How Dangerous Are GMOs?
The GMO Debate
The argument over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, seems interminable as to whether they pose a threat for human consumption, let alone to the environment and animals. What is clear is that the issue is a cause for concern for most, to the point that the labelling of GMO foods is increasingly more common and affects consumer decisions at the supermarket.
One of the most recognized organizations in the battle to label GMO foods is The Non-GMO Project. The organization’s mission is to educate consumers by encouraging food suppliers to label all food products that contain GMOs. The end goal is to eventually change the way food is grown and eliminate GMO use by encouraging consumers to vote with their wallet.
For those who believe that GMOs are harmless, there are several arguments. One is that there is supposedly no definitive evidence of humans or animals having health issues directly caused by GMO foods. Another is that the FDA would ban GMO foods if it felt they were harmful. Others argue that there are numerous benefits to GMOs, such as higher crop yield and preventing the spread of disease.
The Institute for Responsible Technology
Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology and one of the biggest activists in the fight against GMOs, says he believes the consumption of genetically modified food is ostensibly dangerous. According to Smith, GMOs can lead to numerous health issues ranging from digestion issues and skin conditions to brain fog and anxiety.
Smith says that there is also evidence of an accumulation of GMO toxins that is retained in consumers that can be passed from pregnant mothers to their children, causing an array of health problems. He also attributes an increase in the rate of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease to be caused by GMOs.
World Health Organization
Studies by the World Health Organization have labeled Roundup, the pesticide sprayed on GMO crops that are herbicide resistant, as a likely carcinogen. In addition to Roundup, scientists have engineered GMO foods that are capable of producing pesticides in their growth. Smith touts a recent study that linked an increase in the growth of a protein in GMO corn that produces putracine and cadaverine, chemicals that are potentially toxic to humans.
While the WHO’s position that GM foods aren’t harmful is often cited by detractors of the anti-GMO movement, the organization doesn’t necessarily take a firm stance.
On its website regarding the safety of GM foods the WHO says, “individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” and that, “it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.”
The website also says that outcrossing, or the migration and mixing of genes from GM crops to wild or conventional crops, “may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security.” Where this has been recognized, countries have tried to clearly separate fields of GM crops from conventional crops, however it is not completely fail-safe.
Where the WHO does take a firm stance is that it has found no signs of GMOs linked to allergies and that, “no effects on human health have been shown as the result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
Another of Smith’s main arguments is that there is a transfer of genes from GM food to human cells after consumption. According to the WHO regarding gene transfer, the probability of transfer is low. This again does not take a stance eliminating the concern completely. Smith contends that studies have shown that GMOs that are bred with pesticides poke holes in the stomach of insects and that such effects are seen with human consumption as well.
Where do you stand?
Exposing GMO Agendas with Jeffrey Smith
Genetically modified foods have become such a pervasive part of the standard American diet that it is nearly impossible to avoid them. With major lobbyists holding sway over political opinion, it seems that the ever tightening grip of “Big Ag” is set to become unbreakable.
Stephen Hawking's Last Warning: Superhumans May Conquer Humanity
CRISPR, the new technology that allows scientists to genetically edit our DNA, will be the end of normal humans, according to Stephen Hawking in his final publication Brief Answers to the Big Questions.
Before his passing, Hawking penned a series of essays on his final research, which included a few cautionaries for our future. He prefaced his musings with an upbeat recollection of his storied career, but his warnings proved incredibly depressing. Namely, the fact that he believed genetically modified superhumans will eventually rule our species, elbowing out the rest of us naturally born plebeians.
Of course, these observations went beyond Hawking’s traditional field of study, though they were corollaries to the work of an astrophysicist who aimed to define some of the deeper questions about our existence.
But whether or not you agree with his adamantly atheist, parting claim that God doesn’t exist, it’s easier to sympathize with his fear that designer humans with superior genetics may be around the corner and may exacerbate the ever-expanding crevasse of inequality in the world.
“Once such superhumans appear, there are going to be significant political problems with the unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,” Hawking said. “Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant.”
Forget your fears of automation putting people out of work, superhumans will make us all obsolete anyway. But is this really a legitimate threat or another dystopian, sci-fi fantasy? We’d like to have more faith in humanity and believe it’s the latter.
CRISPR is certainly making leaps and bounds in genetic engineering, specifically to cure untreatable disease and prevent genetic mutations, but many are worried the technology will soon be used to create designer babies. Hawking feared this prospect, despite the fact that its premise is based on distant, unproven possibilities and a lack of faith that those with access to the technology actually have ethics.
Hawking also fails to recognize the fact that the same science and ethics that created the technology which allowed him to continue his work – and continue to live for that matter – is what lead to CRISPR in the first place. Put simply, the potential biomedical breakthroughs from CRISPR technology are likely to prevail over the pessimistic dystopian possibilities he put forward.
For more on how technology is allowing us to become superhuman in a less dystopian way, check out this documentary with Dr. Jordan Nguyen, Becoming Superhuman: