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GMO, What’s The Fuss?

Written by Dennis Sun

     GMOs (genetically modified organisms) hit the national news lately as the state of Vermont’s GMO law came into effect on July 1, and it has really created havoc with food producers.

The law will make Vermont the nation’s first state to enact a mandatory GMO labeling law.  National food companies are voluntarily applying labels to products with genetically modified ingredients, as they could face fines of up to $1,000 a day for each item that does not have the proper label. 

The scare of GMOs is out there, especially for the younger consumers. I, like most people, want to know what is in the food we buy, but for the most part, I don’t see a danger in GMOs. They have been around for a long time, from seedless grapes to vegetables that stay fresh longer.

The public really doesn’t want to accept GMOs. Tomatoes were the first genetically modified crops produced, but the public rejected them because of lack of flavor. GMO potatoes were first produced in 1996, but production was discontinued in 2001 because of consumer rejection.  So now, as of 2015 no GMO tomatoes or potatoes are in commercial production.

A number of GMO crops, like corn, soybeans or cotton, have altered genes to prevent damage from harmful bugs and pests. For the future of the human race, being able to feed the exploding populations in the coming years, GMOs done right may be one of the answers to the issue. 

Genetically modified organisms can have a positive impact for both producers and consumers. From an economic standpoint, GMOs can increase crop yields, making farmers more efficient. This could also help the small acreage farmer who wants to sell locally to farmers’ markets or restaurants.  These increases in yield can be a result of a broad range of genetic advantages bred into the crop. For instance, a variety of lettuce that has heightened resistance to cold and frost could mean that the farmer is able to retain a greater production after an early frost. 

Another great example of genetic modification proving worthwhile to both consumers and producers is the use of grape rootstock from America in vineyards during the late 19th century. After shipping rootstock to Europe from America, an outbreak of a highly aggressive aphid called Phylloxera, decimated European vineyards. After noticing that the American vineyards were not nearly as susceptible to the insect, wine makers started grafting their vines onto New World roots. As a result, the European market was able to almost fully recover from the outbreak. I knew you would like that one. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it clear that the use of genetic engineering in foods has not presented safety concerns and that the agency does not see a need for GMO disclosure on food packaging. But, some say a lack of definitive scientific data regarding safety concerns is problematic. It has turned into an emotional nightmare for some, and we are never going to change their minds. There are some good in GMOs, but there may be some that are going to make us question them. It is going to take some education, patience and truthful comments for this nation’s consumers to buy in.  Studies have shown that the upper classes will read the labels, but for the poor and hungry, food is food. We owe it to those folks to make sure their food doesn’t harm them.