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The Environmental Impact of GMOs

The Environmental Impact of GMOs

The debate around genetically modified organisms (GMO) is huge and heated on either side. One of the major considerations when arguing against the use of GMO products is the potential for environmental harm. What exactly are the environmental risks to consider in regards to GMOs?

First of all, it is important to understand what a GMO is precisely. The World Heath Organization (WHO) defines them as organisms whose DNA has been altered in a non-natural way. GM plants are usually changed to be insect resistant, virus resistant, or herbicide tolerant. With these changes come some potentially problematic environmental challenges.

Firstly, toxicity is a huge issue surrounding chemical pesticides and herbicides, used commonly with GMOs, in addition to the toxicity inherent to these plants. GMOs may be toxic to non-target organisms, bees and butterflies being the most talked-about examples currently. Bees are hugely important in the pollination of many food crops, but are unfortunately extremely endangered by modern agricultural techniques, such as GM crops. Monarch butterflies are specifically at risk from GMO maize plants. In addition to bees and butterflies, birds are also at risk from pesticides, and work as biological control agents and pollinators, again, like bees.

Furthermore, the longterm effects of GMOs are not certain. Pests that are targeted by these agricultural methods can adapt to pesticides and herbicides, in addition to the DNA changes in GM plants to make them ¨resistant.¨ This means that they will not always be effective, but their toxic legacies will remain.

Cumulative effects of products such as GMOs are important to take into consideration. Evidence also suggests that small genetic changes in plants may produce even larger ecological shifts, meaning that there is potential for GMO´s to become persistent and weedy in agricultural conditions, since they are modified to be resistant to some modern agricultural techniques. This can also mean being invasive in natural settings, where GMOs, of course, do not occur naturally. It is not impossible for new, human modified, plants to become invasive species in delicate, natural ecosystems.

Finally, biodiversity, while it is critical in all ecosystems and to the sustainability of all species, is put at risk by GMOs. When GM crops are planted, generally in a monocrop fashion, many heritage seeds are no longer used. The nature of GMOs means fewer weed flowers and, therefore, less nectar for pollinators. Toxins released into the soil through the plants´ routes mean fewer soil bacteria, which are integral to healthy soil for plants to grow without the use of chemical fertilizers. Toxic residues are left in the soil of GM crops. Nutrients are not returned to the soil in mono crops and from GMO foods, meaning that soil is becoming dry and void of all nutrients, generally integral to the growing process. A cycle of dependence on GMO seeds and chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides is then created in order to grow a single crop. In addition to soil issues, the irrigation used to grow GM foods naturally carries all of these problems into water sources and into the air. This exposes different bacteria, insects, and animals to the same problems.

All of these impacts must be taken into consideration in the larger picture; GMO´s DNA may end up in soil, compost, animal feed and byproducts, and other living organisms from insects to larger pests. Bees can transport pesticides, herbicides, and DNA through the air into the environment. Once a plant is introduced in an agricultural environment, it is reasonable to assume it will become part of a larger ecosystem, meaning the problem of environmental damage done by GMOs is much larger than simply potentially harming our health.

Aside from environmental issues, GMOs are the topic of social and ethical debates as well. It goes without saying that we live in an inter-connected world, where the way we interact with nature can cause a complex array of consequences. Being informed on the food we are consuming, and the way modern agricultural techniques are affecting the environment, is one effective way of consciously interacting with the natural world.

Image Source: James Jordan/Flickr

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One comment on “The Environmental Impact of GMOs”

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1 Months Ago

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Alex Hall
3 Months Ago

I\'m Alex Hall and your watching Disney channel

12 May 2017

You used the wrong your........ it\'s you\'re*******

4 Months Ago

I don\'t know who wrote this but it is terrible. It has zero scientific backup and is the muddled writings of a fool that listens to what is on the mainstream media regardless of facts. Since when do plants release toxins through their "routes"? Humans have been altering the genome of countless organisms through selective breeding, GMO is basically a faster method by splicing the target genes into and out of particular organisms. Fucking vegans...

4 Months Ago

this helped me very much with my science project thank you

FreakinCool\'s FreakinCoolFriend
6 Months Ago

all you need is love and UNICORNS! wait... i think they\'d required genetic modification.

06 Mar 2017

shut up foo

6 Months Ago

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6 Months Ago

All you need is love. All you need is love. Happy Valentines Day buddies <3<3 lol jk I don\'t even know y\'all

14 Feb 2017

Awwwww how sweet^^ lol I\'m replying to my own comment cause imma hoe ;) jk I love y\'all jk I don\'t love you I don\'t even know you kisses

xoxo gossip guuuurrll

14 Feb 2017

Lel has anyone else seen gossip girl because I have and lemme say that it is an abomination that they took this golden show off Netflix :( Like now what am I supposed to do in my spare time huh

9 Months Ago

Does anybody know who is the author, who is the publisher/sponsor and the date it was electronically published?

20 Jan 2017

Emily Glass published this article on August 2nd 2013

Johny Boi
2 Years Ago


14 Feb 2017


14 Feb 2017

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28 Apr 2017


2 Years Ago

bastille links to avid and then firefly. sven and kingkong times the danger of GMO and crimson typhoon. DO not underestimate clark for he has donkanant cronut nets.

21 Apr 2015


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01 Feb 2017

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