Whoa, Whoa, GMO: Are You Actually Not As Terrible As Everyone Thinks?

In July 2015, the House of Representatives voted to block states from mandating GMO labels. What was passed instead was a bill called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would make the inclusion of genetically modified ingredients on labels strictly voluntary, as decided upon by the company manufacturing the food.


It may be a stretch to say that the decision sent a rift into the GMO discussion; in fact, the GMO discussion has always been split, and sometimes heated. In short, people are passionate about their food and what they believe their food should provide them. What we aim to do in this post is facilitate that discussion by providing information. And we’re going to start by defining what a GMO is.


What’s a GMO?

The easiest answer here is to say that GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Which is fine. But it’s an answer; not the answer. See, just seeing “GMO” tends to make some people shiver at the thought of people in lab coats and protective masks, experimenting with your food. It’s certainly a scary image, but it’s also a little misplaced.

“It’s certainly a scary image, but it’s also a little misplaced.”

The truth is that we humans have been modifying food for millenniums, the goal being to optimize a certain crop, or to rid a certain crop of threats — altering a plant so that it can withstand frost, for example. We’re greedy, in a sense — we want a better yield, we want a tastier yield — so humans have used experience and know-how to work with and above nature. And, though the connotation of GMO is relatively negative, a whole lot of good has come from doing so…

The Good

So, get this: twenty years ago, Hawaiian papaya farmers had themselves a problem. That problem was called, “Ringspot virus“. Transported by insects, the virus threatened to destroy the entire papaya crop, even after farmers attempted crop rotation, quarantine, and selective breeding. These attempts to genetically engineer the papayas in a natural way proved futile, leading a scientist named Dennis Gonsalves to consider a different route.

Gonsalves wondered whether or not he could improve the immunity of the papayas to the virus. In pursuing that wonder, he transferred a gene (coat protein) from the harmless part of the virus to the papaya’s DNA. It worked. The papaya crops were saved; they were edible, flavorful, and harmless.

From iStock / Photo Illustration by Holly Allen / via Slate

Fast forward twenty years and we’re not just talking about saving a crop when it comes to GMOs; we’re talking about blindness prevention; we’re talking about administering insulin through food; we’re talking about taking allergenic proteins out of foods; we’re talking about changing our food AND ourselves for the better.

The Bad

Here’s where we circle back to the scary image of lab coats experimenting with your food, removing each and every nutrient, bolstering it up to look like something it never should have looked like. It’s a terrifying image, right? And, when there are biotech companies looking to patent the food industry, it’s easy to see where the image stems from. But is there legitimacy to the fear and skepticism of GMOs?

Over on Organic Authority, a list was was created stating 8 reasons why GMOs are bad. The number one thing that they list is that, “The health consequences of eating genetically modified organisms are largely unknown.” Which is true. The studies on GMOs and their effects on the body — particularly long-term — are few and far between. Essentially, a great deal of learning continues to happen regarding GMOs, both in capabilities and especially in boundaries. Take this article, for example, which discusses how runoff from sprayed crops resulted in an increase in chronic kidney disease.


There certainly is a potential for evil when it comes to GMOs. But, there certainly is a potential for greatness. Which makes for a whole lot of confusion.

The Unclear

Wherever you stand on the debate of GMOs, more information is needed. More studies need to be conducted. More discussion needs to take place on each and every level of government.

“There certainly is a potential for evil when it comes to GMOs. But, there certainly is a potential for greatness.”

More news coverage needs to be given to GMOs, and from both sides of the coin. Why? Because, with information comes clarity. With clarity comes choice. And that’s something we all want, right?

How do you feel about GMOs?

Let us know in the comment section.

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