Today I was asked to fill out an online survey for a friend for her class. I got to a question that asked what I thought about GM foods. I thought “oh General Mills, I love Honey Nut Cheerios!” Apparently, I am out of the loop and didn’t know that GM food stands for genetically modified food. I knew that there was genetically modified food, but I didn’t know about the acronym or the pros and cons. I decided to investigate. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is produced when genes are combined from different organisms through recombinant DNA technology. GMOs are not only food but also medicines, vaccines, feeds, and fibers .
Last year, the UK’s Soil Association published a report citing numerous studies that show that, unlike the proponents claims, GM crops actually have no higher yields than their conventional counterparts. And often their enhancements, like insect-resistance or weed control, actually lower crop yields. I realize that an organization that prides itself in being “the UK’s leading environmental charity promoting sustainable, organic farming and championing human health” may not be the most unbiased source on GM foods.
I sought out more information and found that the Human Genome Project Information online discusses GMOs. In 2006, the US grew 53% of the world’s genetically modified crops, about 133 million acres. Most of these crops were soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, and alfalfa that were modified to be herbicide- and insect-resistant. The country with the next highest GM crop growth was Argentina with 17% of the world total, so the US is winning by quite a large margin .
According to the information on the site, the pros of GM foods are that they have increased nutrients, yields, stress tolerance, and disease/pest/herbicide resistance. They claim GM foods increase food security for growing populations, which is definitely needed in places like India and China. The cons are that there are unknown human health and environmental impacts. People aren’t sure how health will be affected in the long run and how other organisms are impacted by the GMOs. The topic raises many ethical issues including whether GM foods should be labeled (which they are not in the US) .
It’s not clear to me yet whether GM foods are a good or bad thing, however, I’d like to know if the food I’m eating is GM, not because I won’t eat it, but because I want to be informed. Labeling would allow consumers to see what foods are GM foods and what their alternatives are.
 Human Genome Project Information
 Soil Association