Recently there has been a push to label food as GMO or non-GMO. Genetically modified organisms have been altered by genetic engineering, often to make them resistant to diseases and increase crop yield. Unfortunately this push is based on faulty science, similar to the small but vocal opposition to vaccines. Since GMO is not widely understood by the public, this anti-GMO push has stigmatized an important scientific advancement that has made crops safer for consumption and increased crop yield.
GMOs were first developed in 1971, and now 70 percent of packaged food products in North America contain it. This includes 93 percent of canola, 88 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy. Most of our farmed animals are fed GMO feeds.
The scientific community recognized that doubling or tripling of world food, feed and fiber production could not be achieved without biotechnology. However, opponents cite debunked claims that GMO foods are harmful to human health, based on articles that are not peer-reviewed nor published in reputable journals. Yet thousands of independent studies found that GMOs are safe.
The irony is that GMOs are safer to eat than traditional crops and better for the environment because GMOs require less pesticides and are resistant to diseases. Unlike GMOs, pesticides have been found to pose a wide range of health hazards. Without GMOs, farmers must either use pesticides or risk crop failure.
Illustrating the absurdity of the non-GMO push, Evolution Salt Co. recently labeled one of its products non-GMO to better compete in the market. Any middle schooler can tell you that salt has no genes, thus cannot be genetically modified. Similarly, Austin-based Whole Foods Market aims to label all of its food products as GMO or non-GMO by 2018. Yet, even Whole Foods does not provide evidence that GMOs are harmful for consumers.
Despite this recent unscientific push to label food as GMO or non-GMO, this University does not use such labels. “At this point in time, there is no plan to label food as GMO, unless required by the government,” according to UT Division of Housing and Food Service dietitian Lindsay Wilson. This University, as well as its students, need to take a stand against this unscientific push that, if successful, will be detrimental to human health and food security. First it’ll be labels, then opponents will seek to ban production of GMO crops, which would lead to severe food shortages around the world.
Opponents may compare GMO to “Brave New World,” but the reality of a non-GMO world is more like “Interstellar,” where crops succumbing to diseases nearly starved the human race. Labeling food may seem insignificant at first, but if it stigmatizes genetic modification of crops and discourages people from buying GMO food, the same fate may befall other scientific advancements.
Hung is a second-year law student from Brownsville.