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GMOs: What You Need to Know

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have become an important topic of debate in the global agricultural industry. Genetically modified crops developed through breakthroughs in contemporary engineering. They aim to improve crop yields, increase pest and disease resistance and enhance nutritional value. However, small farmers, growers and container farmers have expressed various concerns about the impact of GMOs, including potential environmental risks, health concerns and ethical considerations. Here, we explore the differences in policy concerning genetically modified crops in the United States and the European Union (EU), examining the reasons behind these policy differences and their potential impact on the agricultural sector.

GMOs in the United States Vs. the European Union

Genetically modified crops are widely cultivated in the United States. However, they face significant opposition in the EU, where genetically modified organisms have stricter regulations and labeling requirements. The primary concern that critics of genetically modified crops raise is the potential for environmental harm. Critics argue that using GMOs may have unintended effects on ecosystems and harm non-target species, such as beneficial insects and wildlife.

While genetically modified plants have reduced pesticide use in U.S. corn, herbicides have risen alongside the adoption of Glyphosate-tolerant corn, cotton and soybean varieties. Increased use of glyphosate herbicide has been linked to increased risk for disease in young adults.

Glyphosate is an active ingredient in weed-killing formula, and is the most widely used herbicide in the history of the world. In the mid 1980s, farmers sprayed 11 million pounds of Glyphosate on American farms a year. Today, that number has risen to over 300 million pounds.

Genetically Modified Crops and Herbicides

Farmers use herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops to reduce the need for manual labor and the use of other chemicals that may be more toxic to the environment. With herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops, farmers can spray herbicides directly on the crops, killing the surrounding weeds without directly harming the crop.

Genetically modified crops can lead to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds, which require even more chemicals to control. This is because when you genetically modify a crop to resist a particular herbicide, any weeds that survive the application of that herbicide are likely to carry the same resistance genes. As a result, farmers may use more potent herbicides to control resistant weeds, leading to even greater environmental harm.

Glyphosate use can also reduce the diversity of aquatic plant species, reducing habitat and food availability for marine animals. Additionally, glyphosate can directly affect fish and amphibians by disrupting their immune systems affecting their behavior and diminishing their growth rates. While genetically modified crops have the potential to improve agricultural efficiency and productivity, their impact on chemical use and the environment is complex and requires careful consideration.

GMOs harm fish and amphibians.
The immune systems of fish and amphibians can be directly impacted by glyphosate, a herbicide that is frequently used alongside “Roundup Ready” GMO varieties. This can leading to disturbances in their behavior and hampering their growth rates. Soil erosion and agricultural runoff can introduce glyphosate to aquatic ecosystems.

Policy Regulations

The European Union (EU) has a strict policy on GMOs designed to protect human health and the environment. The EU has adopted a precautionary approach toward GMOs. This means that regulatory institutions there must carefully evaluate potential GMO risks before they’re cultivated or consumed.

The EU has established a legal framework for authorizing GMOs, including a comprehensive risk assessment process. This process involves evaluating GMOs’ potential risks and benefits and reviewing the scientific evidence and public opinion. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducts a risk assessment and considers the potential impacts on human health, animal health and the environment.

In America, no such panel exists. The regulation of genetically modified crops in the United States is the responsibility of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, there are concerns about the effectiveness of this regulatory system.

One of the main criticisms of regulating genetically modified crops in the United States is that it is based on a voluntary system. This means companies developing genetically modified crops don’t have to undergo pre-market safety testing like in the EU. They are only required to submit data to the regulatory agencies if they choose to do so. This has raised concerns about the safety of genetically modified crops and whether they have been adequately tested before cultivation.

Dangers of GMOs Toward Human Health

Corn crops growing in a field.
Glyphosate-resistant corn has been a focus of criticisms of how GMOs are grown. The genetically modified crop is more herbicide-resistant than traditional varieties of corn. Crops can be directly sprayed with herbicide without affecting the corn’s growth. However, studies have found that farms growing the modified crop have increased herbicide use. This has unintended consequences for the surrounding environment. In 2016, genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops accounted for about 56% of global glyphosate use.

The safety of GMOs on human health has been controversial for decades. While GMO proponents argue that they can help solve food security issues, especially in developing countries, critics express concerns about the potential health risks of consuming genetically modified foods. One of the main concerns is the potential for allergenicity. Genetic modification can introduce new proteins into foods, which may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Additionally, the use of antibiotic-resistant genes as markers during genetic modification can lead to the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, making it harder to treat infections.

Another concern is the potential for toxicity. Genetic modification can alter the levels of certain nutrients or introduce new toxins into the food, which could lead to adverse health effects. Furthermore, there are concerns about the potential long-term effects of consuming genetically modified foods. While short-term studies have shown no adverse health effects, the long-term effects of consuming genetically modified foods are not yet fully understood.

Why Hydroponics Are Better Than GMOs

Hydroponics and GMOs are two approaches that developed to address the challenges facing modern agriculture. While both aim to increase yields and improve crop performance, hydroponics offers several advantages over GMOs. Firstly, hydroponics does not involve genetic engineering, eliminating concerns about the potential health risks of consuming genetically modified foods. Hydroponics involves growing plants in nutrient-rich water rather than soil, allowing farmers precise control of growing conditions. This makes healthier plants less susceptible to pests and diseases, eliminating the need for pesticides and other chemicals.

Secondly, hydroponics requires less land and water than traditional farming methods, making it a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach. Hydroponics eliminates the need for large expanses of land because it allows for indoor growing. Hydroponic growers recycle and reuse the water used in their systems. Because of this, they can reduce water usage by up to 90% compared to traditional farming methods.

Lastly, hydroponics allows for year-round growing, increasing fresh produce availability throughout the year, even in areas with harsh climates. This helps to address food security challenges. It also ensures that fresh, nutritious produce is available to consumers regardless of the season.

While hydroponics and GMOs offer solutions to modern agriculture challenges, hydroponics offers several advantages. Hydroponics provides a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to agriculture while eliminating the potential health risks of consuming genetically modified foods. Additionally, hydroponics allows for year-round growth, increasing the availability of fresh produce throughout the year.

Where Does Agriculture Go From Here?

The debate surrounding genetically modified crops and their impact on herbicides remains controversial. While some argue that genetic modification can reduce the need for pesticides, others worry that it could increase chemical use and harm the environment.

It is essential to consider alternative methods of farming that can mitigate the risks associated with traditional agriculture. Growing fresh produce is possible without using chemicals that harm the planet and our communities. Pure Greens container farms offer a sustainable, pesticide-free alternative that provides fresh and nutritious produce without harmful chemicals.

Container farms provide a controlled environment for plant growth. Using hydroponic systems, container farms can promote healthy plant growth and reduce the likelihood of pest infestations. This makes them an excellent solution for sustainable and efficient food production. Pure Greens container farms use significantly less water than traditional farms. They also grow 30-50% faster than they would in soil. We can work toward a more sustainable and healthy food system with innovative solutions like container farming. Contact us today if you want to learn more about pesticide-free container farming.