Friday, November 20, 2015

In defense of GMOs

By incorporating a gene from the larger Chinook salmon into those of Atlantic salmon, AquaAdvantage was able to breed a genetically modified salmon that grows quickly and to great size on fish farms while needing 25% less feed to do so. Last week, after a 5 year wait, federal regulators announced that the fish was fit for human consumption.

This, of course, brought out the GMO boo birds. Anti-GMO (genetically-modified organism) activists decried the decision, tossed around the “Frankenfish” moniker, and cited this as the latest development in the destruction of our world.

This is nothing new; look at the ongoing campaigns to have the feds mandate labeling of all GM foodstuff and the almost constant battering of the ag industry by those who find fault in GMOs, most often for purely unscientific reasons, saying they are the causes of everything from environmental mutations to lower intelligence.

It’s truly unfortunate that GMOs consistently come under such attacks. Yes, a few GMOs might be questionable  -- why do we have so many potentially-deadly peanut allergies in schools today when it was completely unheard of when I was a student? But, in almost all cases, GMOs have proven to be a Godsend (or more accurately “Mansend”) for humanity and the environment. 

GMO crops are everywhere and in everything. Genetic modification accounts for 95% of the US beet crop, 95% of the soy bean output and 88% of the corn grown for cattle, pigs, and chicken. Their use has allowed for much higher yields, larger and better looking fruits and vegetables, and a longer useful life for produce after harvest.

Those agricultural victories are an absolute necessity for human nourishment. Today, there are already 805 million starving people on this planet. Here in the US alone, 1 in 7 households is deemed food insecure. Without GMOs cutting deeply into those sad numbers every year and bringing people out of starvation, where would we be 20 years from now when the global population is projected to be 21% greater than it is now (8.8 billion versus 7.3 billion)?

Those same people are benefiting from advances brought about through genetic modification of crops. Consider that 250 million children in developing countries are subjected to Vitamin A deficiencies that lead to blindness among other ailments. Golden Rice, which is infused with bate-carotene, was produced to combat that. Millions of people have been saved by this GMO.

What about the world in which we all live? The anti-GMO crowd would like everyone to believe that GMOs are a scourge to the environment and a cause of global warming (what isn’t nowadays?). They are anything but. GMOs have reduced pesticide use by 10% since 1996. They allow the use of no-till farming which decreases erosion by 1 billion tons per year in the US, which also substantially decreases nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from farms. That same farming procedure also eliminates greenhouse gases – since 2012 American farmers have cut back what is equivalent to 12 million cars of the road. 

The GMO witch hunt has to stop. It benefits no one to put the fear of GMOs into consumers who already can’t make smart food choices as it is -- more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, an outcome of choosing processed foods over produce, a situation that will be compounded by the war on fresh GMO foods. Adding to that, your average consumer is incapable of telling good science from bad.

We have to let the government watchdogs and nutritionists do their jobs – as they did with the marketplace’s newest salmon -- and determine what’s safe and what’s not. In almost all cases they cannot distinguish between GMOs and non-GMOs. And, neither can your body. GMOs are safe, productive and the key to a brighter tomorrow for so many of this world’s hungry citizens.

 From the 23 November 2015 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

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