Understanding GMs: Five Genetically Modified Food Myths, Debunked

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

GM Means Haphazardly Crossbred Food

One of the most common misconceptions about genetically modified food is that most are just product of imprecise crossbreeding of different crop species. This is untrue. Scientists don’t just randomly select different species of plants together and wait to see what kind of Frankenfood they unleash to the world.

The fact is, genetic engineering is all about selection the right genes and introducing them to the subject species. Every experiment goes through rigorous testing to ensure the desired results.

Most of the crops produced today naturally occurred thousands of years ago through chance interbreeding or as hybrids. For example, the regular wheat that we consume today is a product of a hybrid specie borne out of three different types of wild wheat! So in some ways, Mother Nature was the first person to modify the genetics of certain foodstuff.

GM is The Answer to World Hunger

… not so according to genetic engineers themselves. Breeding and interbreeding requires careful selection and evaluation, there are many conditions that are involved in developing hybrid food.  There are certain rules and regulations that have to be met before introducing a specific kind of hybrid plant species to farmers. Genetic engineers need to control the genes, evaluate their performance in certain environments and ensure GMs have great tolerance to certain diseases.

Sure, GM could be the start towards securing food worldwide in the future but because GM technologies today is in its infancy, we’re not about to solve famine across the world by harvesting genetically modified food any time soon.

GM is Damaging to The Environment

Here’s a shocker, contrary to popular belief that GM crops are harmful to the environment, it’s actually the exact opposite.

According to research, because GM crops are often resistant to certain diseases and pests, farmers no longer need to use pesticides and insecticides. If the need for pesticides and insecticides is minimized, there will be less emission of greenhouse gasses, there will be more biodiversity on the land and human safety will also improve radically.

GM is not only eco-friendly, it’s also safer for human consumption because there is less chemicals contaminating the crops. GM cotton, for instance, is so resistant against insects that naturally prey on such crops that it reduces pesticide use by 80%. GM crops’ agricultural benefits also including less soil degradation, efficient usage of water and light, and improved yields.

GM Crops are Not Safe For Human Consumption

GM crops are not Frankenfood. It took years of research and testing to complete a single successful interbreeding of crops. There’s no funky chemicals used to developed hybrid crops. GM crops are mostly developed to improve existing crop plants, minimizing their vulnerability to ensure better yields, such as making the crops tolerant against pests or enhance food quality. Think of modifying plant genes as fine-tuning a certain plant, making small changes to its genes that are already present to make it even more beneficial for consumption as well as to minimize farmers’ dependence on chemicals to protect the crops from pests.

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