The safety of genetically modified food is something that is debated frequently. When consumers want to learn more about GMOs the easiest thing to do is to turn to the Internet. When I googled GMOs the first nine links lead to articles that were against the use of GMOs, that means 90% of the articles a consumer reads are negative, but 90% of the field corn and cotton in the United States are genetically modified. I think the main reason behind this is because consumers do not understand GMOs: what they are and if they are safe.
Dr. David Weaver from Auburn University explains the science behind GMOs. There are certain bacterium, Agrobacterium, that live in the soil, this bacteria attacks injured plants. If a plant is wounded, this bacterium travels inside the plant and injects DNA that takes over the plant and tells it to produce food that only that bacterium can eat. In nature this is called crown gall. Scientists took this bacterium and removed the piece of DNA that causes crown gall and put DNA for another trait into the bacteria. Then the bacterium gets injected into the plant, just like if the plant was injured in nature. In the case of cotton, scientists put a gene that codes for a protein that when expressed kills a certain insect that feeds on cotton. This protein is extremely specific, so that it is only toxic to a certain insect.
A second GMO is a gene in soybeans that protects plants from glyphosate, roundup. Roundup is a non discriminatory herbicide. Scientists placed a gene that resists roundup into soybeans this means that farmers can kill weeds and save their soybeans. One advantage of GMOs is that we can control target insects and not kill all of them. The main insect that used to affect cotton is no longer able to eat cotton because of the genetic engineering done by scientists. Dr. Weaver said, “At one time, over half of the insecticides used in the whole country were used on one crop, cotton. Because of GMOs that is no longer occurring.” GMOs have drastically reduced the amount of herbicides and insecticides used in the agricultural industry.
Now the thing that consumers worry most about, the consumption of GMOs. There are only three commercialized GMOs in the US corn, cotton, and soybeans. We can only eat two of these so we’ll address soybeans first, the main way soybeans are consumed in the US is through vegetable oil. Vegetable oil is a mixture of fatty acids and those fatty acids contain none of the products that the plant expresses to make it resistant to roundup so when eating it, you are not eating any genetically modified proteins and it is in no way harmful to humans or animals.
The only GMOs that we, as consumers eat part of the protein product is corn. But we shouldn’t be worried about eating GMOs because they are heavily regulated by the EPA and FDA. To be commercialized GMOs must be demonstrated over multiple years through hundred of tests over years to be completely safe. Then they have to be approved by the FDA who has a low tolerance for anything that might be remotely harmful. These products have been examined to prove their safety, and research continues to prove it. There has not been a single case of someone dying from a GMO. So there is no reason to be worried about feeding yourself or your children GMOs.