GMO's: A Threat to Society

Keep Genetically Modified Food Out of Our Pantries

Health Risks

Some people, including children, are highly allergic to peanuts and other foods. Some critics of GM foods feel the possibility exists that those genetically modifying food crops may unintentionally introduce a new allergen. Another potential hazard to human health is the possibility that bacteria in our guts could pick up antibiotic-resistance genes found in many GM foodstuffs. If this transfer happens, in principle it could exacerbate the already worrisome spread of disease-causing bacteria that have proven able to withstand our antibiotics.

Hurts Small Farmers

Critics of GM agriculture insist that patenting genetically altered crops, as agribusiness is rushing to do, will make small farmers indentured to big firms. Some fear that GM crops might prove too expensive for poor farmers in developing countries, thus further widening the gap between rich and poor, or that they could repeat an often unspoken side effect of the Green Revolution. Even if farmers in developing countries don't grow GM crops, they could still be hurt by them. If GM technology enables the industrial North to raise crops it traditionally imported from the developing South, it could take a heavy toll on Southern farmers. GM crops will also further our reliance on vast monocultures, objectors state. Lacking insurance, farmers of monocultures are vulnerable to lethal attacks by disease and pests. GM monocultures will possess similar susceptibilities. If pests evolve tolerance to a crop's built-in insecticide, say, or if weeds develop immunity to weed killers sprayed over fields of herbicide-resistant GM plants, that crop -- and the people who count on it -- could suffer.

Harms the Environment

Many critics believe we're opening a Pandora's lunchbox with GM technology, that raising GM crops is an uncontrolled experiment with unknown consequences for surrounding ecosystems. Remember, they admonish, the ravages of the now-banned pesticide DDT. Or PCBs. Or dioxin. Or leaded gas. One of their greatest worries is that GM crops could harm other wildlife. By the same token, they also predict the evolution of 'super weeds' that become immune to a broad-spectrum weed killer after crossing with and assuming the herbicide-resistant gene from a closely related GM plant. GM crops themselves can become weeds, they note.

Goes Against Nature

Many opponents of the genetic revolution -- whether it involves sequencing the human genome, owning genetic material, or devising GM crops -- pronounce that fiddling with the genetic makeup of plants and animals is unnatural. Many argue we do not, and that such acts are immoral.

Potential Risks to people or Nature

GM seed firms invest heavily in research and development, and naturally, they want to recoup their investment. But in their rush to secure patents and reap profits, critics contend, big biotech firms are deliberately over-promoting the benefits of GM technology and underestimating possible health, socioeconomic, and environmental hazards.

Poor Oversight and Regulation

Anti-GM food activists have leveled much of their ire at the United States, which produces the bulk of the world's GM foods. Biotech firms, detractors maintain, have been developing and deploying GM crops too quickly and too broadly, without adequate testing or public debate. And the three government bodies that oversee the industry are too lax in their scrutiny and regulation, they say. Even a new FDA plan announced in early 2001 to review new GM foods for safety falls far short of the current surveillance of food additives, critics say.