Written By Tara Palazuelos
Have you ever been in the supermarket deciding between whether you should opt for the locally grown, organic apple that, for some reason, looks like the ugly stepsister to that big, juicy, perfectly glossed fake looking Honeycrisp in your hand? You know that you should opt for the “organic” label, but you’re still unsure why you’d pay more for a less appealing product. This difference in produce could be due to the changing technology in food production and the growth of using genetic modification. But wait – what exactly are GMO foods and why are they “bad”? The World Health Organization categorizes genetically modified foods as foods produced from or using genetically modified organisms (unnatural genetic alterations). The biotechnology that is used to modify the aforementioned organisms is chiefly to improve crop production and create a product with a higher nutritional value and greater yield. In fact most of the GM crops on the market aim to protect food production from insects, viruses, etc. as well as add nutritional benefits. So why are so many people adamantly against these genetically modified foods? Why do so many people opt for only organic produce? Are they dangerous? This is where it gets tricky…
Genetically modified foods offer many benefits, including helping increase the efficiency of food production and providing nutritionally enriched foods. Many even argue that crops such as golden rice could be a step in the fight to end world hunger. However, all that glitters is not gold… Genetically modified crops can contribute to the lack of biodiversity, lack of food security through outcrossing and gene transfers. These are all prevalent concerns when it comes to genetically modified foods. Unfortunately, there is not a fail safe when it comes to this technology and one of the biggest environmental concerns that arises is outcrossing where the gm accidentally contaminate organic and unmodified and wild crops. This compromises the safety of food production and increases the risk of these crops overtaking an area and decreasing the biodiversity. There have also been issues with the company Monsanto. Monsanto is an agrochemical company that is criticized for allowing capitalistic incentives to ethically corrupt them and are dubbed as the creators of “Frankenfood”. The biggest issue is that they launched seeds in the 90’s that would yield better crops- however, the farmers would not be able to save the seeds after the harvest and would have to continue to repurchase them year after year. On the other hand, gm foods may also hold the key in the fight against world hunger. Due to the advancement of technologies, one can offer gm foods that have higher yields and enhanced nutritional value to starving, malnourished nations. Golden rice is a prime example. The yellow tinged rice is fortified with vitamin A and can decrease the amount of blindness deficiency, and deaths in undeveloped countries. GM foods are also physically safe for humans and aren’t contaminated with allergens.
Whew… that’s a lot, so what about organic foods? Why don’t we just push for more organic food? An exclusively organic diet might be ideal because of a higher quality, but it isn’t always practical for many individuals and certainly isn’t economically feasible for a big part of the world despite the fact that it’s maybe the better option or the environment. The modern food industry provides so many options when it comes to consumable produce all labeled differently, from organic, locally grown, natural, non-gmo, etc …it can get overwhelming and may discourage consumers from really being mindful about what they are purchasing. However, I urge you to take the time to look at your options, because we are fortunate enough to have options, maybe you’ll find that it’s worth it to spend a little more on the locally sourced organic produce when doing your grocery shopping. After all, an ethically conscious meal has got to taste pretty dang sweet. So, with all of this in mind what do you choose the organic natural Honeycrisp or the Snow White looking apple that looks about as real as a staged fruit basket?