What did you have for dinner last night? Chances are that if it involved fruits or vegetables, then you ate genetically modified food. Genetically modified food is nothing new. Referring to the process of changing food on a genetic scale to better suit our dietary and growing requirements, genetically modifying fruits and vegetables has become big business.
Corn in particular has been a target for genetic modification in the United States. With a primary role as an artificial sweetener, as well as a use in a number of other industries, improving corn yields has helped to create the GMO industry. Lets take a moment to examine the pros and cons associated with genetically modified corn.
The Pros Of Genetically Modified Corn
As farmers, botanists, chemists, and companies continue to experiment with crops, a number of benefits are emerging. From increased productivity to reducing the need for pesticides, improving the nutritional value, and removing allergens, genetically modified corn can do a great deal of good. Lets take a moment to review the pros of genetically modified corn.
1. Increases Productivity
The production of corn has never been better. When considering the amount of corn that can be produced on a single yard-by-yard plot of land, genetically modified corn has improved the amount of corn that will be produced. Through increased production comes more profit for the farmer, as well as a greater availability to the consumer. The end result is that farmers make more money, people get to pay less at the grocery store, and everyone wins.
2. Can Reduce Pesticide Use
A big part of the green movement is limiting the number of chemicals and pesticides used to treat the fruits and vegetables that we eat. Corn is no exception. With a number of critters looking to eat and destroy corn harvests, pesticide use is considered by many to be a problem. With genetically modified corn however, the number of pesticides used can be reduced. Genetically modified corn can be altered to make corn less appetizing to pests, reducing the amount of pesticides used. Given the worry surrounding pesticides, genetically modified corn holds the key to retaining high crop yield while also producing a safe product.
3. Improve Nutritional Value
Along with improving the innate pesticide resistance of corn, genetic modification can also provide other benefits that aid in our diet. For example, genetic modification can improve the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. By making key changes to the genetic code of corn, corn can begin storing and producing key vitamins and minerals that we need to survive. As seen with rice harvests around the world, corn can become a much better source for certain vitamins and minerals.
4. Remove Allergens
Allergens are a natural byproduct of plants. Their creation is a result of the expression of certain genes within the corn. Through genetically modifying the genes, these allergens can be removed, allowing for people who have never been able to enjoy corn the opportunity to begin eating it. With a great deal of potential behind the theory, companies have begun having limited success identifying and removing what causes allergens in several different kinds of fruits. With any luck, corn will be next.
The Cons of Genetically Modified Corn
There is no doubt that genetic modification has a great deal of potential. The trouble is that with every action taken on our part to change a plant, there may be a reaction that we do not account for. From making farmers dependent on seed companies to food possibly not being safe for consumption and more, genetically modified vegetables like corn represent a new frontier of research that we are only just beginning to understand.
1. Dependence on Seed Companies
Several large companies account for the production of most of the genetically modified corn produced around the world. Making patents on these genetic modifications, these seed companies control who can and cannot purchase their seeds. As a result, individual farmers are beholdant to the seed companies in order to plant their yearly crop. As more and more farmers make use of these companies, the base level of production is going to increase. Other farmers will have to buy from these seed companies as well, or risk producing less and making less money as a result. With so few seed companies out there, farmers have few if any options if they believe the price they are paying for seeds is to high.
2. May Not Be Safe For Consumption
While we have been genetically modifying plants through selection for countless millennia, altering genetic code directly is relatively new. With this in mind, there are many things that we do not know of regarding genetic coding. While we think we are genetically modifying corn for beneficial reasons, we may in fact be accidentally introducing something harmful into the corn itself. Until future research is done, there is always the risk that we are inadvertently harming ourselves through the genetically modified food we consume. As corn finds its way into everything through corn syrup, any problem caused by genetically modified corn will rebound throughout society.
3. A Lack of Choice or Knowledge Regarding GMO Consumption
In the United States, there is no requirement to list food as genetically modified or not. If you are interested in eating corn for example, there is no way to know if your corn was genetically modified or not unless the producer specifically states it. While some do not mind this, others will want to know where their corn is coming from.
4. Quickens Nutrient Depletion In Soil
How is corn produced? Well, being the fruit of the corn plant, the plant itself takes sunlight, water, and the nutrients in the soil to create corn. By increasing the yield, the nutrients from the soil will be pulled out faster then normal. This will lead to nutrient depletion that may make the field unproductive for future harvests.
What Exactly Is Genetically Modified Corn?
Individuals have been genetically modifying crops since the beginning of agriculture by selecting strands that produce larger yields. While this is nothing new, genetically modified now refers to experimentally changing the DNA of the plant to make it more suitable for our needs. Whether this be changing corn to make it more drought resistant or changing the root structure to allow for greater yields per acre, genetically modified agriculture is centered around improving and stabilizing yields.
Where Do We Stand?
Genetically modified corn is neither all good or bad. Rather, it depends on what values you have and how you decide to look at it. If you are interested in producing more corn and possibly making it better for people to eat, then genetically modified corn is a good thing. However, if you are concerned about the potential health risks associated with genetically modified corn and also do not like the fact that several companies control the entire industry, then there is room for concern.