True or false: Genetically modified tomatoes a cause/a cure for fatal diseases

What is the exact definition of Genetically Modified Organism, also known as GMO? The Medical Dictionary (2012) defines it as:

An organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering.

GMOs have long been a subject for debate. Along the way, activist groups, such as Greenpeace, are very much against consuming GMOs and releasing them into the nature, as these actions may potentially have irreversible consequences for the environment, as well as for us, humans. They argue that:

These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating non ‘GE’ environments and future generations in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way. (Greenpeace, 2012)

Others, however, consider that the GMOs’ damaging effects have not been scientifically proven so far (thus being no need to worry in vain) and that they help keen millions of people alive, by conquering hunger. Through the enhancement of the different food properties, the scientists are able to increase their resistance to pests and unfavorable weather conditions, therefore reducing the risk of crop failures. (Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, 2003) The United Nations also argue that “genetic modification could produce salt-tolerant varieties.” In other words, the GMOs are environmentally-friendly and help farmers practice sustainable agriculture. This is becoming a much-needed requirement, as “large areas of croplands in the developing world have become saline.” This means that the plants do not receive enough water in order to grow, as it is retained in the soil.

This leads me to asking the following question: is it right to say that GMOs are detrimental to us and our health, when millions of people have been consuming them and they are still healthy? Maybe we will find about the negative consequences later on, but until then, I do not believe in advocating the negative effects of the GMOs. As a PR student, I have learnt that the value of research is priceless. By affirming a certain statement without relying on true facts, one may destroy a company’s reputation and be accused of libel, which is

“a publication without justification or lawful excuse which is calculated to injure the reputation of another by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule.” (Parke, B. in Parmiter v. Coupland, 1840: 105-108)

Greenpeace is aware of this issue and they do not attack certain companies directly, but indirectly, by condoning the action, in itself,  of genetically modifying the foods’ properties, in order to last longer. However, what they say do affect the attitudes and behaviours of some people. People talk and word of mouth has an important role in disseminating true or inaccurate facts. Albeit, science has not yet proved that consuming GM foods may lead to serious health issues, the vast majority of people consider that, in time, consuming GM foods will be detrimental to their health.

Nevertheless, the scientists from California University, in Los Angeles, have actually proven that genetically modified tomatoes do affect us, but in a beneficial way. They have genetically altered the tomatoes’ nutritional properties, so that they could obtain peptide, also known as 6F. This substance is intended to act as the Apo A-1, a substance produced by our body, commonly known as the “good cholesterol”.  By administering a tomato powder containing the peptide to the mice after previously consuming high-fat diets, the scientists noticed that the cholesterol levels of the mice dropped. The risk of developing heart diseases and tumors was also minimised after the percentage of lysophosphatidic acid (which accelerates the rate of developing tumors) also dropped.

In an ideal world, people would not have to think about the nutritional properties of the food they are ingesting, or whether is it good or bad, ethical or unethical to consume a certain product.  But this is not an ideal world and we still have to have a scientific foundation for what we say in order to confirm or infirm a certain opinion.

This brings me to my final question: is it ethical to make assumptions about the consequences of consuming GMO without first doing some ground research?  I believe that taking a clear stance against GMO and disseminating information without relying on empirical evidences is wrong, regardless of the time, the topic or the people involved in the controversy.

What do you think?

Andreea

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14 thoughts on “True or false: Genetically modified tomatoes a cause/a cure for fatal diseases

  1. love the article well done! the only real proven threat about gmo crops, actualy the only one i know about, is that certain insects became more resilient to pesticide but that’s about it and even so it’s still not a major threat, but for now gmo crops are the best thing that happen to us maybe the taste ain’t so great but you get greater yield and the’re allot less susceptible for a crop failure so win!

  2. Thank you very much! Yes, you are absolutely right about insects becoming resilient to some pesticides. One of the benefits of the GMOs is that farmers do not need to use pesticides, as the crops have now increased resistance to pests through the modification of some of their properties. In addition, I believe that as long as millions of people are fed with this products, there is no harm done.

  3. It is very good that the answer of the question starts with a definition of the key concept from the title. In addition, the author shows that everything has two sides that is very good and true as well. Good examples are provided, which give support to the statement that without evidence nothing is sure. Another positive things is that the article is not long and the concentration on the topic can be kept that way. Good organization. Well done :)

  4. I agree everything can have two sides and we cannot be pretty sure GMOs have only bad impact on the environment and people. I do not know much about GMOs and that’s why i cannot say GMOs are bad or good, however, as it is presented here some positive features could be found as well. Before we make a judgement we need stable basis of knowledge and evidence supporting that judgement.

  5. Very good article. Personally, i am against GMOs only because classic tomatoes have a much better taste, and i think their only purpose is increasing the profits.

    • I love the classic tomatoes as well. But in regard to the second part of your response, I have to ask you: would you buy the classic tomatoes, which are quite pricey, or would you go for the GM ones, as they are less expensive?

      Andreea

  6. The emotional part of my brain tells me that messing with our environment will lead to unexpected – and possibly disastrous – consequences.

    The rational/scientific part of the same brain reminds me that we’ve been genetically modified over many thousands of years, and the survival of our species almost certainly depends on our ability to continue innovating.

    (As a private citizen, I’m an environmentalist. As a PR consultant, I’ve represented science and technology companies.)

    It’s certainly a good topic to debate.

    • I agree with you on this one Richard. Playing with the environment may prove to be detrimental to all of us, but on the other hand, our survival may depend on it in case of bad times. Hopefully, it won’t get there.

  7. GMO is a big issue to concern nowadays…Really like this article & your blog theme.Hope to see more information with your future posts…Because I like to read these articles,I subscribed to email list…
    Have a Great Day!!
    Amy

  8. I come across this blog by accident, but I am glad I did. It is true that it is ethical to try and stop hunger even though you have to modify certain organisms to so do, but it is also in question just how far from the original we can go, without it affecting us. Because these modifications have not been researched for a long period of time, there is no way of telling how our bodies can respond to a long exposure to artificial substances. So the next question is, couldn’t we try to leave them as they come instead of adapting them to a smaller cost of production – because let’s face it, this is an issue – and facing a potential disaster?

    • That is the main question surrounding the GM foods for quite some time now. I personally believe, that if we keep changing the nature, at some point the nature will change us. I cannot say for sure whether the implications will be good or bad for us, which is why I believe we need to balance our diets and to combine GM foods with organic ones.

      Andreea

  9. Thank you for a good piece of reading. From my perspective, the GMO topic is complex not only because GMOs have pros and cons, but also because it is hard to establish the truth from a research. What normally happens is that you get contradicting results. Every scientific research gets funded and those who fund the research have their own interest. When presented to the public, a story with results is normally framed in a certain way and at a certain angle – through those who own results (the funder) and those who tell (the media and PR folk). So what we see as scientific results and ‘true facts’ is rather a product of someone’s own representation of results in line with their own agenda.

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