When I picture going on a diet, I always think of less meat and more fruits and vegetables. People who go on a diet think eating these foods will help them lose weight and be healthier. However, that may not necessarily be the case. If you’re buying these “healthier” options at large supermarkets like Wal-Mart or Hyvee, there is a good chance those foods are genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Farmers genetically modify their produce for many reasons. For example, they can genetically modify apple trees to produce larger apples, and at larger quantities. Initially, GMOs were not considered a problem because all it really looked like to most people was an increase in food production. However, many harmful effects of GMOs have been noted. People and animals alike have experienced allergies, respiratory infections and many other health problems as a result of the consumption of GMOs. Some animals, such as rats and sheep, have also experienced increased sterility rates or died due to the introduction of GMOs into their diet.
Besides more observable biological disruption, the problems that GMOs cause can be traced to a genetic level. The insertion of the genes that farmers want in their organisms can have genome-wide repercussions that farmers are not aware of. For example, in order for the gene the farmers have introduced to be interpreted, the promoter needs to be activated. While scientists claim the promoter will only target this new gene, it is quite possible for the promoter to accidentally turn on other plant genes in the process. This could cause the plant to overproduce a toxin, allergen or carcinogen that is usually not expressed. These are all problems caused by the insertion of a transgene.
Another important issue to consider is the fact that the transgene that scientists insert into some of these organisms might not work as intended and create problems for the organism that would never have occurred naturally. A couple of studies showed that the sequence of genes that was expressed by the organism was different than what the company described. This means that after insertion, the transgenes spontaneously rearranged. This could obviously come with unpredictable consequences, as the proteins produced by this gene will no longer perform the function that was originally intended. Additionally, alternative splicing could cause problems. Because alternative splicing could cause only some parts of the new gene to be expressed when before nothing was expressed, the organism could experience drastic changes. Transgenes continue to work in ways scientists do not intend for them to. Multiple studies show that the genes that are put into these foods are not always destroyed by the digestive system. This means those genetically modified genes are wandering the body, and could cause even more complications.
While genetically modified organisms show all these signs of potentially harmful repercussions, they seem to have already integrated themselves into society. Trying to get rid of GMOs in all major supermarkets does not seem very reasonable at this point, as most, if not all, of the “fresh” produce found in these supermarkets are genetically modified. Since we can’t get rid of them, hopefully scientists will soon improve GMOs so that these problems no longer present themselves.