By Adeeba Hasan, Staff Writer
When I moved to Berkeley as a freshman this year, one of the biggest changes I noticed with was the prevalence of the word “organic” here. It was on my fruits, vegetables, hand soap, and my most coveted grocery of all, milk. So I (partially because in California I had limited grocery options otherwise) was locked in to the organic-purchasing movement, purportedly ensuring that I didn’t get sick before I managed to graduate. Yet, with my interest in California’s position 37 this year for a class paper, I was surprised by the often unadvertised advantages of genetically modified (GM) foods and annoyed with the illegitimacy of the bad rap often plastered onto them.
First, let me address all the reasons why I would advocate the purchasing of organic foods. Take one often overlooked advantage of organic crops: the lower danger it poses to our farmers. The United Farm Workers Foundation claims that “it is better for a farm worker to not work in a field of GMO crops if they have the choice. Those fields will use far more pesticides, herbicide, and fertilizer.” Other reasons to buy organic include a minimization of a concentration of economic power to those, often “non-family,” larger farms which can afford biotechnology, ethical and religious concerns of the non-natural manipulation of GM crop, an elimination of toxicants in the environment and a fundamental right to know what’s on our food (as non-organic substances used on our produce are often unpublicized). If any of these aforementioned reasons are those which compel you to buy organic, then by all means buy organic.
Yet if you, like many others stuck in that organic-food-craze, are worried about the possible harm that GM foods can do to our bodies (not a reason mentioned on my earlier list), let me persuade you otherwise. First of all, a recent study by Stanford University’s School of Medicine cites a “definite lack of evidence” to support that organic foods are inherently healthier than GM foods. And secondly, research “proving” the dangers of GM foods is often flawed or premature. Take the study of Monsanto’s (a commonly criticized corporation) Roundup Ready GMO corn which supposedly proved that the corn gave rats fatal cancers. A further look into this study shows conflicts of interests that went unstated, manipulation of news media and a poor execution study design, so prevalent in fact that the European Food Safety Authority was forced to state that that “the authors’ conclusion cannot be regarded as scientifically sound.” Not only can many GM food fears be debunked in this way, but buying GM foods have a multitude of advantages, often unadvertised, as well. They are often cheaper, of higher quality, longer lasting, of greater utility to the consumer (i.e. increased vitamin A in rice used to prevent malnutrition) and have reduced food-production costs for the farmer.
So please, take time to analyze your sources the next time you hesitate to purchase GM foods because you think they will cause you harm; such research is often illegitimate. And, while organic foods have a multitude of reasons that make them a desirable choice, GM foods have just as many reasons to making them as ideal of a purchase. Maybe next time you go to buy your fruit, vegetable, hand soap or carton of milk, don’t rush to demonize the non-organic option.
Photo Credit: Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education Department at Penn State University