Genetically Modified Foods: An Overview Of The Debate

I read an interesting article on the Internet the other day that was written by an agriculture graduate student at Tufts University entitled "A ‘Modified’ Debate over GMOs." The piece attempts to answer the common questions that are raised about genetically modified foods, but points out that these questions remain largely unanswered because of the debate over biotechnology that continues to rage on.

In the article, the author explains the basics of GMOs, including defining what they are, how GMOs are created through genetic engineering, and that genetic engineering is part of biotechnology. The author also states that the public regularly comes into contact with products that have been created through biotechnology every day, pointing out that biotechnology is used to brew beer, produce antibiotics, and improve food crops and livestock.

The author talks about the benefits of genetically modified foods, saying that supporters stress that GMOs are safe and an important humanitarian tool that could bring life-saving benefits to developing countries, mentioning " golden rice", a man-made rice strain that has been used to combat Vitamin A deficiency in developing nations. The author also states that GMO technology is used to increase the shelf life of crops and provide resistance to drought, disease, pesticides, and herbicides. By increasing a plant’s resistance, the author points out, supporters of genetically modified foods believe that adoption of the technology by developing nations could lead to increased crop yields, and therefore, could combat hunger.

The author also discusses the criticisms of genetically modified foods, stating that since the technology is in its relative infancy and that long-term consequences are still unclear, those against biotechnology want developers of GMO technology to halt research until more studies are conducted. The author also discusses the environmental concerns that advocacy groups continue to raise over GMOs, their fear of developing allergies from genetically modified foods, and their constant requests for mandatory labeling of biotech products.

Sure, modern biotechnology and the commercial release of genetically modified foods have been around a little over ten years, but the technology actually dates back centuries and, according to reports, even as far back as 7,000 years ago when early Mesopotamian farmers noticed which plants yielded the most food and replanted those seeds. The author should have also noted many of the countless studies over the past few years that have proven that genetically modified crops pose no health risks and are safe, including the 2005 World Health Organization study or the 2004 U.S. National Research Council report that called the fears of the critics of biotechnology and GMOs "scientifically unjustified."

The article also suggests that a more integrative approach to genetically modified foods should be required, including maintaining biodiversity and improving the socioeconomic status of individuals suffering from malnutrition, with biotechnology acting as one component of many potential solutions to addressing these problems.

Despite the fact that the genetically modified food debate between biotech industry and environmental and advocacy groups continues, I think more consumers are looking for balanced and fair information about GMOs and biotechnology and I feel this article attempts to address this need. Individuals are looking for more nutritious foods to consume in their daily lives and are seeing the benefits that genetically modified foods can provide them as well as the rest of the world.

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About The Author, Alisa Baumer
Alisa Baumer is a life sciences grant researcher and has first-hand knowledge of the latest trends in genetically modified food. To read more about Alisa go to