To the editor:
As a student at Newburyport High School, I have gained a new understanding of the dangers of genetically modified food during my civics project. GM foods were introduced to consumers about 15 years ago and are found in products containing soybeans, corn and rice. Eighty-six percent of corn in the United States has been genetically modified by adding bacterial DNA and is a major ingredient in popular processed foods like cereal and soft drinks.
Genetic engineering raises safety, ecological and economic concerns and directly affects the lives of everyone. As a consumer, my question has been "why?" Why do we need to mutate a plant's DNA? One of the biggest arguments in favor of GM food is that crops grow quickly and cheaply, making it possible to feed a greater number of people across the globe. However, recent studies prove that GM crops don't have higher yields than normal plants, and the United Nations has found that genetic engineering is not a viable solution to the world's food supply crisis. Genetically engineered products present a threat to human health: The FDA doesn't decide whether or not GM foods are safe; this responsibility is left to the developer of the food, and there are no required safety tests. GM plants are dangerous to the environment, releasing genetic pollution, which can never be recalled, and contaminating non-GM organisms.
There are two parts to GM food that are most frightening. The first is that the U.S. doesn't require modified products to be labeled, so there is no way to know if the food is safe. The second is that the use of genetically engineered material is harming small farms. For centuries, farmers in every nation have saved their own seed from year to year, so every crop carries the same genes. However, Monsanto, a seed company, has patented GM plants. For example, if a farmer plants with seeds saved from the last year, and uses Roundup Ready (a fertilizer owned by Monsanto), the crop will contain the patented Roundup Ready gene. This farmer could be sued for piracy for not paying royalties and has lost his own seeds. Our food supply is threatened by companies like Monsanto, who have global control over food production worldwide.
Fortunately, there are solutions. Ecological farming is used by farmers on large and small scales and promotes sustainable food production, keeping the environment free of genetically modified materials and chemicals by using organic farming techniques. For those of us who aren't farmers, it is important that we buy produce, meat and other products from local farms. When you buy locally, you know the food's origin, and it hasn't traveled more than a few miles — reducing the billions of dollars spent on fuel for food transport.
Americans rely on food grown in other countries, though there are farmers in every town in the U.S. Buying from local, organic farms is an easy way for everyone to make a difference and end our dependence on genetically modified food.