Almost everybody in the United States eats commercially grown grain products, like wheat or rye, or commercially grown produce, like apples or tomatoes. They can be imported during the winter from overseas, or grown from farmers in the Midwest of the United States. Some people even get locally grown produce from local farmers when it is in season. This produce also finds its way into processed foods, like potato chips and salsa. A good portion of this produce and other processed foods are genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
GMOs are organisms that have special genes within them that enhance the organism. GMOs have been used to manufacture antibiotics, to track how genetic transfer works, as well as countless other uses. This technology has also been used to make food products more resilient to bugs, fungi, bacteria, herbicides and pesticides. According to Bill Freese at the Center for Food Safety, about 60-70 percent of foods on our shelves contain GMOs.
Monsanto is an agricultural company known for their prolific GMO production. At first they were a chemical company but have recently switched in the past few decades to providing more agricultural products. Their research team was one of the first to develop the technology for genetically modifying crops in 1983. Since then they have become synonymous with both GMOs, and their pesticides such as Round Up.
However, GMOs are not without controversy. There is some question over whether or not GMOs are hazardous to a person’s health if ingested. The Food and Drug Administration as well as the World Health Organization have said that they are safe to eat and no ill effects will befall those that do, but many researchers are not sure of the long-term health effects of eating foods with GMOs.
Many critics of GMOs state that people may be allergic to the modified crops or otherwise become sick from eating them. Crops that are modified to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides will be sprayed more readily, leaving the chemicals on them. Monsanto actually makes a portion of seeds known as Round Up Ready, that are only resistant to their herbicide Round Up. It has been noted that many GMOs do not actively benefit the consumer in any way, only allowing them to be easily sprayed and not killed by heavy usage of chemicals.
In Europe, there are stringent bans and regulations on GMOs. They won’t even allow importing genetically modified soy, which is used for animal feed. Most European foods do not contain GMOs and are clearly labelled if they do. In the United States, there is no labelling required for GMOs, and Monsanto does not clearly label their products as such. Their lobbyists have tried to stop bills from being passed that allow for labeling of GMO foods, such as I-522 in Washington State.
Monsanto also has been known to patent their genes, and GMO strains, to stop them from being used by farmers who haven’t paid for them. They have been known to pester farmers who accidentally have the genes in their own crops because of cross-pollination by bees, which can be hard to control. Some people even say that patenting genes is not entirely legal or ethical, as it is not an invention but something living.
GMOs, and by extension Monsanto, will always be controversial because of their very nature and the secrecy behind them. By not labelling GMO foods, having no real substantial research on their long-term effects and Monsanto’s stance on their GMO genes, people will always have doubts about their safety. Even if most of the food we buy and eat has GMOs inside of them.