GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, have been a hot topic of debate in recent years. Some people believe that they are unsafe and want them banned, while others believe that they are a perfectly safe and a necessary part of our food system. So who is right? And what do we really know about GMOs? Let’s take a look at 10 common myths about GMOs and see if we can clear things up.
Related: 10 Food Additives That Aren’t As Bad As We Thought
10 GMOs Are Used to Create Frankenfoods
One of the most common myths about GMOs is that they are used to create “Frankenfoods.” The vast majority of GMOs are used for things like making crops resistant to pests or making them healthier or more suitable for harsh environments.
These so-called Frankenfoods are foods that have been genetically modified to behave in an “unnatural” way. Some examples of foods labeled Frankenfoods are:
- Tomatoes engineered to have a thicker skin to prevent bruising
- Drought-resistant corn, wheat, or sweet potatoes
- Bananas resistant to bacterial wilting
- Rice with added vitamins and nutrients to help fight malnutrition
GMO foods have been developed to fight world hunger through increased yields per acre and decreasing food waste. On top of that, farmers are able to plant crops in places where very little grows
9 GMOs Are Killing the Bees
In the mid-2000s, the world was in an uproar over the drastic decline in honeybee populations worldwide. And rightfully so as bees play a vital part in the global food chain, but GMOs did not cause this.
There are many different diseases that have been linked to the decrease in population. Here are a few of the most common you’ll find:
- Varroa destructor mites
- Colony Collapse Disorder
- Tracheal mites
- Habitat destruction
- Climate change
Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat and are responsible for $15 billion of pollination each year. With pest-resistant GMOs becoming more popular, fewer chemicals are being used, leaving the bees to do their work without added hazards.
8 GMOs Will Destroy Our Environment
This myth pares well with number 9 and comes from people thinking that GMOs are sterile and don’t need to be pollinated. Without the need for pollinators, GMO opposition believes that will lead to a decline in biodiversity.
The truth is that like any other plant that relies on pollinators to grow, GMOs also need to be pollinated. There is no evidence that GMOs are any more harmful to the environment than other crops. And in some instances, they can bring pollination to areas that otherwise would have very little growth.
GMOs help the environment in more ways than just feeding more people. Here are a few of the ways that they’re helping the environment:
- Fewer chemicals and fuel used throughout the farming process
- Decreasing excess CO2
- Preventing soil erosion and improving soil health
- Conserving water
7 GMOs Cause Cancer
Like most myths, this one is born out of ignorance by people who have knee-jerk reactions to things they don’t understand. Eating genetically modified food is not going to modify your own DNA and give you cancer.
There have been studies done by institutions around the globe, and there has been no evidence that eating GMOs causes any kind of cancer. GMOs have also been reviewed by the FDA, which found that they cause no major side effects when consumed.
If cancer is a concern that you have, these are the leading causes for preventable cancer according to the CDC:
- Too much UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds
- Being overweight
- Drinking too much alcohol
6 GMOs Will Create “Superweeds”
“Superweeds” have been slowly starting to increase around the world. A superweed is an unwanted plant that is resistant to glyphosate or other herbicides. On the surface, it seems that this is a natural consequence of genetically modified crops passing on genetic material.
However, studies from Purdue University and other institutions have found no evidence that GMOs have contributed to the development of these superweeds. Instead, the true cause of superweeds is the overuse of herbicides by farmers and the production by plants as they naturally evolve.
5 Monsanto Controls the World with Their GMOs
Monsanto is one of the leading companies when it comes to GMOs; they have been working on them since the early 1990s. They are also one of the most hated companies in the world. So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of myths about them trying to control the world.
Some of the reasons Monsanto is hated are truly legitimate. Here is a list of a few of the more legitimate unethical things the company has done:
- Sued farmers they said committed seed piracy
- Accused of developing defective crops and selling them
- Made a herbicide that caused neurological problems
- Creating crops that can only be treated with Monsanto’s herbicides.
And while all of these things (and a whole lot more) have been truly horrendous, it makes them unethical at best. It was all in the pursuit of profit, not world domination. Luckily Monsanto does not own all of the patents for GMOs. They do have a large number of them, but other companies have patents for GMOs as well.
4 You Can’t Trust Independent Studies on GMOs
This is a common myth that is propagated by people who are against GMOs. They claim that because the studies are not funded by the government, they must be biased. This could not be further from the truth.
many independent studies have been conducted on GMOs, and they have all come to the same conclusion: GMOs are safe for human consumption. This doesn’t mean that independent studies can’t be biased, but examining the data and mission of the organization can weed those out.
As with everything, it is always important to do your own due diligence and make the decision that is best for you.
3 GMOs Are Not Tested for Safety
Another common myth about GMOs is that they are unregulated. However, the reality is that GMOs are one of the most heavily regulated crops in the world. There are a number of agencies both in the United States and abroad that regulate GMOs, including the USDA.
In the United States, three agencies are in charge of regulating GMOs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Together these agencies are devoted to making sure GMOs are safe for humans, animals, and the planet.
The regulations that GMOs are subject to are much stricter than those for conventional crops. For example, in the United States, a new GMO must go through a rigorous approval process that can take up to 10 years and cost millions of dollars.
A few of the things that are regulated in GMOs are:
- Nutritional value that is the same or better than non-GMO food
- Regulation on all chemicals used on GMO crops
- Regulations on the modifications that GMOs have
- Strict regulations to protect other plants from cross-pollination
2 GMOs Are Causing Health Problems
There have been a number of studies that have been done on GMOs and their effect on human health. The consensus from these studies is that GMOs are safe for human consumption. A study that was published in 2012 looked at the long-term effects of feeding rats GMO corn. The study found that there were no differences in the health of the rats whether they were fed GMO corn or not.
Another study that was conducted in 2016 looked at the effect of GMOs on gut bacteria. The study found that there were no significant changes in gut bacteria when people consumed GMOs. The bottom line is that there is no evidence to suggest that GMOs are causing health problems in humans.
1 Organic Food Is Better Than GMO Food
Organic food is better than GMO food. This is a statement that many people believe to be true, but the evidence does not support this claim.
A study published in 2016 looked at the nutritional value of organic and GMO foods. The study found that there were no significant differences in the nutritional value of organic and GMO foods. Remember that GMOs are just as regulated as organic food is.
The studies also show that there is no significant difference between organic and GMO foods when it comes to nutrition or the environment. This is because, contrary to popular belief, organic farmers can use pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. According to the EPA, they just need to be derived from natural sources. So, if you are looking for the best option for your health or the environment, organic food is not the answer.