Genetically modified food is one of the most contentious subjects in agriculture today. With it being used on many of our staple crop species such a corn and soybeans it is and will be a simple fact of agriculture from this point on.
Roundup Ready varieties of corn and soybeans created by the agriculture giant Monsanto are very common in farm fields across America. Now what Roundup Ready means is that it can be sprayed with the herbicide Roundup. The crop is able to survive this because foreign genetic materiel has been placed into its genetic code making it resistant to the herbicide.
Another aspect of genetic modification is inputting genetics that allow plants to create there own pesticide. One of the most famous examples of this is BT crops which contain the genetics of a variety of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis. The genetic material placed in the corn gives it the ability to create a pesticide that kills insects that attempt to feed on it.
On the surface the ability of crops to resist herbicides and create there own pesticides is a revolutionary change to modern agriculture. But when you think about it further some interesting ideas begin to float around in your head.
For me the most prominent idea was the though of pesticide producing corn. So this corn produces a chemical that kills insects that are attacking it. If the corn can produce a chemical that kills insects could that same pesticide affect humans or other animals too. I have heard reports of sheep dying after grazing in fields that contained BT Cotton and cattle in Germany dying after eating BT Corn. We do know from previous pesticide use that some are very persistent in the environment and they have unexpected consequences. A classic example is the effect that DDT had of fish and birds of prey. DDT was a very popular and effective pesticide from the 1940's to 1973. But it had unexpected consequences in local watersheds in which it caused a buildup of DDT in local fish populations. The DDT was deposited in the fatty tissues in the fish which were consumed by birds of prey such the Bald Eagle As the birds fed on fish they accumulated DDT in their system which effected the reproductive success of the birds. The DDT caused their eggs to have very thin shells which broke easily during the incubation period. The effect was a rapidly declining eagle population that landed them on the Endangered Species list.
Many people are opposed to to GM food for the very reason above. They are worried that like DDT and heavy metals the pesticide producing food crops could cause a buildup of pesticides in humans that consume it.
Other concerns include
If you think you have never eaten GMO food and you live in America then you are probably wrong. GMO ingredients are estimated to be present in over 70% of products found in the grocery store. Unless you have eaten organic your entire life or raise all your own food you will be stuck with GMO products.
Hello my name is Josh Larson and I am the creator of the Green Living Library. Here on the blog you will find updates to content found in the Green Living Library as well as stories from those living the sustainable life already.