The subject of genetically modified organisms has been one of great controversy in many parts of the world for decades and now Kenya has been drawn into this war of words and opinion over GMOs.
Some support the idea with the argument that it is necessary to feed the ever growing human population while many have continually raised concerns on the potential dangers that come with “playing God”.
This article gives ten potential dangers of GMOs with scientific evidence and references from reputable organizations around the world.
1. Health risk of GMOs
A study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology, a scientific journal in the United Kingdom, found that rats fed a diet containing GMOs developed stomach inflammations and also had kidney and liver damages.
This is one of the studies that have linked GMOs to an increased risk of certain health problems such as allergies, organ damage, and cancer.
2. Environmental damage
Some studies have shown that GMOs can have negative effects on the environment.
This may include, reducing biodiversity and promoting the growth and emergence of pesticide-resistant weeds.
A study published in the journal Nature, found that widespread use of genetically engineered crops has led to the evolution of “superweeds” which are resistant to herbicides.
3. Anti biotic resistance
The use of antibiotic-resistant genes as markers in the creation of GMOs as is usually the case, can contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This is supported by a report by the World Health Organization WHO which indicates that the use of antibiotics in agriculture contributes significantly to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
4. Gene transfer
Genetically modified organisms can pass on their modified genes to other organisms with unintended repercussions.
For instance, a study published in the journal nature found that genetically engineered pollen from maize can contaminate nearby wild relatives and this leads to the spread of genetically modified genes.
5. Unintended harm to other organisms
GMOs can produce unintended negative effects on other life forms.
These could lead to a reduction in population of other organisms or potentially contribute to the extinction of certain organisms.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that genetically engineered Bt cotton which produces a toxin to kill pests can harm beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs.
While this may be unintentional, the damage is evident
6. Lack of long-term research
Many researches done on the potential dangers of GMOs are short-term.
The long term health effects of GMO consumption by humans, and on the environment are still unknown.
This is according to a report from the Non- GMO Project.
7. Impact on small famers and loss of seed variety
The control of GMOs is largely by multinationals corporations and this can have negative impact on small farmers.
A report from the Center for Food Safety states that the widespread use of GMO crops has led to the consolidation of the seed industry and the loss of diversity in seed variety.
8. Lack of regulation
Regulation of GMOs is a major problem in many nations and many experts argue that the current regulations are not sufficient to safeguard human health and the environment.
In Kenya where GMO is relatively new, strong regulations are yet to be established.
A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists states that the U.S. regulatory system for GMOs is inadequate and that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have the authority to ensure the safety of genetically modified foods.
9. Misleading or lack of labeling
Experts have argued that GMOs lack proper labeling that can allow consumers to make informed choices on the kind of food they put in their bodies.
A report from the Center for Food Safety states that the U.S. does not have a mandatory labeling system.
Additionally, many GMO foods in the market are not labeled as such.
10. Ethical concerns
Genetically modified organisms include manipulation of life forms and the patenting of leaving organisms, something that has raised a lot of ethical concerns.
Another report from the Center for Food Safety states that patenting of GMOs gives control of food supply to companies and also limits access to traditional seed varieties.
As of 2021 several countries including Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Scotland among others implemented restrictions on genetically modified organisms GMOs with countries such as France placing bans on specific GMOs.
With Kenya joining in the debate, the controversy can only continue.