Genetically Modified Organisms have always been a double-edged sword. While the potential behind genetically engineering crops is tremendous, it has been followed by the danger that we do not exactly know what we are doing. Like the butterfly effect, a very small change to DNA can affect how the organism functions and how higher organisms that live off it survive, leading to storms in the sometimes-fragile ecological chain.
Scientist have been using genetic engineering for years to create more bountiful crops, stronger fruits, and hardier grains that can grow in a variety of conditions. Some GMO projects have even added extra vitamins to vegetables and modified harmful insects to spread a less dangerous variety that do not breed as easily. However, these experiments often have unintended results. One of the most infamous cases is that of GMO corn, which gained popularity in the early 1990s but eventually earned a black mark due to unexpected and sometimes fatal allergies. Scientists had mixed DNA from other plants, such as legumes, to make the corn hardier without realizing this would create a hybrid chemical that posed dangers to people with specific allergies.
One of the leading environmental dangers is the affect of GMO creations on the greater world. Even crops and carefully controlled insects are part of the ecological chain, and through pollen, seed, and migration become mixed in with indigenous plants. Some researchers forecast serious environmental effects if these genetic modifications become integrated into the food chain and lead to mutations or the destruction of links in the food chain. Other scientists worry about events down the road, as bugs that once preyed on crop plants die out around farmland, leading to a decrease in beneficial insects and birds that helped keep the plants safe from other dangers.
There are also secondary human considerations for many GMO crops. While the original intent for some crops was to fight off disease and allow better application of pesticides, the secondary effects have included the misuse of pesticides, the contamination of soil through overuse of pesticides, and lower crop yields due to unbalancing the natural genetic structures of the plants. In many ways, neither farmers nor researchers have had enough experience with GMO plants to recognize the dangers they can pose.
The future of GMOs is still unclear. There is an inherent instability in the science cause in large part by corporations with an eager eye on profit potential. An excellent example is the Monsanto monopoly in the United States. Monsanto, an agricultural company, sells both biologically engineered crops that can withstand the glyphosate-based plant-killer Roundup, and the Roundup chemicals which are used by farmers to kill unwanted weeds. This creates a detrimental alliance that prohibits farmers, by contract with Monsanto, from using other types of seeds but allows them to soak their farmland in herbicides that kill surrounding life, except for the seeds engineered to grow there. The system is productive, but the cost astonishingly high, causing sharp increases in dangerous herbicides being used on farmland while creating a virtual monopoly that current laws are not yet prepared to address.
In the end, both crops and natural environment will be greatly affected by our well-intentioned tinkering. While some are advocating extended testing periods and careful study before advancing any more GMOs, others are more interested in producing profits for the companies they work for than looking ahead at the end results. What those results will be, and what the aftermath of the GMO generation may be, are still unknown. By the end, we could find that we have chosen to create some “goods” better left undone.