Spring 2013: “Genetically Modified Food” Powerful Voice Winner Russell Chiang

Read Russell's essay about how GMOs may harm one's body, and how monopolizing companies can harm the economy.

Russell Chiang, a student of Angela Halpin at Carmel Valley Middle School in San Diego, California, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article “A Month Without Monsanto,” by April Dávila, a story about the potential health effects of genetically modified foods, and her need to learn where her food came from. He is our Powerful Voice winner for the Spring 2013 writing competition.

Writing prompt: April Dávila discovered that around 70 percent of processed foods on American supermarket shelves contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Does this concern you? What matters most to you about the food you eat?


The Problem with GMOs

GMO crops are produce that are transformed from their natural state into bigger, better, and faster growing plants to make a profit. When we, as humans, inject new DNA into the DNA of older crops, we don’t stop to think about what we are putting in our own bodies and why we are doing that. Ultimately, the plants that GMO companies alter, grow, harvest, sell, and make a profit off of are going to be eaten. April Dávila, in her YES! Magazine article “A Month Without Monsanto,” explored the pervasiveness of these GMOs. I then wondered what happens when unnatural chemicals and the things that people inject into plants find their way into our bodies. Many destructive or disturbing effects can potentially take place including human health impacts, environmental damage, and domination of the food industry by a few companies who make genetically modified seeds.

According to experts, people who consume genetically modified crops have higher chances of developing cancer or an incurable disease because of the unknown cross- pollination and long-term effects. Articles state that genetically modified organisms can affect certain allergens and eventually may lead to harmful mutations. In a recent study in France, a company that makes GMO seeds fed corn to some lab rats, and discovered that there were not only several tumors in the test subjects, but also severe kidney and liver damage. Monsanto, the company that makes these seeds, has donated large sums of money to California Proposition 37 and has heavy lobbying power because of this. Prop 37 is the proposition put together by voters that requires companies and food businesses to identify GMO products into the food you consume. Almost 61 different countries either require that GMO products are listed or banned, but the US has not agreed on the banning.

Since 1996, 3.7 billion acres have been used to grow GMO crops, and pollination has spread the breed of the seeds to masses of lands and property. When farmers spray herbicides and pesticides on their plantations, the toxins and gases released into the air affect the plants and soil. Every day, people are unaware of what they are consuming and what they are doing to their bodies because GMOs are pervasive, and can be found in crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, fruits, and certain animals. A vivid example of the cross-pollination of organisms is the strawberry. In an attempt to help strawberries tolerate frost—which is a threat to crops—genes of a particular fish that lives in the cold seas are inserted into a strawberry. Why would you want fish in your body when you eat a strawberry? Not knowing what we are eating can be very dangerous, let alone unpleasant, especially for people with allergies and adamant dislikes toward particular foods.

Finally, there are only a few companies that produce GMO seeds. What would happen if the world comes to rely on GMOs? A few companies, such as Monsanto, would control the whole spectrum of foods, and be filthy rich while people would still be questioning what the crops had in them and what they would do to their bodies before they would eat anything. Monsanto is buttering up the government by donating money so that the DNA contaminators won’t stop making a profit. When people finally realize that GMO crops will have a big effect on their bodies, it will be too late.

Monsanto will probably tell you that it created its GMO seeds because it wanted plants to be cheaper and bigger so that world hunger could stop. But now, some people are beginning to question the quality of produce and the reason why the GMO seed business is booming. Are these companies trying to make money or trying to help others, or both? In conclusion, GMOs are the worst possible scenario because they harm our health and destroy our natural habitat. Here’s an equally scary thought: if one company were to control our food supply, what would happen to our economy?



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