The effect of GMOs on biodiversity is another area of controversy. As scientists perfect genetically modified varieties and these varieties are used more and more, the natural genetic diversity of the organisms is likely to be lost. Genetic diversity is a form of “insurance” against unforeseen natural disasters. If a species becomes subject to disease, blight, or some other environmental challenge, species with no genetic diversity will be subject to catastrophic loss, but those with genetic diversity may have individuals with the genetic make-up to resist the challenge. So important is the insurance value of genetic diversity that seed banks have been created to house genetically diverse varieties of agricultural seeds.
They have been erroneously giving the impression that "...one gene controls one character trait, and transferring the gene results in the transfer of the corresponding trait to the genetically modified organism, which can then pass it on indefinitely to future generations" (6).
In early 2003, U.S. trade officials, backed by aggressive lobbying from agribusiness proponents, began discussing the possibility of challenging the European Union’s right to ban genetically modified imports. Such a legal challenge would be heard by the World Trade Organization. Should the U.S. win, the impact on world markets would be immense.
High in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, is the “hearth of domestication” of corn (maize). Here, teocinte, the wild ancestor of corn, grows alongside the many varieties of domesticated corn cultivated by indigenous farmers. Corn is the basis of life and security for these farmers, and their communities and cultures have been shaped over a long period of time by the annual cycle of corn production. It was a shock when scientists discovered signs that genetically engineered corn was growing in this remote part of the planet. This is the first case of genetically modified organisms growing in their “hearth of domestication.” How did it happen when Mexico has banned the commercial planting of genetically modified corn? Actually, it was an accident waiting to happen. Mexico, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), imports large quantities of corn from the U.S. where genetically altered varieties are commonly grown. Though this imported grain is destined for human and animal consumption, not for planting, there was no way to prevent local farmers who bought the corn from planting some out of curiosity as farmers are wont to do. Once planted, containment is almost impossible because corn plants are prolific in their production of pollen which rides the winds far beyond the fields where it is produced. Now local farmers worry about the possible health hazards of genetically modified corn on their families, the effects of contamination on their ability to sell corn on the open market, and possible impacts on their lives resulting from their interconnections with a world market that now includes genetically modified seeds.
Currently over 60 percent of the corn and soy raised in the U.S. is genetically engineered. It is in the U.S.’s interest to have as wide a market as possible for these genetically modified products. Yet many countries refuse to allow the importation of genetically modified grains or products. Access to these restricted markets depends on the growers’ ability to prove that their crops are not contaminated by GMO technology. What happened in Mexico shows how difficult it is to prevent contamination. We should not be surprised that some observers accuse the U.S. of sending relief food in the form of grain intentionally to spread GMO contamination. As fewer countries are then able to certify their crops are GMO free, these observers claim, the import barriers against GMO crops will of necessity be dropped. When that happens many small, local farmers will find themselves unable to compete with subsidized U.S. farm products.
Even the American Cancer Society (who you would expect to be the first to protest if a link to cancer was found), says "There is no proof at this time that the genetically modified foods that are now on the market are harmful to human health or that they would either increase or decrease cancer risk because of the added genes" (you can find the quote on their website under common questions).
After the genetically modified food is absorbed into the human digestive tract, these antibiotic genes could potentially be absorbed into the blood stream or into the bacteria in the intestines(5).
Because the sale of genetically modified foods has been allowed without proper assessment of the risks to health (7), these potentially associated risks have become an issue of increasing concern.
The connections between big business and genetically modified foods is an issue in and of itself, as it seems that biotech companies have put economic gains before safety concerns.
At present, foodstuffs made from genetically modified plants, especially corn, soy, and canola, are commonly sold in the United States. Most processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically modified organisms. There is insufficient evidence at this point to say definitively whether these foods are safe or are health hazards. But many countries, including all the European countries, fear that GMOs are health hazards and importation of GMO foodstuffs is banned.
In fact, there isn't even one case of a confirmed illness caused by genetically modified foods - although admittedly, it may be a difficult link to show.
The public has not been adequately educated of the presence of genetically modified ingredients in their diets and the possible risks that these foods may entail, and hence, they have been disempowered in their rights to make informed choices.
Already the problems of containing the new genetically altered varieties are evident. Pollen from genetically modified plants is spread by the wind and has been found to have pollinated plants in fields where GMOs were not planted. Although the planting of genetically modified corn is prohibited in Mexico, it has been found in several parts of the country because small farmers experimentally planted corn that had been imported from the U.S. for food and animal feed. To the North, organic canola farmers in Canada complain that it is no longer possible to grow canola that can be certified as organic because of GMO contamination.
This reduces the necessity of exposing genetically modified crops to harmful pesticides and insecticides, making these foods free from chemicals and environment friendly as well.