By Mateo Zambrano Navia
Over the last decades the American public has grown increasingly concerned about the effects that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may have on health. Organizations such as Non-GMO Project warn the public about the potential threats of genetically modifying our food and the impact that this could have on our health and the environment. They question the safety of consuming “franken-foods” and disclose stories of how agricultural giants, such as Monsanto, have used GMOs for profit and to the detriment of many.
This increased concern has led to massive rallies and protests around the world, asking governments to implement policies against the use of genetic modification in foods. While the United States has yet to implement policies banning GMO agriculture, many European nations have taken a strong stance against production and import of GM crops. These institutional responses to the GMO scare have further solidified the publics concern.
The scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that GM foods are not only safe to consume, but they may bring a great deal of progress to modern agriculture. These same mechanisms of genetic modification are being used and have been used for decades to perform research in almost every area of biology, and have been invaluable tools in discovering disease pathologies and treatments in the last decades.
The GMO debate has received a massive amount of media coverage and the connection between agricultural giant Monsanto and GMOs has been heavily engrained in the public eye. This may dissuade companies, universities and even governments from funding or performing future GMO research. Although not all GMOs are favorable to the public, the potential benefit that GMOs could bring to the future of agriculture is too great to pass up. By bringing such a negative image onto genetic modification, we may be preventing scientists from finding solutions to agricultural problems we are desperately trying to overcome.
There are three central issues that humanity is facing that could be addressed using GM crops: we are expected to experience a great food shortage in the coming century, climate change is making farming conditions more severe and unpredictable, and a large portion of humanity relies on one or two crops for nourishment, leading to malnutrition.
The first two reasons go hand in hand. The UN expects that with increasing global population we will need to produce approximately 70% more food in much more efficient ways than we are doing currently by 2050. Additionally climate change has had a pronounced impact on agriculture, making weather patterns more unpredictable and severe than they have been in the past.
Developing nations and impoverished populations are expected to suffer the most from the effects of climate change: nations and people who rely heavily on agriculture. Not only does the loss of a crop impact the farmer who has lost his primary means of food and income, but it also impact all of those who could have purchased it. Large scale flooding or droughts lead to rising market prices of food, preventing families from buying the food they need to stay healthy. By introducing genes into an organism that allows for better survival in adverse conditions, geneticists may be able to produce a more resilient crop that will survive through a longer summer, or rain season, empowering of farmers to continue working and helping provide food for millions of people in need.
The second issue can be briefly summarized in a case study of “golden rice”, rice that has been engineered to be more nourishing than its traditional counterpart. In the developing world millions of children and adult go blind every year from lack of vitamin A. The work of genetic engineers has resulted in a strain of rice that produces beta-carotene, the source our body uses to produce the essential vitamin. By inserting this vital nutrient into a staple food and making it food accessible to those who need it, we may be able to save the lives of millions.
Plant geneticist Pamela Ronald makes a strong case for genetic modification of food in her TED Talk, in which she present other examples of how GMOs can be used to decrease the use of pesticides and prevent disease in an entire plant species.
 Bello, Walden. “Twenty-Six Countries Ban GMOs-Why Won’t the US?” The Nation. Foreign Policy in Focus, 29 Oct. 2013.
 Freedman, David H. “The Truth about Genetically Modified Food.” Scientific American. N.p., 1 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
 Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Climate Change: The Poor Will Suffer Most.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2014.
 Charles, Dan. “In A Grain Of Golden Rice, A World Of Controversy Over GMO Foods.” NPR. NPR, 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
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