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03-Mar-2015

The Pros and Cons of GMOs The story of genetic modification of organisms is not a new one. Man has been altering his environment and the living organisms in it for thousands of years. I’ll agree that these early interactions are a long way from the abilities we have today, but modifying living organisms to meet human wants and needs is not new.


What is new are the tools and abilities that applied science has brought to the table. This has allowed us to make advancements in plant and animal development that we thought impossible just a generation ago.


Naturally, some controversy comes along with any type of new development. The speed of these changes, the high level of acceptance in production agriculture, and the growing consumer movement to know how their food is produced, has led to the current controversy of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) vs. Non-GMOs.


As an agriculture instructor, I have the opportunity to bring this discussion into many of the classes I teach. I do my best to inform the students and discuss with them the supported facts that each side presents when trying to make their case.


Although I have an opinion on several aspects of the discussion, it is just that, an opinion. It is no more important than the opinions of the students or yours, as the reader of this article. I do encourage every student to become an informed consumer, so they can form an educated opinion and make purchases from the grocery aisles they feel comfortable with.


I often find a simple listing of the pros and cons of a topic can help one to become more informed. Please keep in mind that the follow list of GMO pros and cons of GMOs is a limited list, but does contain some of the major points for both sides of the debate.


PROS

Disease and Insect Resistance Some plants and animals have been genetically engineered to resist attacks from specific pests which results in the use of less pesticides on crops.


Drought Tolerant Crops Crops that survive with limited water have been developed. Allowing the production of crops in arid areas of the world, where food security is an issue, to become possible.


Nutrient Enhanced Crops Crops such as Golden Rice, a rice that is high in the Vitamin A precursor beta carotene, have been developed. This development can save lives in areas of the world where rice is the mainstay in the diet.


CONS

Resistant Weeds and Insects Due to the continued use of specific pesticides on genetically modified crops, weeds resistant to these pesticides have developed. This results in producers increasing pesticide application rates to try controlling the resistant weeds. There has been some evidence of a similar happening in the insect area.


Allergic Reactions Due to genetic engineering, some plants, for example, may contain a protein that normally would not have been present. If a person allergic to this protein were to consume this plant or a product made from this plant, they could have an allergic reaction, not realizing this protein was present.


Genetic / Gene Transfer There is concern that the modified genes of a GMO would somehow make its way into the wild. This fear is based on pollen moving from GMO crops to non-GMO crops. It is also a concern that animals, such as some farm raised, genetically modified trout, could escape and get into the wild.


About the Author

Brad Lang
Agribusiness Instructor, Central Community College
Brad grew up in southeast Nebraska. He earned a bachelor's degree in animal science and agricultural economics from UNL and a master's degree in business and technology from UNK. He has been an instructor at CCC for 26 years.


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