General Question

DryaUnda's avatar

Is genetically modified food actually harmful?

Asked by DryaUnda (176points) January 9th, 2008

Not just a simple yes or no, but also answering why. Any references would be appreciated.

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14 Answers

Perchik's avatar

I don’t think there’s enough fact to provide an answer one way or another. This has been an ongoing debate. If it’s proven that they are safe, genetically modded foods could take over the industry. I think if you do find facts, the origin of those facts needs to be closely examined. Good luck!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
gooch's avatar

I belive that it is a yes. If you look back through history you can also see the long term effects of the industrial revolution and the chemical revolution on our health today in the form of cancer and other sicknesses.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Here are some facts from The Hundred Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald. It was an excellent, eye-opening book. Some might call it scary.

In the past 100 years, cancer mortality has gone from 3%of all deaths to 20%. Diabetes went from .1% to almost 20%. Heart disease went from being almost nonexistent to killing almost 700,000 perople a year.

Health care costs have risen until the US now spends twice as much on medicine and health care per person, per year than any other industrialized nation in the world.

Brain disease(Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disorders) tripled in Western countries from 1974–1997. Food seems to be the major culprit for toxicity, bc Japan, alone among the 10 nations studied, had no increase in brain disease mortality, apparently bc their diet is healthier. When Japanese citizens relocated to Western countries, their disease rates exceed those of Japan as a whole.

A California environmental official said a water test has showed 60% of rivers and streams in the state contained high levels of Prozac, Ritalin, and antibiotics.

In large feed lots, cattle are fed 5 or more sex hormones to accelerate weight gain. These have been known to cause reproductive dysfunction and cancer in humans.

Many commercial dairy and meat products come from animals that consume feed made up of the remains of tens of millions of cats and dogs that have been euthanized.

At least 70% of processed foods in your local grocery contain at least 1 genetically engineered ingredient that has never been tested.

More than 3,000 synthetic chemicals are regularly added to US food products and hardly have ever been tested for their synergistic toxic producing effects in humans.

With the 9 or so vaccines given to children, are additives and preservatives, including mercury, aluminum, MSG, formaldehyde, and others linked to brain and nerve disorders and autism.

evander's avatar

There are not just health issues at stake with genetically modified foods (the science isn’t conclusive yet) but issues of food security in the debate about genetically modified food. After modifying the genes of the organism the corporation patents and then controls those genes. The corporation controls the terms of distribution of that genetic material, to the point where companies have sued small farmers that have had their fields accidentally cross-pollinated by genetically modified crops in adjacent fields. Corporations create distribution systems where a farmer must buy seed, fertilizer, and other inputs from the the corporation on the corporations terms. Independent, traditional food systems where farmers and communities control their well-being, are being colonized by corporations (This in not just a market efficiency issue here—the market is failing us here). I would suggest reading some of the writing of Indian author and physisist Vandana Shiva if you are interested in the issues of genetically modified, food security and corporate control of food production.

bluemukaki's avatar

Technically there are no synthetic additives or processing that occurs because all control of the food comes from the genetic level. the effects of eating genetically modified foods would be the same as eating a piece of food that had undergone a natural mutation.
So for humans there are no chemicals you can be exposed to.
Genetically modified plants can become noxious weeds if they are designed to be able to withstand abnormal amounts of stress (like drought etc.)
GM foods would definitely be safer than foods given hormones and chemicals to increase their growth and avoid disease. It’s all biological modifications…

nerfmissile's avatar

Bluemukaki is right. It’s better and healthier to eat a mutant than a mutagen.

nikipedia's avatar

@chris6137: Boy, sounds like this Fitzgerald guy has a real problem understanding statistics and public health. You know why heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death now, even though they weren’t historically a big deal? Because we can treat almost anything else. So it’s not that the rates of those have INcreased so much as rates of everything else have DEcreased, and people have to die one way or another!

And most importantly, the statistic about vaccines and neurological disorders is just WRONG. The chemicals in vaccines were “linked” to autism and other psychiatric problems by frantic parents making unfounded claims about science. Scientists have shown over and over again that vaccines do NOT contribute to autism.

Most importantly—none of your points had to do with harms or benefits of genetically modified food! Come on!

nikipedia's avatar

Whether genetically modified food is harmful or not depends on who you’re asking, what you’re modifying, and who/what might be harmed.

Harm to human beings: Some people have raised concerns that GMOs will somehow increase allergic reactions, but this has not been supported by data (1). For the most part, concerns about harm to humans are limited to “unknown/to be determined”.

Harm to plants: Another concern is that genes can be transferred from the modified organisms to the natural (wild-type) organism. It seems this is possible, but not inevitable (2).

Harm to animals: One major concern was that animals fed with GMOs would suffer adverse health effects. This has also not been supported by the data (3).

Let me also state that none of the articles I’ve presented here have been cherry-picked to make a point. These are the first articles I found in a google scholar search that specifically discussed harmful effects.

So now that we have talked about the possible risks of GMOs and shown them to be relatively minimal, what are the benefits? They may be able to grow without herbicides, pesticides, or other harmful chemicals. They can be adapted to yield much higher quantities of food than could be expected naturally, benefiting places that have food shortages. We can alter the nutritional content of these foods. I can find sources to back up these points but believe them to be undisputed by anyone with a fundamental grasp of genetics.

Hope this was helpful.




For an overview of the debate:

smart1979's avatar

I say yes. I have switched to a much more natural food lifestyle, and go organic when i can, and I feel better mentally and psysically. Eating more fruits and veggies! I feel less bloated less often, and less depressed.

bluemukaki's avatar

@smart1979: Organic food normally refers to food that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. Not a go at you, but organic is a stupid word for food. Isn’t nice to know that your food is made from chains or rings of carbon atoms?!

smart1979's avatar


I’m totally off topic – sorry.

My mind had started thinking about food, and went on to preservatives and stuff, and thats what I was referring to, not modified food. whoops!

On the organic note, I fill up a nalgene each day and throw some lemon slices in it and sip on it all day. I mentioned organic because as I said I was thinking along different lines. If I’m going to soak lemons in my water all day as I drink it, I choose organic.

steveakimbo's avatar

Is there any farmed or ranched food that hasn’t been genetically modified through the millennia old processes of hybridizing and selective breeding (processes that change hundreds of genes each time)?

Oh, you were talking of modern genetics, which change individual genes. Make up your own mind.

SmartAZ's avatar

That is like asking if driving with your eyes closed is harmful. No, it’s the sudden stop when you hit something that might kill you. The harm is that you don’t know what the harm will be.

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