Genetically Modified Organisms – Benefit, Danger, and Morality Issue
The usage of genetically modified organisms in various industries, generally in food production, is a popular reason for outrage. People consider this meddling with genetic code to be disgusting or dangerous or something else. In other words, they focus on the safety and morality of exploiting GMO for food production. But do people understand the concept of GMO correctly?
What People Think about the Danger of Genetically Modified Objects?
In popular consciousness the understanding of genetic modification lies within the lines “Oh my god, they have crossed tomatoes and spiders!” and, although no one really knows whether it is true in any sense of the word, or, in fact, what it means, there is this creepy image of tomatoes springing out tiny legs and crawling around immediately formed somewhere in the collective unconscious.
As I see it, GMO have long ago turned into a scarecrow, because the majority of people who, of course, don’t know anything in the field biology, consider them to be dangerous due to different reasons – some beliefs are utterly primitive and include people growing horns and tails due to the modified genes fusing with their own, a bit more sophisticated ones propose other prospects, from infertility to various diseases. Generally, it simply means that they cannot understand it and, thus, consider it to be bad – the usual way people treat new and yet unknown things.
What Genetically Modified Objects and Products Actually Are?
Genetically modified objects (or, in this particular case, food) are simply living organisms, DNA of which was directly influenced or modified by human in some way in order to bring about some useful changes (heat or herbicide resistance, for example). There are no other differences between them and other products. People have been eating organic food that contains all the genes that modified organisms contain for thousands of years, and none of them ever found the way to fuse with our DNA – it is simply anti-scientific. And there is absolutely no reason why GMO should be in any way different.
The gap between perception and reality is huge. Why? I can think of two possible reasons.
The first one is rooted in unfair business practices. The thing is, the whole hysteria concerning GMO is a result of competition between firms growing agricultural products. One of them, Monsanto, was the first to start using GMO and had excellent results, leaving its competitors, who didn’t invest in research in this area beforehand, far behind. They took a decision: the best way to deal with a dangerous competitor is to start spreading rumors about terrible consequences of GMO-using. It is as simple as that.
The second reason may sound like a conspiracy theory, but it’s quite possible that if somebody hadn’t thought of it as a good scapegoat for building up political influence, nobody would have ever heard about GMO being wrong at all.
What Are the Benefits of Using GMO?
GMO is just a new step in agriculture. Just a several decades before, when major research in this field was either still underway or wasn’t even started yet, the world public has been seriously estimating the impending problem of global starvation that seemed inevitable in the face of ever-growing population and stagnating agriculture. It was the Green Revolution of 1940-1970 that effectively averted the crisis and gave all these panic-mongers their satiated lives.
Is Usage of Genetically Modified Food Immoral?
As you know, the world’s population keeps growing, and it will need new, more effective methods of food production. Moreover, even now, when the threat of hypothetic global starvation seems to be no longer all that menacing, there are quite rare cases of mass starvation in less developed countries of the world. It is no wonder that their leaders seem to be not in the least disturbed by the mythical side-effects of genetically modified products – they have people to feed. Is fighting famines moral? I do not doubt that. If this also means being practical about genetically modified food – so be it.
When it comes to conceptual issues, the only thing we must keep in mind regarding GMO is that being generally almost sterile, they undermine the concept of evolution and selection that have been used in developing agriculture so far. But that’d be another story.