Signal to Noise Special Edition: GMOs and Our Food


 

GMO Basics

How to Make a GMO

Chelsea Powell

A History of GMOs

Gabriel Rangel

GMOs and the Environment

GMOs and Natural Genetic Diversity

Heather Landry

The Technology and Safety of Bt Crops

Matthew Niederhuber

Roundup Ready Crops and the Environment

Jordan Wilkerson

GMOs and Our Health

The Allergenic Effects of GMOs

Charles Xu

Pesticides and Our Food

Jennifer Hsiao

Will GMOs Harm Our Organs?

Megan L. Norris

GMOs, Health Policy, and Culture

Acquiring GMO Patents

Wen Zhou

GMOs and Farming Culture

Adam Riesselman

How GMOs are Regulated

Jessica Lau

Feeding the World

Feeding the World with GMOs

Christopher Gerry

Can GMOs Combat Malnutrition?

Mary E. Gearing

The Future of GMO Technology

Genome Engineering: An Interview with Dr. Dan Voytas

James Angstman

New Technology in GMOs: Epigenetics & RNAi

Pierre Baduel

Words from the editors:

We all have strong opinions about what we eat and how it affects our health, and with such a large portion of land dedicated to growing our food, many are also concerned about the environmental impacts of feeding billions of people. For this reason, the discussion about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food is a highly politicized topic. When we started this project, we had heard a lot about GMO foods, but much of it seemed to come from people with a mission: the agrotech companies and food safety advocates. As scientists, we believe that the best way to really understand an issue is to go back to the primary sources. So we started with a list of questions we had about GMOs, and we asked members of our scientific community to do just that. This Special Edition is a presentation of what we found.

The articles here start from the basics: what foods are genetically modified, and how long have we been doing this? We next look at the GMO foods available now: how does eating GMOs affect organ toxicity and allergies? And what’s the health impact of the pesticides that we use on GMO crops? We also asked about the environmental effects of growing Roundup Ready and Bt crops, and the potential for GMOs to have an unintentional effect on genetic diversity. We looked at legal and policy issues—how does the patenting process affect companies and farmers? How are GMOs regulated in the US and in Europe? How have GMOs changed farming culture? And finally, we took a look at the future of GMOs: How can GMOs help us to fight world hunger and nutritional deficits in the developing world? And what technologies will we see in the next wave of genetically engineered crops?

So, did we find that GMOs are good or bad? The answer is complicated. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence suggests that eating food with genetically modified DNA has no effect on human health, but there is also ample evidence that some GMOs have negative environmental impacts, such as the creation of superweeds. And while GMOs have not yet been wildly successful in providing solutions to an ever-growing global population and changing climate, there are certainly promising technologies in the works. It seems to us that GMOs have the potential to do great good, but in order for this to happen, research must proceed conscientiously, with consideration of the environmental risks of introducing engineered plants into our farms. But that’s just our opinion—we encourage you to put aside what you think you know about GMOs and read on to develop your own.

August 10, 2015.

Happy reading,
Signal to Noise Editorial Staff

 

Special thanks to…

The editing team: Eryn Blass, Alix Chan, Morgan Furze, Mary Gearing, Alexis Hubaud, Nick Jikomes, Entela Nako, Adam Riesselman, Jessica Sagers, Yutong Shan, Kevin Sitek, Lindsay Theodore, Kelsey Tyssowski, and Katherine Wu

The graphic editors: Kaitlyn Choi, Brian Chow, Krissy Lyon, Anna Maurer, Shannon McArdel, and Kristen Seim

4 thoughts on “Signal to Noise Special Edition: GMOs and Our Food

  1. Dear SITN of Harvard University,
    I am a student at Mizzou, interested in learning more about genetically modified foods. I am currently doing a project about GMO’s both the good and bad; or whether or not we should be using these foods in our diets. If you could, please email me back with any information to persuade me to consume GMO’s and why they are not necessarily bad for humans.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading! We have a few articles here about that topic. See the GMOs and our health section on this page. If you have any specific questions about those or things not covered by those articles, we’d be happy to answer them! I think it’s up to you whether or not you want to consume GMOs. Our goal isn’t to convince you to eat GMOs but rather to provide you with the facts so that you can make your own informed decisions.

  2. Thank you for an informative set of articles. I have been discussing the pros and cons of GMOs with those who have vastly different perspectives on the topic, and one question that comes up when I provide a link to this set of articles and others is this: where do the big agriculture businesses fit into this picture? Specifically, is funding for the research referenced in these articles free from influence by businesses such as DuPont and Monsanto? Knowing where the funding begins and ends will go a long way in assuring the credibility of these articles. Is there a written policy on accepting funds and/or tracing research funds back to their sources to insure a neutral analysis?

    1. Thanks for reading and passing our articles along! Scientific journals generally have policies that requires declaration of conflicts of interests (e.g this or this). As far as I know, we did not cite any articles that were funded by big agro businesses. Instead, most of the studies cited were funded by government research grants (from both the US and other countries), or, in some cases, were done by government groups (e.g. the USDA). I hope that answers your question!

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