Hunger is a constant problem that we, as human beings, have been trying to solve for years through the advancement of technology. Currently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) claims that one ninth of the world’s total population between 2014 and 2015 suffer from malnourishment. Considering how the United Nations emphasize that the world population will soon reach 9.7 billion by 2050, there is a need to find sustainable crops to help alleviate this problem. For scientists, this approach is genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as a GMO or GMOs.
Genetically modified organisms refer to the genetic modification of genes that corporations analyze in a laboratory in order for it to transfer into a crop plant. By implementing genes or modifying them, the crops may acquire traits such as pesticide-resistance, control of pest damage, or giving a greater yield. As a result, we are able to mass produce foods that can help defeat world hunger and feed the growing population. However, with this scientific advancement and benefit, why is there a debate on the usage of GMOs?
Although GMOs provide a substantial amount of food, scientists have not concluded the exact effects of GMOs on people and the environment. Even though scientists have not found a case where the modified genetic material has done any modification of human cells, there are cases that show effects on animals. In a 1988 study by plant biochemist Arpad Pusztai, he revealed that giving rats a GM potato diet led to stunted growth and immune-system changes. Furthermore, another study revealed that having new genes in an organism can change the organism’s metabolism, growth rate, and response to external environmental factors. Thus, while there are cases that show unfavorable effects to animals, one may speculate the future cases that GMOs may have on humans. Recent research conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine don’t appear harmful to humans. However, skeptical beliefs have challenged people’s perspectives on GMOs.
Due to the lack of evidence on the biological effects of GM crops and its effects on the environment, some countries have even banned them from their agricultural systems. Ethiopia, for example, fears the effects that GMOs may have on the soil and its contribution to climate change. Additionally, although GM crops can provide food to countries that may help supplement their diet, some countries may not want to be a “GMO test.” Like a double-edged sword, while it may solve hunger now, we don’t know what effects it could have in the future.
People emphasize the need for GMO labeling because of the inconclusive research. Even with the main benefit of helping to solve world hunger or feeding the future population, consumers should still have a choice on whether they want to eat GM food. Furthermore, with regulations, this can help provide a greater insight on GMOs and ultimately predict its future trends.
Editor: Summer Lee