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GMOs Heroes


18 March 2014 GMOs Heroes North Carolina Museum of Science 123 Hillsborough Street Dear Ms. Chung, I.

Statement of Problem GMOs are potentially dangerous to the environment and human health. While studies

have been conducted to prove that they are indeed harmless, many tests lack the sufficient evidence and research for this conclusion to be made. For some time now, the scientific community has dispelled any cases that find GMOs harmful and denounced them stating that it is ‘flawed research.’ The fact of the matter is that the studies that show GMOs are safe are biased and often industry-linked. Scientists have requested for further research and risk assessment of geoengineering in food after seeing it has caused animals such as rats and Monarch larvae to die after exposure; unfortunately, this request has been repeatedly denied.

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Purpose of Study GMOs have not been sufficiently tested for long-term effects on humans and the

environment. My colleague and I have observed several case studies such as the Monarch larvae experiment as well as the effects on rats, which were concluded that GMOs proved to be harmful to these organisms. If GM food has not been properly tested, it should not be available for sale on the market yet it has been, unlabeled, for years now. Awareness of the controversial GMO issue must be raised, as well as all sides of the argument for the public, to know. III.

Research Questions / Hypothesis For the purpose of this study, the following questions were addressed: i.

Are GMOs a health concern to human health or the environment?


What are the benefits of genetically modified products?


Why are studies proving GMOs to be harmful often found inconclusive?

As part of this study, investigation included one research hypothesis: Genetically modified organisms in food, while certainly advantageous, have more harmful effects than the industry lets on. Studies that conclude that GMOs are safe are often biased and industry-linked without sufficient evidence to prove it. Despite the benefits that GM food brings, they should be pulled off the market until properly tested. IV.

Conclusion The lack of awareness on the issue of GMOs must be brought to the attention of

researchers and consumers alike. Our hope is that more scientists will rally to make sure that

GMOs Heroes the proper steps are taken to efficiently evaluate the risks involved with GMOs, rather than be shot down and dispelled in the scientific community. Not only must further tests be conducted, but alternatives to GMOs should be discussed.

Enclosed please find the scientific data for our study on “GMOs & Health Concerns.�


Brianna Bailey Brianna Bailey, Co-Principal Investigator

Hussein Riyami Hussein Riyami, Co-Principal Investigator GMOs Heroes


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GMOs Heroes Brianna Bailey & Hussein Riyami North Carolina State University English 101 (035) May Chung 18 March 2014

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Literature Review Intro As the world continues to grow and face issues of exponential population growth, there will always be the issue of the lack of resources to take care of the ever-growing human race. One of these problems specifically is the amount of food in the world. With technological advances, scientists have discovered genetic engineering as a solution to this problem. Genetic engineering is the manipulation of an organism’s genome in which it becomes classified as a genetically modified organism (GMO). With changes in their DNA, crops develop certain traits which are ultimately beneficial by creating a better quality of food supply. However with benefits that generally come along with scientific discoveries, there are always downfalls or negative aspects to certain advancements, as is the case with GMOs.

The Good News and the Bad The need for GMOs is evident as it is a solution to feeding mass quantities of people all around the world. In order to fulfill this need, GM crops contain numerous advantages that make it a beneficial scientific discovery. Farmers spray their crops with herbicides and pest resistant chemicals several times in order to yield a better amount instead of losing their crops to bugs and weeds, but this becomes an expensive and rather polluted process when done in frequent amounts. Most GM crops are engineered to be herbicide tolerant and pest resistant, thus resulting in the increase of chemicals in food and the cost of growing these crops. Most of these crops are deemed “first-generation crops� in which they overcome environmental extremes such as insects, weeds, temperatures, and other diseases to set the stage for second and third generation crops.

