Disadvantages Of Genetically Modified Food

Disadvantages Of Genetically Modified Food
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


The disadvantages of genetically modified food can be pretty depressing. I mention occasionally that I avoid GM food, and I usually get questions about it when I do.

A lot of people aren’t clear on what exactly genetically modified food is. Very simply, it’s food that’s been changed on a genetic level through genetic engineering. The process usually involves splicing in a gene from a different species of plant or animal to take advantage of certain traits.

Hybridization causes some confusion here, since it’s also a way of breeding plants (or animals) for certain traits. The difference is that hybrid food is created through cross-breeding two plants into a second generation. Genetic modification is done directly in the DNA of a seed.

The main benefits producers are going for in genetically modifying food plants is a resistance to pesticides and herbicides, better tolerance of extreme weather conditions (like drought), longer shelf lives, and an increase of certain nutrients (like vitamin A-infused rice).

That all sounds good on paper, but there are some serious disadvantages of genetically modified food. The most blatant one is that this GM seeds are already in widespread use in the industrial agriculture food chain without having had long-term testing.

They only started small scale experiments in the late 1980’s, and large scale operations started in the late 1990’s. The future effects on our health, our environment and the sustainability of our food crops aren’t easy to predict in the best of times, but GM foods and crops throw a real curveball in the mix.

{jumi [files/includes/youtube.php] [Piw6n6ppVFc]}

Because they are a fundamentally new organism, there’s a lot of speculation that GM foods are treated as allergens – foreign invaders – by our bodies. There’s also the potential of splicing in a gene that is a natural allergen.

The disadvantages of genetically modified food don’t stop at health and environmental concerns. There are some serious social justice issues, where farmers in developing nations (and even those in rich countries) are generating massive profits for large corporations without any gains for themselves. In fact, lots of farmers in India kill themselves because they just can’t see a way out of the downward spiral of paying for seeds that require paying for pesticides and fertilizers and machinery, then paying for more seeds and now having to pay for irrigation systems because their land is drying out…

Now, that’s just a quick overview of the disadvantages of genetically modified food. I don’t really like to dwell too long on the negative side of things, but sometimes it’s important to know why you don’t do certain things. What I much prefer looking at is the positive side of what you can do instead.

If you look at the benefits of GM crops, there isn’t a need to use genetic modification to get them. Organic methods of growing food are about making plants optimally healthy, so that they don’t need pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. Growing healthy plants from healthy soil also makes for higher nutrient levels, and getting a variety of healthy foods is a better way of getting nutrients than protein-enhanced sweet potatoes or vitamin A-enhanced rice.

Growing food in polycultures (lots of different types of plants together) rather than massive monocultures (like the enormous fields of corn or soy beans you see all over North America), and using different varieties of plants brings biodiversity that can better withstand extreme environmental conditions. It’s like building diversity in your investment portfolio – having a wide variety of stocks helps lessen the impact of one or a few companies crashing.

Local food systems make shelf life less of an issue. Besides, do you really want to eat rice that could last for a few years? When the farmers are the ones who are starving, there is something seriously wrong in our food supply chain.

My main question is this: If there are so many unknowns and disadvantages of genetically modified food, why don’t we put our efforts into better solutions – ones that address the root of the issues?

The best way to avoid the disadvantages of genetically modified food is to grow your own – and if you don’t have space or time for a vegetable garden, a jar of sprouts on the windowsill is still awesome. If you need pointers, you can watch me show just how easy it is to grow alfalfa sprouts at home.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


vegan taster meal plan + quick start guide

Download Free