April 16, 2013
Food For Thought – A Few Disadvantages of Genetic Engineering
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
While there are many advantages to the ability to modify genes, there are also a number of genetic engineering disadvantages. However, unlike the pros — such as super-sized strawberries, drought-proof corn or fungus-resistant soybeans — the cons of genetically engineered foods are sometimes a little harder to spot.
For starters, according to Washington Post columnist Dr. Peter Lind, genetically modified organisms (GMO) have proven inferior to their naturally occurring counterparts in terms of overall quality.
“In every case of genetic engineered organisms, the product has been less naturally healthy overall than the original host organisms,” he wrote in a March editorial. “There may be a single trait that is superior, but the overall health of the organism is less than found in nature. From animals like the sheep Dolly, to the Flavr Savr tomato, to the products you are eating today and don´t even know it, there are inherent problems consuming altered DNA.”
Another of the principle genetic engineering disadvantages that Lind points out derives from the fact that DNA does not always fully break down during human digestion. This means that there is a chance that the bacteria in our intestines could incorporate parts of the genetically modified plants´ DNA — such as the gene for super-resistance — into their own, leading to new strains of super-bacteria.
Columnist Mark Bittman from the New York Times breaks down another unintended effect of genetic engineering in his recent column criticizing President Barack Obama´s recent signing of the Monsanto Protection Act.
Monsanto has long been cited as being one of the biggest problems with genetic engineering. The agricultural company not only created a highly effective weed killer in RoundUp — it also inadvertently engineered plants that are resistant to it. While RoundUp and the plants´ resistance to it have been a big financial hit for the company, they have also resulted in the emergence of several “super weeds” that are resistant to the herbicide.
Bittman argues that genetic engineering is a disadvantage in this case because after all the effort that went into developing the products and the extensive use of RoundUp — which could have potentially leaked the stuff into the groundwater — Monsanto and farmers have ended up right back where they started: fighting weeds.
According to the Times´ columnist, unnecessary waste is one of the biggest problems with genetic engineering, and the Monsanto Protection Act, which prevents the Department of Agriculture from stopping the production of GMOs once they are in the ground, only exacerbates the problem.
“Genetic engineering has its problems,” Bittman wrote in early April. “Like nuclear power, it may someday become safe and productive or — again like nuclear power — it may become completely unnecessary. Our job as citizens is to support the production of energy and food by the most sustainable and least damaging methods scientists can devise.