For as long as man has been cultivating crops and raising animals, there have been modifications of the genomes of these plants and animals. Just think of the large number of breeds of horses and dogs, and the many varieties of corn and tomatoes. Now we have the ability to modify the genome very precisely, one gene at a time. This new technique is called genetic engineering (GE), and has become a rather common technique in those laboratories conducting such research. It has made possible precise changes in varieties of plants, changes that have enabled man to increase both yields and the quality of these crops (Abelson and Hines, 1999).
However, there has developed a rather large and vocal opposition to the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This opposition has attempted to stop the use of GMOs entirely, claiming health concerns such as toxic and allergic reactions, despite the assurances of the United States government Department of Commerce (Palmer, 1999), the National Academy of Science (Yoon and Peterson, 2000) and the United States Food and Drug Administration that there is no danger (Maryanski, 1995; Sudduth, 2000).
There are also claims that Monsanto and other companies involved are trying to “lock up” control of seed production and thus dominate the world. (Lappe and Bailey, 1997; Cummins, 1999; Bereano, 1995). Thus the arguments involved in the issue of GMOs safety might be characterized as both political and biological (Verzola, 1999; Rifkin, 2000; Genetic ID, Inc, 1999a).
Unfortunately there are a large number of articles that seem to be only alarmist in tone and content. Some of these are very well written, but many are not, and the overall effect is to alarm and confuse the reader, making it very difficult to sort out what is fact, opinion or fiction. (Fagan, 1998; Leahy, 2000; Pure Food Campaign, 1998; Rifkin, 1998). There has even been at least one news article written for children that seems to stress the potential harmful effects of GMOs (LeTourneau, 2000).