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Second generations, who are geared more towards consumers, are defined as “the rapid progress of nutritionally enhanced GM crops through the development pipeline that will save millions of lives and reduce the impact of malnutrition in the world’s poorest areas” (Zhu et al. 2007) because the crops will continue to grow at a steady rate. Third generation crops are for pharmaceutical and medical purposes. Overall, GM crops provide a quality and reliable supply of food (while conserving soil, water, and energy) which is what the world neghjeds in a state of inconsistency. Provided GMOs contain all these benefits, there are always downfalls and disadvantages that come along with the territory. The biggest setback is the regulatory approval of these crops which costs are estimated to be around $100 million when put into development (Christou, 2013). Bringing genetically modified food into the market is costly so the major concern is whether smaller farmers or impoverished countries will be able to afford GM seeds (Whitman, 2000). Despite these economic concerns, there also comes the concern for environmental and human safety. A problem GMOs pose on the environment is the ability to escape confinement and spread their genes to wild populations. These pose many threats such as “the persistence of the gene after a GMO has been harvested, the susceptibility of non-target organisms to the gene product, and the significant loss of biodiversity and an increase in the use of chemicals in agriculture” (Pastore 2013). When genetically modified organisms were first introduced, a study of the effects of GM pollen was conducted on the Monarch butterfly larvae. This study was conducted by John Losey, Linda Rayor, and Maureen Carter in which Nature had published their letter titled “Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae” in May of 1999. Their findings concluded that 44% of the larvae that consumed genetically modified corn pollen died within four days of exposure (McInerney, Bird, & Nucci 2004). Many scientists dispute these claims or find that this

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data is flawed; however, as McInerney states in her findings, the authors [Losey Rayor, Carter] never intended for their letter to represent fully researched findings, but rather a recommendation for “continued research and risk assessment.� Unfortunately, the story was covered by the New York Times and many other news sources which set the stage over the controversial risks of genetically modified organisms.

What’s the Deal? Provided GMOs have many benefits and drawbacks, the big question is do they actually cause potential harm to the environment as well as the humans who consume them? The studies that prove GMOs to be safe have turned out to be biased, as is the case with most scientific studies and the industry that is linked with them. According to Earth Open Source, 94 studies on the health risks of GMOs were more likely to be found favorable when the authors were industry-linked. The regulatory processes of GM foods are weak to nearly non-existent and should be impartial to countries in the EU and the United States. While they may be advantageous, genetically modified foods are still toxic and allergenic to their consumer and cannot be broken down properly in the digestive tract. Until further risk assessment is conducted, GMOs should be taken off the market, or at least properly labeled for the consumers who eat them.

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Popular Translation What are GMOs? GMOs, short for Genetically Modified Organisms, are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals (NONGMO Project, 2014). In other words, GMOs are plants or animals that have been altered by scientists, who believe, make the organism “more desirable”. These scientists can change the whole genetic body of an organism to improve the functions of that organism. Functions that include their taste, their appearance, and most importantly, defense against other plants and animals. According to an USA Today news article, GMOs have been around in America since 1994, when it was first brought upon by a tomato brand called Flavr Savr (Weise, 2012). GMOs have been used, mostly on food products, to prevent other organisms, such as insects and plant herbs, from eating these products or damaging them. Dependency on GMOs Most of our foods we eat today are genetically engineered. GMOs are in as much as 80% of conventional processed food, in the United States (NON-GMO Project, 2014). According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications’ report in 2011, 95% of sugar beets, 94% of soybeans, 93% of canola, 90% of cotton and 88% of feed corn in our nation are genetically modified (Weise, 2012). That’s a lot of our common crops that have GMOs. GMOs have unexpectedly taken over the food crops of America. More and more farmers use these products because of the “supposed benefits” that come with the use of GMOs, like

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increased yield and protection from killing the crops when sprayed with herbicides and insecticides.

