Genetically modified corn is purposely altered so that the crop can achieve specific goals for a farmer, the producers of the product, and society in general. It’s the next evolution of what has been practiced for centuries. The goal is to create a better, healthier, and more useful product.
The advantage of genetically modified corn is that it has a higher level of hardiness. It can be resilient in difficult growing conditions, such as drought, or be able to withstand an infestation of weeds or pests to still produce a good yield. That allows croplands to become more consistent in what they can produce.
The disadvantage of genetically modified corn is that changes to the structure of the plant occur in a way that would not necessarily occur through natural development. Scientists have been able to infuse animal DNA, pesticides, herbicides, and other items into the plant structure and that offers the potential of future health concerns.
Here are some additional pros and cons of genetically modified corn to think about.
What Are the Pros of Genetically Modified Corn?
1. It can be infused with additional nutritional benefits.
In the United States, as many as 1 in 7 people go hungry. For children, the statistic is closer to 1 in 5. More than 3 billion people on our planet today earn less than $2 per day. By taking corn and genetically modifying it so that it can produce a product with varied nutritional content, more people can have what they need to be healthy. Vitamins and minerals can easily be added to ensure a well-rounded diet.
2. It can be grown for specific purposes.
When we think of corn, it is often the ears of corn that can be found in the grocery store. Corn, however, can be grown for a number of different purposes. Field corn, when genetically modified, could provide livestock with better feed. Corn that is grown for ethanol production could produce a higher overall yield. For the corn we eat, it could be grown to taste better.
3. It offers a longer shelf life without preservatives.
Genetically modified corn offers consumers the chance to experience less waste with their grocery bill. Corn that has been modified can last longer without the need for preservatives, which are chemicals added to the food to increase their shelf life.
4. It could reduce the cost of other food products.
Corn products are used in a wide variety of goods. From cereals to syrups and everything in-between, the average person will eat 42 pounds of corn syrup per year in the United States. An additional 1,500 pounds of corn is consumed per person, per year. When corn can live longer and have more consistency in its yields, then the added supply could drive down the cost of this commodity so that other foods become more affordable. That would provide better food access to the world at-large.
5. It allows us to know more about who we are.
The process of mapping the genetics of corn is similar to the process of mapping the genetics of humans. By understanding this process better, we can unlock potential breakthroughs that could benefit medical science for years to come.
What Are the Cons of Genetically Modified Corn?
1. It can change the landscape of croplands.
Genetically modified corn grows like any other plant. It requires pollination and it will produce seeds. That cross-pollination can affect adjoining croplands and interfere with the natural development of non-GMO corn. If a crop is planted that would be resistant to a specific pesticide, then everyone else in the region must use the same pesticide to not place the yield at risk of failure.
2. It doesn’t provide an economic benefit.
Although the risks of a crop failure are reduced when working with genetically modified corn, there isn’t a proven economic benefit from using this type of crop. Most GMO corn takes as long to grow and produce a yield as non-GMO corn. It is treated as a commodity, just like non-GMO corn, and trades at the same rate. Most crops will even produce a similar yield.
3. It can cause allergic reactions and other health scares.
If a person is allergic to soybeans and soybean genetics are infused into the genetically modified corn, then there is an increased risk for that person to suffer from a reaction even though they’re eating a corn product. People who follow the vegetarian lifestyle might not realize that their corn has been infused with pig DNA. There may be cultural, religious, or societal implications to consider with these practices as well.
4. It could be a contributing factor to antibiotic-resistance.
We already know that when a bacterium is exposed to an antibiotic for an extended period, it will grow a resistance to the drug. That makes it more difficult to eliminate when it is posing a health threat to a human. The CDC reports that more than 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and over 20,000 people die from those infections. With genetically modified corn, it is common to modify seeds using genes that are resistant to antibiotics, which could be an influence on the growing levels of resistance being seen.
5. It could be a carcinogen.
Although the research was retracted, rates that were fed genetically modified corn that was tolerant to a herbicide developed higher rates of cancer and had an increased risk of tumor development and early death compared to rats that were not fed the corn. Problems with the study were found to be numerous, but the study has been republished elsewhere and could be evidence of the dangers of GMO corn.
6. It is often patented.
Because of the costs of producing genetically modified corn, organizations involved in its creation have been granted the right to have their product patented. That means a royalty goes to the organization with every yield. That patent has also caused some organizations to pursue the owners of adjoining croplands where GMO seeds have grown through unintentional spreading or contamination because they were not given a license to grow the product.
The pros and cons of genetically modified corn go beyond having a product that looks better or tastes better. It could be a way to solve the hunger problem we are currently experiencing on our planet. With good distribution networks, the increased lifespan of each yield could mean more people get enough to eat. The potential health risks, however, may mean some people would need to stay away from this product to avoid becoming sick or having a reaction to it.
How do you feel about genetically modified corn?
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.