not one of those 11 products can still be labeled as non-GMO. Combined with the arguments that there are harmful chemicals in GMOs and that GMOs are potentially dangerous, GMO crops seem scary.

I could understand labelling non-GMO sweet corn as such, but including non-GMO labels on things such as green beans or almonds is ridiculous. Neither of those products could possibly be genetically modified at the moment, so the label means absolutely nothing.

Overall, GMO crops are much more beneficial than risky. We are able to produce more food due to our genetically modified crops that can survive in a variety of climates. While the risks are few, the benefits are abundant.

As responsible consumers, we have a right to know exactly what we are purchasing, and we need to be given the correct information in order to make fully informed decisions.

Jason DeFisher is a junior in animal sciences and industry. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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