GMOs will be the future of agriculture

Despite criticism from many environmental groups, there are many benefits of GMO use.

Anant Naik

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union’s executive branch, recently fired an EU scientific adviser because of her professional opinion that genetically modified foods, or GMOs, can benefit our food consumption. This decision came after Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, well-known environmental groups in Europe, pressured the president.

This is a sad day for science. If a scientist — especially one who advises a governing entity — has a professional opinion, governments don’t have to implement it into policy. However, they must respect it. More specifically, I think this incident speaks for the strong feelings people have against the concept of GMOs. Still, I would argue that many of the fears that people have about GMOs are baseless.

Criticism of GMOs generally revolves around certain areas like corporations making them and their nutrition and health effects.

Critics argue that organizations like Monsanto have a monopoly on genetically modified seeds. This means that in cases of contamination and in planting seeds, Monsanto-contracted farmers are strapped to the organization’s stringent regulations.

Non-Monsanto farms are frequently contaminated for reasons that farmers can do little about, like wind spreading the seeds. As a result, when companies find their contaminated seeds in farmers’ land, they often force farmers to pay large amounts of money in fines.

As unfortunate as this is, it isn’t a byproduct of GMOs. It’s a product of the corporations that make them. But the impact of the crops themselves may not be all negative.

The National Research Council found in 2010 that the benefits of growing GMOs far outweigh the harms. The study found that many pesticides were no longer needed once farmers started to use GMO crops. This cuts costs in important ways. Cutting pesticides and insecticides is environmentally important as well. Countries like India and Brazil have empirically observed environmental benefits like improved soil and water quality.

GMOs are a relatively new advancement in agriculture, and many people fear what they don’t know.

This technology hasn’t existed for a long time, so long-term studies would be hard to do. However, the data we currently have seems to indicate that many GMOs are able to improve the nutritional capacity of crops. So far, scientists have created carrots high in calcium and tomatoes high in antioxidants.

The future possibilities are seemingly endless.

Additionally, the potential for medical applications is also exciting. Scientists are currently developing bananas to carry the vaccine for Hepatitis B, allowing the administration of vaccines in otherwise difficult or inaccessible locations. Doctors in many countries have already administered edible vaccines, which are incredibly cost-effective.

As more and more criticism targets GMOs, we must realize that these crops have important benefits. Instead of holding this technology back like in the EU, we should support it and allow agriculture to move forward.