Genetic modification mainly involves the process of inserting a gene from a bacteria or virus into an organism; a gene that is not normally found in that certain organism. In the case of genetic modified corn and for other crops in general, the purpose is to change the genetic code of plants for various reasons such as improving the crops compared to the regular crops, make them more resistant to harsh weather, faster production at a lower cost, using less pesticides and herbicides thus increasing the farmer’s income and also to meet the growing demand of a certain crop.
Genetically modified foods have been introduced to the market and have sparked controversy on the possible environmental and health risks it poses. Environmental risks have been determined, and although there is no accurate information of the danger it can do to one’s health, there is also no evidence that it cannot harm consumers. For these reasons, concerned consumers and scientists have questioned the lack of thorough studies and observation about the health risks of genetically modified crops, specifically corn. Corn which is used in many products, in restaurant dishes, as well as feeding livestock. 84 acres of land in the U.S. is allotted to farming corn followed by soybeans, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
While genetically modified corn and other crops is an advantage to farmers and agriculture, it has been shown to affect the environment.
- Since it is genetically altered to resist strong pesticides and herbicides, the amount of these chemicals can kill all the weeds thus reducing biodiversity.
- Genetically modified crops can produce their own pesticide, a bacterial toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Long exposure to this toxin allowed certain types of bugs to develop resistance on BT.
- BT can kill other insects like bees, ladybugs and monarch butterflies.
- BT can produce other irregular toxins and allergens into the crop and therefore may affect the final product.
- Genetically modified crops can cross-contaminate other crops through microbial process, seeds and pollens. Cross-contamination can go out of control and may affect other farmlands and the entire food supply. Because of this, consumers may be unaware that they are ingesting genetically modified crops.
While the environmental risks are clearly identified, the health risks are still unclear. However, it should not be excluded that the pesticide released by genetically modified crops are new to humans, and the body might not be able to handle them. We all know that pesticides that include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides are linked to serious illnesses such as cancer especially in children and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s.
The federal government has allowed the production and use of genetically modified crops on foods as long as it meets the same safety requirements from traditionally bred plants. However, they do not require foods from GMC to be labeled as such, only voluntary labeling can be imposed. Food manufacturers may specify if it is made from GMC as long as the labeling is truthful and not misleading to consumers.