It has become very trendy to eat foods with the word “organic” on them. Because of this, many people stay away from foods that have been genetically modified because of health reasons, but are genetically modified foods really less healthy than organic foods? Claims such as “there are other ways to feed the world,” “GMOs cause cancer” and last, but not least, “genetically modified crops are drenched in pesticides and herbicides.” Many people have these misconceptions due to false advertising and being generally unaware of what genetically modified organisms are and what organic really means.
In a Ted Talk titled “GMO Controversies – Science vs. Public Fear,” the speaker Borut Bohanec, Chair of the Department of Agronomy and head of the Department of Genetics and Biotechnology at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, explains how genetically modified organisms, specifically in food have been around for years and pose no danger to society. “There was an article released in 2013 which stated that GMOs need to be tested more because they cause cancer, infertility and even premature death, but what does science say about that? Genetically modified food is tested more than any other food. Every evidence says it is completely safe.” Bohanec goes on to talk about how science and genetically modified organisms are not only an efficient and safe way to create food, but a necessary means if we plan to feed people by the millions.
In an article by NPR, Dan Charles examines the myths behinds genetically modified seeds. He lists the top five myths and goes on to debunk them. Seeds from GMOs are not sterile, Monsanto will not sue you for growing their patented GMOs (see myth #2) and contrary to popular belief, most seeds these days are not genetically modified. This list shows all of the crops that have a GMO counterpart. If countless studies show that GMOs pose no threat to our health or environment, why is there so much opposition to this idea of farming? DePaul University health professor, Kristen Neisler, explains why people may have this preconceived notion.
“Anytime you scientifically modify something, it causes the public’s ears to perk up,” Neisler stated. “Those that are concerned about what they put into their bodies want it to be in the most natural state it can be in from earth to mouth.”
Many times people may think that something is considered to be healthy because it is labeled as organic, but are not aware that the product could still have been sprayed with chemicals.
“Consumers do need to be aware of the varying degrees of organic classification,” Neisler said. “Terms such as ‘made with organic,’ ‘natural’ and ‘100 percent organic’ can be deceiving. For example, ‘made with’ may mean that the ingredients used in the product are organic, but it doesn’t mean that chemicals weren’t added in the process of making the food.”
This is the case for many consumers who shop for primarily organic foods. Whole Foods shopper Tina Garcia looks for organic products when completing her weekly grocery run.
“I just think that if it is organic it is safer and healthier to eat,” Garcia said. “I try to keep everything in my cart organic. It’s just a personal choice I have.”
Because this idea of organic being synonymous with healthier, many people tend to choose against genetically modified products and pay more for something just because it is labeled as organic.
“Genetically modified organisms can have benefits as they have the possibility to decrease the risk of allergens, the amount of pesticides needed and decrease the risk for diseases spread around a crop,” Neisler stated. “This creates a monopoly on the farming business, hence why organic products may cost more than products that are not labeled organic.”
Genetically modified organisms have a great potential to become a huge benefactor in the food industry, not only in America, but in impoverished nations in need of large food supplies where growing organic foods may not be a feasible option for some.