What are we eating?

Katie Buchanan

Since genetically modified crops were first introduced for commercial production in 1996, genetically altered foods have generated everything from praise for their benefits to deep concern about accompanying environmental problems. Some of the main GM crops in the United States include soybeans, cotton and corn.
Major praise has been given to GM foods because of the research and development of allergen-free soybeans, modified mice that can produce fish oils, hypoallergenic cats, and huge boosts in crop yield.
At the same time, issues have been raised about GM crops having a worse effect on farmland wildlife than conventional crops, crops engineered to produce industrial chemicals, drugs cross-pollinating with and contaminating crops grown as food, and a general lack of interest in researching the short and long-term effects of GM foods as a significant part of the human diet.
On the Lawrence campus, GM crops inspire many different opinions. Considering the developments made to corn so that it could grow in extremely adverse climates, Kendra Sundt believes, “There’s a reason why [corn] can’t grow in certain places. I’m against moving plants that belong in a certain climate to a new climate,” said the junior. “It could have a ton of environmental effects that could be detrimental.”
When asked about whether she would eat any GM foods served at Downer, Sundt questioned, “What are the modifications? What are they putting in the food? I’d like to know what’s in it before I eat it.”
Has Downer ever served any GM foods? “I’m sure we do,” said Patrick Niles, Director of Dining Services. “There’s no way of knowing because the FDA doesn’t regulate GM foods.”
When asked what he thought about GM foods, Niles remarked, “The jury’s still out; GM crops are too new to know much about. Some good things could come out of it, but we don’t know what it would do to humans with specific allergies.”
Furthermore, Niles believes there could be problems altering plants. “Because we’ve altered the plant so much, we might not be able to grow the genetically original plant ever again.”
Ben Glover, a member of Student War Against Hunger and Poverty, believes there’s a promising future for GM foods. “It’s very common in the U.S. and other developed countries,” said the junior. “Modifications produce excess crops so there’s enough food for a large number of people.”
Glover says he feels okay about giving GM foods to the hungry, but “there’s a trade off–using genetic technology will produce more food, but this might lead to new environmental problems.”
For more information about GM crops, visit NewScientist.com, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, or truthout.org.