The last century witnessed a massive increase in population across the globe, and across the world this has had an effect on water supplies. This has seen the area of land that is covered in crops expand, and this has put pressure on the available water supplies which have become more limited by the day.
This increase in population has also seen the use of chemicals that were previously used only in agriculture become widespread use in industries, and this has had an effect on the supply of fresh water that is available for use by humans.
One of the chemicals that is often used in conjunction with crops is herbicide-tolerant cotton. This genetically engineered cotton is designed to be resistant to the chemical dicamba, which is used to kill weeds.
Dicamba has been linked to the development of a serious illness called ‘wineglass’ disease, which causes the skin and eyes to blanch and run when exposed to certain fabrics and paints. Wineglass disease is believed to have been caused by dicamba in approximately five per cent of the cotton grown in the United States in 2008, and this has been rising steadily since 2005. This has seen dicamba become a major focus of concern for scientists across the globe.
The use of this herbicide-tolerant cotton has also been banned in Australia due to its link to a number of health issues in workers. However, other countries are seeing a rise in the use of this product in order to meet the demands of an exploding population.
There are also health concerns associated with the use of fertilizers with genetically engineered plants as well, with studies showing it to have negative effects on the thyroid gland and reproductive system. This includes disruption of hormone production and the immune system.
It has also been reported that genetically engineered corn has been found to have harmful effects on the fertility of men and women.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that genetically engineered food is causing concern in Europe, where the president of France has voiced his disapproval of a study that found that human cells found in genetically modified corn had been previously approved for human consumption. France is also the home of the famous Benetton brand.
It is also becoming apparent that the widespread acceptance of genetically engineered foods is damaging the environment and putting public health at risk.
There is also evidence that genetically engineered crops may not be as pest-resistant as previously thought and may, in fact, be more prone to disease.
What is emerging is a world-wide trend for strict labelling of genetically engineered foods. This is primarily due to the evidence that genetically engineered foods pose a safety risk to the environment and the public.
The use of genetically engineered foods is also placing pressure on farmers, threatening their ability to earn a living. In the United States, farmers have faced a patchwork of standards over the last five years. States like Minnesota have moved to ban the planting of these GM plants. There are currently 20 states in the US that have laws or regulations concerning genetically engineered foods.
The growing pressure for tighter labelling laws is also putting pressure on food manufacturers to change their products, either to remove the genetically engineered qualities or to add extra details on the label indicating the presence of GM ingredients. Consumers are becoming more savvy about GM products as more information is made available about the possible harmful effects.
There is a growing movement in Europe to ban the use of GM crops in food crops. France has banned the planting of GM crops and a vote in the European Parliament is expected in the new year. There is also an initiative in the US to require the extra labelling of GM foods.
It is not just GM foods that are causing concern. There are also concerns about genetic engineering in fish, livestock, even humans. There is a fear that genes from GM crops could eventually be transferred to insects and animals. It is also feared that the DNA from GM crops could get into our food chain.
Gene splicing, the insertion of foreign genes into our genome, is an already well known process. Gene editing is now very accurate and very powerful and scientists are still making changes to our genes.
There are concerns about the increase in the rate of miscarriages and genetic diseases in humans. There is also concern that the genetically engineered animals used in GM animal farms may have toxic substances that will contaminate the meat and milk we eat. There is concern that GM crops will spread to our watersheds and soil and make its way into the bodies of animals and humans and be passed on to future generations.
Even soya beans have been identified as a source of genes that can cause human diseases.
Some of the problems associated with the use of GM foods are well known. There is a movement to ban GM foods in the EU. An EU regulation states that animals should not be fed GM crops that it it their food. They are however not a firm prohibition and farmers can use GM crops if they want to.
There are other risks associated with GM foods. There are risks associated with the use of GM seeds which can affect the bees as they will have negative impacts on their gut flora and reduce their ability to deal with diseases and pests.
GM foods are only suitable if they have had the gene spliced out of them and then the cells taken and modified to avoid the effects of the gene. If the gene is inserted into the plant it will have an impact on the plant’s development. It may be that the gene was only intended to be inserted into the plant in the laboratory not in the field. If the gene is from GM plants it will affect the animal or insect that consumes it. GM foods will not be suited to the area it will be fed in. Even if the food has been grown to be suitable, the animal that consumes it may not be suited to the area. GM foods do have to be assessed before use, in most cases before it is ever put into the field. This assessment is completed by a panel of experts known as the EFSA. The EFSA will also assess the health effects of GM foods and the environmental and economic effects.
Farmers in the UK do not have to feed their livestock GM foods. But the EFSA still advises caution because they still believe it is better to avoid GM foods as there is still a lack of knowledge about the effects of feeding GM foods to animals. The EFSA will assess the impact of feeding GM foods in the farm.
If the EFSA’s assessment of the potential risks of GM foods have a recommendation for farmers who plan to feed their livestock GM foods it is that farmers should seek advice from a specialist veterinary science firm.
And finally here is the advice from the United Kingdom Environment Agency.
> Farmers must ensure that they use non-GM feed, such as hay or manure, instead of GM feed. They must consider environmental impacts and avoid disturbing the plants. There are restrictions on using GM crops in the environment, so farmers should avoid GM crops wherever possible.
> Farmers who have not yet planted GM crops should seek advice from an environmental firm before doing so, as planting GM crops may increase their risk of pest or disease issues. They should also consider whether it is worth continuing to grow GM crops, as this use may increase the risk of pests damaging their crops and harming their cash flow.