Effects of GMOs on Human Body There has been prior laboratory testing on animals showing negative effects that GMOs seem to have. Most rats that were testing faced disturbed functions in the liver, kidney, and digestive system. These studies have been thrown out and concluded as flawed research; however, many of these studies were short-term in length and must be conducted for an extended period of time. It turns out it is the industry itself who is claiming these animal tests as “not biologically relevant.”(Antoniou, Robinson, & Fagan, 2012). So if these are only briefly mentioned negative effects of GMOs on animals (the list being much more extensive) what about the effects on the human body? The causes for concern remain in whether GMOs transfer their genes into humans and also if they create an allergic reaction in a human’s immune system. Not enough studies have been conducted on safety concerns for humans and the few that have show

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negative results which raises the question of why GMOs are marketable when they have not been properly tested. Humans have faced an immune response to the protein in GM soy and faced no adverse effects from non-GMO soy thus showing evidence that GMOs may cause new allergies. Genetically modified DNA was also found in the digestive tract of humans providing evidence of a horizontal gene transfer which is a process which is the transfer of genes between organisms other than traditional reproduction. Scientists all over have discussed gene transfer and have stated, “Based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system� (Peters, 2014, para.8). Gene transfers of genetically modified organisms are not only occurring to humans, but play a huge role in its effects on the environment.

Why do activists have a negative view of GMOs? GMOs have brought on a lot of controversy since it was first used in 1994. It has led to many protests and opposition. The GMO activists’ main reason for their differing view is the possible effects it has on the human body and environment. We know some of the problems that GMOs bring upon, but because we have yet to know all the dangers that GMOs have, it is unsafe to still manufacture and distribute them to the world population. Time will only tell how they really affect us and our environment. Due to this awareness, objectors believe every person should know what is being put in their food at all times, hence the controversial debate over the labeling of GMOs.

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Why are companies ashamed of labelling GMOs? The fact of the matter is that many consumers have a negative view of GMOs - roughly 52 percent of Americans perceived GMOs as unsafe to eat. If you have slightly over half of the nation perceiving GMOs in a negative light, while they all unanimously favor labeling products, why should a company want to place a big fat label that may potentially lower their sales? The obvious truth is that they don’t. If one state was to pass labeling requirements then many others would be more likely to follow, which is ultimately what giant corporations such as Monsanto and Dupont are afraid of. Another economic setback that companies are afraid of would be the logistical difficulty of making newly labeled packages. The supply chain is a rather complex one starting from the manufacturer and working its way down to the consumer and changing the package of the product can cause a drastic difference to the company.

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What do we know about GM crops? Even though GMO companies like Monsanto say that GMOs save farmers money on paying for insecticides and herbicides, this has been proven false. In fact, over 80% of GMOs around the world are made for herbicide tolerance (NON-GMO Project, 2014). So the question is, why has the use of herbicide products, like Roundup, increased more than 15 times since GMOs were invented (NON-GMO Project, 2014)? Wouldn’t the use of herbicide products reduce if Monsanto claims GMOs are more tolerant against herbicides than non-GMOs? These are the same questions that GMO activists like Bill Maher and Danny DeVito have been asking answers to. There have also been claims that GMOs don’t even increase crop yield, as thought to. This is only a belief because the believers only agree that they do, based on the effects they have against insecticides and herbicides. There is no real, concrete evidence that it does increase crop yields. How much more can we find out from more research of GMOs? In all actuality, we still don’t know all of the GMOs’ side effects on the environment and on humans. We might not know much of this for possibly many more decades to come. There have been many concerns on how it can affect the environment like “the potential spread of modified genes into wild populations, the effects of the gene after GMOs has been planted, loss of biodiversity, and the increase use of chemicals in agriculture” (Pastore, Christou, & Buiatti, 2013, p. 2). Effects we still don’t know on the human side, taken from G. Pastore’s article, are “the possible spread of allergens from placing them into the food, the transfer of chemicals or genes used in GMOs from the plant to the human, and also the mixing of GM crops with natural seeds, that could have an indirect effect on food safety and food security” (Pastore, Christou, & Buiatti, 2013, p. 2). This is plenty that we don’t know yet and it’s crazy to think that we have still

