Dangers of Genetically Modified Crops

Taylor Beberman: David Gould "Genetically Modified Tomatoes" March 14, 2013

Taylor Beberman: David Gould “Genetically Modified Tomatoes” March 14, 2013

Genetically modified foods are dangerous to all species and the environment because of the new chemicals introduced to the crops and their unknown health risks, the lack of regulation during the process and in labeling by the government, and the unimaginable environmental effects from cross contamination.

The Institute for Responsible Technology defines GMO’s as “the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic.” David Gould’s image above depicts the genetic modification process of natural products (tomatoes) by the unknown syringe chemical injections. Since the tomatoes look perfectly normal even with the unknown chemicals it can be concluded that if GMOs enter the market on a large scale, it will be difficult to recognize the differences between actual natural products and products that have undergone genetic alterations. This image does not show where the injections are coming from and what chemicals are inside the syringes. The use of new chemicals could have dangerous effects on humans through potential toxins and allergens.

If genetically modified foods contain dangerous chemicals and allergens, they can cause major health risks. In the 1980’s, about 100 Americans were killed and thousands experienced sickness and disability from L-tryptophan, a contaminated brand of food supplement.(Institute) The source of the contaminants was most likely, if not definitely, a result of the genetic medication process. The new disease took several years to find and was difficult to pinpoint the source. The symptoms were unique, acute and fast-acting which helped doctors detect the unusual source of the disease. “If GM foods on the market are causing common diseases or if their effects appear only after long-term exposure, we may not be able to identify the source of the problem for decades, if at all.” (Institute). The widespread of diseases and allergens will be difficult to find and even more difficult to treat, putting all humans consuming GM foods health at risk.


Geneticist David Suzuki, Canada’s foremost environmental conscience, in his interview talks about how there is no possible way to ensure GM crops are harmless or to predict the outcome of the gene modifications. He then suggested that the core issue with the regulation of GMOs is that they cannot be looked at the same way as natural products, he says “the problem is this, see its very, very bad science, we assume that the principles governing the inheritance of genes vertically applies when you move genes laterally or horizontally. There is absolutely no reason to make that conclusion, we have got to do much more experimentation.” Suzuki explained that normally geneticists go vertically down gene inheritance diagrams to understand the genetic makeup of organisms, but with alterations the inheritance is horizontal and from all over, making the genetics of the organism unpredictable and difficult to regulate.

“Industry developed genetically engineered (GE) crops and introduced them to the market with the promise of higher crop yields, but the only things that have increased are the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides, the number of resistant weeds and bugs, contaminated crops and chemical industry profits”(Label). The increasing use of herbicides on crops has led to the development of “superweeds.” These superweeds have become an epidemic on farms around the country because they cannot be killed since they have evolved to withstand the chemicals engineered to kill him.(Label) The most common superweeds are resistant to the chemical glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup. Today over 61.2 million acres of US farms have weeds that are resistant to Roundup(Label). Roundup is produced by the company Monsanto that sells the seeds to farmers and then gives them stronger pesticides to use. This dangerous cycle does not lead to any positive outcomes.

Taylor Beberman: Chris Kelly 1999 Monsanto Comic Strip

Taylor Beberman: Chris Kelly 1999 Monsanto Comic Strip

The comic strip above by Chris Kelly shows how Monsanto seems friendly and good intentioned by seeming proud of the GM crops they produce but deny the request to label the foods. Since GM foods are not natural and have been engineered, many errors and mutations could trigger new allergens or promote the spreading of a disease. The lack of labeling GM foods presents many health risks to the consumer and potential allergens and diseases would be overlooked.  (Institute) Suzuki said, “So much of it has been slipped into our food without any public discussion or awareness.”  Labels are necessary because they will give the consumer necessary knowledge about to product and give them the power to prevent unknown consequences on their own health.

As humans, we have a right to know what we are consuming and according to Just Label It, “more than 90% of Americans support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods”(Label). Without labeling it is impossible to make informed choices about products and know what you are consuming. The Just Label It campaign advocates for the labeling of all GM foods. This campaign believes that it is the responsibility of the American government to require labeling and to be more engaged in the genetic modification process to assess the potential risks of the foods. The campaign challenges the importance the government places on the citizens’ of the United States overall health and well-being.

Cross-contamination is another huge issue with genetically modified plants and crops. Seeds and pollen from GM crops drift to non-GM crops and affect the non-GM crop’s genetic makeup thus forever altering the organism. It is impossible to prevent the cross-contamination because it naturally spreads through wind, insects, waterways and machinery(Label). Since cross-contamination cannot be stopped, the effects of the GM crops can have dangerous effects on entire ecosystems. If the herbicides entered waterways then the water supply and marine life would be affected. What is already known about environmental risks of GM crops and the unknown future consequences proves that GM foods are not a risk worth taking.

The lack of labeling, potential health risks from diseases and allergens and irreversible environment effects lead to the conclusion that genetically modified foods are not safe and the risks associated with them are too great.

Gould, David. “Genetically Modified Food Tomatoes Syringes Photo.” Digital Image. Sense & Sustainability: Fresh Perspectives on Sustainable Development,14 May 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. http://www.senseandsustainability.net/2013/03/14/when-is-patent-law-like-environmental-law/genetically-modified-food-tomatoes-syringes-photo/

Just Label It!. Just Label It Campaign, 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. http://justlabelit.org/

Kelly, Chris. “Monsanto Cartoon.” Comic Strip. GMO Cartoons. Inspiration Green,  1999. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. http://www.inspirationgreen.com/monsanto-cartoons-and-posters.html

Responsible Technology. The Institute for Responsible Technology, 2006. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/

Ustun, Ahmet. “David Suzuki Speaks Out Against Genetically Modified Food.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 2013 Apr. 20. Web. 03 Dec. 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mBF1OOPdTo
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