Even though it has been a log standing feud, over the years the debate on farming GMO v/s Organic food has intensified. So, let’s get to know a little more about GMO and Organic foods and farming, and how it affects each one of us individually and the world on a larger scale.
WHAT ARE GMOS?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms”. Genetically modified foods have certain molecules added or removed from the DNA of the food product to enhance it in some way. A gene is inserted into the organism of the food that it normally wouldn’t have. These genes are usually from a virus or bacteria and it’s designed to alter the way food is grown.
GMO foods are most commonly created to provide a higher nutritional value to food and to also make it resistant to pests.
Pros of GMO Foods
While it may seem unnatural to alter or add organisms into food products, there are a few benefits to it:
- It costs less to produce GMO foods
- Fewer weeds invade the crop
- Provides a sweeter taste to fruits
Cons of GMO Foods
As with all things unnatural, there come a few downsides:
- Many plants are now producing bacterial toxins leading to resistant bugs
- Superweeds have been discovered that resist normal herbicides
- Humans are consuming these harmful bacteria and toxins
- GMOs are a new food source to humans which causes allergic reactions to some people
- In rare cases, cancer is found because of the altered chemicals in food products
WHAT ARE ORGANIC FOODS?
Organic products are foods free of any harmful chemicals, synthetic herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, drug residues, and neurotoxins.
They are almost always more expensive than GMO foods because they require more care to produce and they need to be certified. Pesticides must also be organically approved before use which drives the cost up even higher.
So, is it worth it to purchase organic over GMO foods?
Pros of Organic Foods
- No pesticides can be used when growing organic foods.
- Round-up cannot be used with organic crops. Round-up is a common herbicide used to kill off weeds.
- Organic crops don’t use hexane. Hexane is a neurotoxin used in common vegetable oils like soybean, canola, and corn.
Cons of Organic Foods
While it may seem like a healthier alternative to adopt a strictly organic food diet, there are some downsides to it:
- Organic foods are significantly more expensive than GMO or non-GMO foods.
- Not all food stores have a wide selection of organic foods. Going to your local farmers market rather than a grocery store may be a better option.
- Easily goes bad. Organic foods have a shorter shelf life compared to GMO foods so they must be consumed relatively soon after purchase
- Higher bacteria levels. Since there are very little to no pesticides and herbicides used on organic foods, the consumption of organic foods has been linked to an increased risk of e-Coli bacteria in the digestive system.
As seen in the above facts, it is a difficult battle between the two methods. But, could the solution lie in integrating the benefits of both?
Conventional agriculture has a history of depleting the soil and polluting waterways with contaminated runoff. But there is a growing recognition that such practices are not sustainable—short term yields may be higher with conventional methods, but organic methods may hold the key to maintaining high levels of productivity indefinitely into the future. Neither system is likely to succeed on its own.
Perhaps the moral of the GMO saga is that we need to start seeing the trees for the forest and acknowledge the ways crop biotechnology can be beneficial, while continuing to condemn its current harmful applications. Rather than let the technology remain a cash cow for a few multinational corporations, by encouraging non-commercial genetic engineering research that is aligned with the principles of organic farming, perhaps there is hope for a more resilient food system that could feed the world sustainably.