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allowed to put GMO products on the market. GMOs should still be in their developmental stage and not being produced for purchase, when most of the effects that can possibly come with them, haven’t even been proved or disproved. It’s like GMO companies are using us and the environment as test dummies. Ways to reduce your GMO intake. With all the dependency we have on GMOs, you would think you can’t get away from them, but there are plenty of ways to reduce or avoid GMOs. Food companies like Chipotle and General Mills are starting to reduce their use of GMOs, while also trying to remove all GMO ingredients from their products. Other companies specializing in baby foods, pet foods, baked goods, and frozen dinners are also starting to offer non-GMO versions (Reuters). With more controversy that GMOs bring upon them, it will cause more food companies and brands to go against GMOs. For more information on how to reduce or avoid GMO intake, visit They are a well-known organization for their fight against GMOs and have a complete list of food and products that don’t include GMOs.

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14 Reference List

Antoniou, M., Robinson, C., & Fagan, J. (2012). Gmo myths and truths. Retrieved from _1.3b.pdf Bello, W. (2013, October 29). Twenty-six countries ban gmos—why won’t the us? Retrieved from The Nation website: Chrispeels, M. J. (2014). Yes indeed, most Americans do eat gmos every day! Journal of Integrative Plant Biology,56(1), 4-6. Retrieved from Ells, S. (2014, January 28). Chipotle is saying no to gmos. Here’s why. Retrieved from Huffington Post website: Gillam, C. (2014, February 18). U.S. food companies find going 'non-gmo' no easy feat. Retrieved from Reuters website: Gmo crops cause major environmental risks, USDA admits. (2014, February 25). Retrieved from Natural Revolution website:

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Harmon, A., & Pollack, A. (2012, May 24). Battle brewing over labeling of genetically modified food. Retrieved from The New York Times website:

Lee, J. (2013, February 26). Charts: World's gmo crop fields could cover the us 1.5 times over. Retrieved from Mother Jones website: Kanter, J. (2012, January 16). Basf to stop selling genetically modified products in Europe. Retrieved from The New York Times website: Knowles, D. (2013, May 8). Stars align in protest against food giant Monsanto over gmo crops. Retrieved from Daily News website: McInerney, C., Bird, N., & Nucci, M. (2004). The flow of scientific knowledge from lab to the lay public: The case of genetically modified food. Science Communication, 26(1), 44-74. Retrieved from modified-food.html (n.d.). Gmo facts. Retrieved from Non-GMO Project website:

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16 Pastore, G., Christou, P., & Buiatti, M. (2013). The application of gmos in agriculture and in food production for a better nutrition: Two different scientific points of view. Genes & Nutrition, 8(3), 255-270. Retrieved from Peters, S. (2014, February 16). What do videos of exploding cows have to do with chipotle? Retrieved from Natural Revolution website:

Peters, S. (2014, February 11). Confirmed: DNA from genetically modified crops are transferred into humans who eat them. Retrieved from Natural Revolution website: Ricroch, A., Berge, J., & Kuntz, M. (2010). Is the german suspension of mon810 maize cultivation scientifically justified?Transgenic Research, 19(1), 1-12. Retrieved from Schiffman, R. (2012, July 06). Unsafe to eat: A new report highlights the dangers of genetically modified foods. Retrieved from Huffington Post website:

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Shelton, A. M., & Sears, M. K. (2001). The monarch butterfly controversy: Scientific interpretations of a phenomenon.The Plant Journal, 27(6), 483-488. Retrieved from Sherman, E. (2013, November 5). Food companies fear even one state gmo label law. Retrieved from website: These celebs want gmos labeled. (2012, September 26). Retrieved from Grist website: Weise, E. (2012, October 28). Genetically engineered foods q & a. Retrieved from USA Today website:

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