Food: the centre of our lives, a means of survival, and a way of getting together and having a swell time. However, over 80% of the world’s food is genetically modified, altered at the genetic level which produces effects not normally natural. For instance, modified fruits and vegetables contain pesticides “infused” into the crop, meaning it was altered to grow with pesticides within them to keep them safe from bugs and unwanted insects. The purpose of this paper is to bring awareness about the effects and truths of pesticides in and on genetically modified foods. These chemically-consumed altered plants are the by-product of a desire for clean food but turned out to be a dangerous mistake to our health, causing debate and want for a switch back.
Genetically modified foods weren’t always around – before, there was a time when food was grown and made the way it was meant to be – without altering them to achieve certain characteristics. In this paper, we will be looking at the genetic modification of food to grow with pesticides already within, and more importantly, what those pesticides are doing. You might ask, “What are pesticides, and why are they used?” Pesticides are chemicals designed to fend off bugs and insects, killing them if they attempt to try and consume the crop. This enabled farmers to produce crops more appealing to the eye and grow them in larger quantities. Ever since, pesticides have been the favoured tool when it comes to keeping our food free from pesky pests.
There was, however, a problem with this solution: the chemicals present in the mix were toxic, and could cause damage to the human body if exposed to it for prolonged periods of time. Because of this, farmers and anyone who had to spray their areas wore protective clothing when applying such substances. This eventually lead people to realise what was in these solutions, leaving corporations like Monsanto to come up with a better alternative. Their answer was genetically modified organisms, or GMOs for short.
These are “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally” (“American Academy of Environmental Medicine”). This means our food we consume is not only made to achieve certain desired effects, but is also made using seeds modified to grow with the same pesticides within. This all seemed like the ideal plan because farmers would be able to spray less onto their crops, and sometimes none at all. From then on, these are the types of food which we have been consuming. Naturally, though, as time progressed, this too started to become an issue as people began to realise that this was no different, or perhaps even worse than spraying more pesticides on the plant. Because these foods were being sprayed and grown with pesticides, it meant that every part of the food item contained these chemicals. People began to take action such as starting a movement. This very movement is what started the non-GMO project – a project where food can be grown and given to the public without the use of pesticides or genetically modified seeds. Over time, this movement grew to a considerable size, and more non-GMO products began to overtake the conventional line-up. Protests broke out in attempt to make Monsanto and their scheme made known, and pushed to pass a bill – Measure 92 in the state of Oregon, which would have “mandated the labelling of certain foodstuffs that were produced with or contained genetically modified organisms” (BallotPedia). So what’s the big deal with all this GMO and non-GMO talk?
This has become a huge debate, and in a sense, a war between the consumers, farmers, and the corporation as people took notice and cared about what they were putting into their bodies, and what they were growing. The issues come when you look at the effects it has on the human body, and even just the pure fact that harmful chemicals are being introduced when they shouldn’t be. Extensive research has shown that the “biological activity of pesticides implies that they may, if the dose if sufficiently high and if there is a means of sufficient exposure, exert toxic effects on humans” (Ritter).
For years, it was thought that these pesticides would be a safe, better alternative to having spray-on solutions, but turned out to be the exact opposite. Researchers linked diseases such as cancer, health issues like ADHD, autism, allergies, and so on with these genetically modified foods (Ekstrom & Askegaard). Some may say that these matters were here with us for a long time, and that is true. However, if you go back into history to see what life was like before the use of this concoction, allergies and such diseases did not exist, or were not nearly as bad. Even if it isn’t the main culprit for these health issues, about “two dozen studies show harmful effects, like harm to the kidneys, liver, heart, and other organs” (Paturel and Yamakawa), thus appearing as if GMOs and pesticides are responsible.
It, then, seems that GMOs are items which we humans do not need to ingest. Our bodies were made to take in wholesome, pure food – not crops where “desirable traits were selected from the numerous random genetic modifications that occur in each crop generation” (Chassy). In other words, they are foods which are manipulated and not natural like Neil deGrasse Tyson stated:
There are no wild seedless watermelons; there’s no wild cows; there’s no long-stem roses growing in the wild — although we don’t eat roses. You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself: Is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. (Tyson)
Select foods we eat have been genetically engineered to be more appealing, yes, and in some cases, they are sweeter, bigger, and more attractive, but is it all worth it when your life could be on the line?
There is, however, a light at the end of this tunnel. Yes, it is true that we have been taking in genetically modified foods now for decades, but healthier alternatives are available: non-GMO foods and items. These products bear the non-GMO label, meaning that all the ingredients used are not genetically modified by any means. More farmers and companies are also joining the act, labelling and making their foods without genetic modification. Take, for instance, farmer Scott Olde and his story:
Scott Olde is probably as far from being an anti-GMO activist as anyone could be. He has spent his life in conventional farming, growing up on an Indiana farm, studying agricultural economics at Purdue University, working for Cargill, and then returning to his family farm. A self-described conservative, Olde has doubts that genetically modified foods are harmful. Yet, Olde and his Indiana based company, Spectrum Seed, are supporting the growing non-GMO movement and have built a successful business, developing and selling non-GMO corn seed. (Roseboro)
Although he can’t find anything wrong with the conventional solution, he admits that he thinks “[pesticides] can be overused and can cause unintended consequences,” and has even heard that “people say their health changes when they eat non-GMO.” (Roseburo)
But the question still remains: why should you even care, and why should you take the effort to make the switch over?
It may not seem like that big of a deal to some people, but eating these foods containing or grown with genetically modified seeds is something you will want to avoid. Over the years, Monsanto and their representatives have been interviewed across the board, and questions regarding the issue have been brought up. Interestingly, those very people who stand and work for Monsanto refuse to consume anything they deem to be safe. For example, Monsanto advocate, Patrick Moore, goes “so far to say that humans could even drink the chemical and be absolutely fine,” but “refuses [to drink when offered some] and then storms off” (Visser, Huffington Post). Something is going on here.
Independent researchers began to take notice of this and do their own work upon this pressing issue. There is something about genetically modified foods that these corporations are hiding, and people wanted to take a look for themselves. However, a problem arises as the “permission to study GM crops is withheld or made so difficult to obtain that research is effectively blocked,” since so much money is required to do so (Fagan, GMO Myths and Truths). It seems quite clear that there is something they are trying to hide from us and keep us from knowing.
A simple step such as proceeding to consume non-GMO labelled products and food items can be a step to a brighter future. Not only will this mean a healthier diet with more wholesome, true food, but it would mean that Monsanto would be taken off the grid. By boycotting and refusing to take in conventional counterparts, this can be accomplished; it would put Monsanto out of business, thus the possibility of removing these manipulated crops and pesticides from the face of the earth. This would mean a better, more sustainable future – the way it was meant to be.
In conclusion, genetically modified foods are all around, their effects not known and thought to be harmless to the human body. These crops and foods were pleasing to the senses, but as time went on, people began to figure out just what these genetically modified foods are doing to us, causing a want for the better alternative. Our bodies don’t need fake food manipulated to please our eyes. We need real, wholesome food grown right and without the aid of chemicals. Is it worth hurting your body to have a sweeter, juicier, and more vibrant fruit to consume? It’s time for a change in the way we eat – a time for the real thing and a better future; a future without pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
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