Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Labeled? Essay Sample

Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Labeled? Essay Sample

Do people really know what they are eating? How many Americans have even the slightest clue as to what they are actually putting into their bodies? The answer may be quite alarming, and something needs to be done to stop the madness before the inevitable train wreck. It is no wonder that, as a whole, Americans are fatter, more diseased, and unhappier than ever before. Perhaps we have genetically modified foods to thank for our relatively recent trend. Although the subject does not get enough press coverage, awareness needs to be raised and genetically modified (or GM) foods need to be labeled as such so that American consumers have the right to choose what they are putting into their bodies.

What exactly is a genetically modified food? According to the World Health Organization’s website, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.” (“20 questions…”) In order to understand the depth of what this means, let’s first take a brief look into the history of how genetically modified foods got their start.

During World War II, University of Chicago’s Professor E.J. Kraus developed Agent Orange, an herbicide used, innocently enough at first, to kill overgrowth of foliage. However, it was soon discovered that Agent Orange was a deadly neurotoxin. After the Vietnam Conflict, the chemical composition of Agent Orange was modified to become an effective pesticide, known as DDT. In the film, “The Future of Food,” there is a propaganda poster shown, stating “DDT is good for meeeeeee!” (“The Future of Food”) No one yet knew the health risks that would stem from the use of DDT as an herbicide sprayed on the plants that would become our food sources.

One problem emerged rather quickly, and that was, although DDT (also known as Lasso) was very effective at killing unwanted foliage, it also killed crops. According to the article, Lasso, produced by Monsanto, came under fire for its potential safety risks. Therefore, Monsanto reformulated their herbicide and began calling it “Roundup.” (Monsanto: A History) This reworking, however, did not solve the problem of it killing viable crops.

To solve the problem, and save the crops, Monsanto developed a genetically altered plant seed and named it “Roundup Ready.” This would mean that farmers would be able to spray crops, effectively killing weeds and not harming their crops. It would seem that the fact that Monsanto had become the primary company for producing both the seeds for crops and the herbicides used along with the seeds would go unnoticed by many, and ignored by others.

There appears to be a conflict of interest in this scenario, because if one company is running everything, there is nothing to keep them honest. While the original idea may have been out of genuine concern, it quickly turned into a large profit for the Monsanto Corporation. Less crops dying meant higher yield, which translated into more profit for the corporation. Monsanto’s stance on the use of genetically modified foods is solely for the benefit of our world, as we can feed more people at a much lower cost than traditional farming as well as produce food that is better for our health and more nutritious. (“Why Does Ag…”)

When asked if their genetically modified food products are safe, Monsanto answers,

‘Yes, food derived from authorized genetically-modified (GM) crops is as safe as conventional (non-GM-derived) food. The first large acreage plantings of GM crops–herbicide tolerant soybeans and canola–took place in 1996 after successfully passing U.S. regulatory review. Since then, additional GM crops with herbicide tolerance, insect tolerance and virus resistance have been given clearance for planting and consumption. These include varieties of corn, sugar beets, squash and papaya. All of these crops have been assessed for food and feed safety in producing countries, and many more countries have approved the import of food or food ingredients that contain GM products. Hundreds of millions of meals containing food from GM crops have been consumed. There has not been a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with GM crops”

Although Monsanto makes these claims, there is astounding evidence that says otherwise. To begin, not nearly enough research has been done to determine the safety or long term effects of the consumption of genetically modified foods.