GMO Field Trip: Let’s Follow the Life of a GMO

GMOs: Environmental and Health Concerns

The third in the blog series GMOs: What’s the Big Deal? by Oh Baby Foods Mother & Founder, Fran B. Free

In continuing with our blog series on GMOs, I aim to gather insight into the little acronym and why it evokes strong feelings (of something) for just about everyone. Again, some believe GMOs are harmless and necessary, others believe they are unsafe, unproven, and find the act of messing with DNA terrifying.

In last week’s post, I ran through the basics of The What, The How, and The Why GMO’s exist. I’m here again this week, and this time to discuss environmental and health concerns of biotech (GMO).

Environmental Concerns:

Having a degree in Environmental Soil and Water Science, it would be too facile to say here that many of my personal anxieties with GMO point to environmental. My main environmental uneasiness is that (1) not only are GMOs failing to meet their goals, but are actually augmenting the very issues they set out to address, and (2) …well, GMOs are very much unknown.

INSUFFICIENT DATA

Not only is this technology new, but the data is largely non-existent or “protected” due to the fact that (1) risk assessments and subsequent results for a new GMO approval is conducted and provided by the company seeking the approval, and (2) due to current intellectual property laws, research rights on these products are reserved for the owner of that patent. Next week’s blog post is focused on these two points and the political landscape, so I won’t spend much time on that here.

SUPERWEEDS

I’m not sure who coined this phrase; it’s not my favorite, but it is accurate. Weeds that are target pests have evolved to become resistant and highly unmanageable. Glyphosate-resistant crops (i.e. “Roundup Ready” varieties) are GMO plants that are modified to enable them to live through an application of Roundup, but the weeds growing next to them in the field should not. Back when glyphosate-resistant crops were a new technology, those weeds did die. But today, they are not only surviving, they’re flourishing. They are flourishing in the fields and they’re flourishing in non-farm settings, and they can’t be killed as easily as they used to be. You know how we’re warned to only use antibiotics when our kids really need them, that an overuse could lead to a “super bug” that will one day not respond to antibiotics? Well, that’s what we have here today.

INCREASED USE of PESTICIDES

One of the very first touted benefits of GMOs was (and still is) “decreased use of pesticides,” but ag studies are now showing the complete opposite. In fact, with many GMOs (cotton, corn, and soybeans, for example), farmers are increasing their herbicide use by up to 25% annually (Benbrook) on GMO crops. In addition, farmers are turning to older, more toxic pesticides to pick up where Roundup can’t do the job any longer. Much of that has to do with the “superweeds” that we just discussed.


Health Concerns:

Without a control group and laboratory tests on humans, we really don’t know the effects that GMOs are having and will have on our bodies. There have been laboratory tests conducted on rats showing infertility, immune system and insulin regulation issues, and distressed gastrointestinal systems, among others. Farm animals that have grazed on GMO crops have experienced extreme health complications and even fatality. I cannot personally vouch for any of these tests or claims, and I continue to search for sound science. Please share with me reputable sources if you have them!

NEW ALLERGENS

Having a gluten sensitivity and spending my creative time developing new Oh Baby Foods products for a wide audience, allergies are very often on my mind. So, when I think about the case of a gene from a Brazil nut being transferred into soybean DNA and causing an allergic reaction, I cringe…and I’m also thankful. This 1996 study led to the cancellation of a GMO project who’s goal was to take to market a nutritionally superior soybean, and in the testing process, a positive allergic reaction was found, which led to the absolute acknowledgement that GMOs can transfer allergenic proteins into crops. Knowing this last point is exactly what startles me and affirms my stance on not GMOs in baby food.

What health concerns concern you? Please share your thoughts. And come back next week when we look at the political landscape of GMOs.

Topics for GMOs: What’s the Big Deal? Blog series, every Friday this October:
Friday, 10/3/2018      GMOs: It’s Personal
Friday, 10/10/2018    GMOs: The What, the How, the Why
Friday, 10/17/2018     GMOs: Environmental & Health Concerns
Friday, 10/24/2018    GMOs: Political Landscape
Friday, 10/31/2018    GMO Field Trip: Let’s follow the life of a GMO

 

Sources:

Benbrook, D. (2012, September 28). Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years. Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2014, from http://www.ucsusa.org/our-work/food-agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering-agriculture#.VEDo7CldUm8

Genetically modified food controversies. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies