Why Should I Be Concerned About GMOs?

No GMOs without labelsI was recently chatting with some other groups on Ozoshare.com, a social site for green topics and the following question was asked about labeling GMOs:

If there is nothing wrong or harmful about GMOs, then why not be transparent? There should be nothing to hide.

Here is our response, about concerns with GMOs:

GMOs are an interesting argument. In many cases there is nothing harmful in and of themselves, but sometimes the scientists make changes and we can’t understand the full ramifications of the changes immediately. An example is the modifications they are making to mosquitoes. They are modifying mosquitoes to be unable to carry malaria.  However, these mosquitoes have to out-live and replace current mosquitoes to be useful.  Therefore, one would expect that they have to do something to make these mosquitoes out-live and dominate the regular mosquitoes too.  What will this mean for eco-systems where the mosquitoes live?
leg covered with mosquito bites
Mosquitoes can be vicious

Another issue is that they make modifications that allow crops and grasses to be resistant to harmful chemicals, like Roundup. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, except that then the farmers start whole-sale spraying Roundup, for example, causing all the other plants and animals to die, getting it into our waterways and onto the food that people don’t always wash well enough.

So when people say that there’s no reason not to eat food that has been genetically modified, that in itself may well be true, however, there are the bigger picture issues with genetically modifying foods and animals.  These foods may have more chemicals on them, the plants may have absorbed more chemicals.  Also, we should be concerned about more toxic chemicals entering our waterways and in the air we breathe.
Some recent genetic modifications cause the plants to actually manufacture a pesticide itself to repell certain insects. That pesticide may be harmless to human, or it might not.

There is also the theory of gluten intolerance, that the reason more and more people are intolerant is because the wheat has been changed over the years. They have found that some people who are “gluten intolerant” can in fact eat heirloom wheat which has a lower gluten content.
The wheat we eat hasn’t all been modified through modern genetic science, but through traditional crossbreeding methods and selection methods, but it gives us reason to think further about the issues related to GMOs.

no GMOs text on a food package.
Label on one of our food packages

In each of these cases, it’s not the fact that there are genetic modifications to the plant or animal that are
the concern, but rather, what are the consequences of these modifications, particularly the unanticipated and un-studied consequences.

I am not arguing that we should completely ban all GMOs,  but that we should be aware of them and regulate them.  The European Union has very detailed guidelines on the development, labeling and use of GMOs and I believe the United States should understand why these guidelines exist in the EU and implement some, if not all of them.

Happy Greening,

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