It’s time to look at likely apocalypses again! This time, we’re going to look at the possibility of an apocalypse by genetically modified foods.
Genetically modified, or GM, foods, are pretty well known. Even if most people only have a passing knowledge of GM foods, it seems as if everyone has an opinion. I mean, say “Monsanto” in a crowded room and then sit back and watch the world burn. (But, um, not literally burn.) So, can GM foods really cause an apocalypse? Let’s take a look.
What are GM foods?
GM foods are, in essence, pretty self-explanatory. They’re crop seeds that have been genetically engineered, typically for a particular purpose. (No, that purpose is not to cause zombie food. Well…at least I hope not.) These seeds may grow crops that are more resistant to weather damage, need less pesticides, grow more easily in hard-to-grow environments (like dry soil), or have a higher crop yield. (There are other reasons, and I can’t pretend to even have an inkling of them all, but those are a few.)
I guess you could say that GM foods are crops that are bred for a purpose. Like cross-breeding roses for the perfect shade of red, only with food that people ingest. Okay, okay — to be fair, breeding roses isn’t exactly the same thing. That’s more selective breeding, which has been around for centuries. GM seeds aren’t selectively bred per se; they actually have foreign DNA inserted into them to promote whatever purpose for which they’re being modified.
Are GM foods safe?
Well, this is sort of what’s causing the controversy. There’s currently no evidence that GM foods are harmful or cause health issues/defects/etc, but…there isn’t any evidence that says they aren’t totally safe, either. The absence of harm doesn’t necessarily prove safety, but the lack of proven safety doesn’t necessarily prove harm, either. So…the jury’s still out. Some countries have also banned or restricted the use of GM crops, so make of that what you will.
In the meantime, I guess I’ll just sit here and eat my ripe-for-longer banana. (Kidding; I’m allergic to bananas.)
Can GM foods cause an apocalypse?
Um. I don’t know. I mean, I guess it’s possible, since no one seems to truly know what the long-term effects (if any) are. Is it likely? Well, at the risk of sounding like an indecisive record…I don’t know. Long-term effects and all that. This is one of those things where really, only time will tell. (Though if it does cause an apocalypse, would we be able to recognize it before it’s too late? Hmm…)
What would a GM food-based apocalypse look like?
Who knows! Really, anything is possible, and I’m sure many other people have thought about this. Personally, I think it would be more along the lines of unintended consequences. I have a list of “what if’s” that fall under that. For example, what if a modified strain mutates and stops growing, leading to starvation? Or what if it mutates and ends up poisoning people? What if GM foods end up producing more allergens, or somehow lead to adverse health reactions? Will crops lose their genetic diversity? What if seeds are controlled by one or two corporations, giving them the ability to control the world’s population? (Insert twirly mustache villain here.) Will a reliance on modified food then allow people to weaponize the seeds (think biowarfare)? What if the world ends up relying on GM foods, which leads to only having one or two strains of any single crop, and something goes wrong — like famine or a bug infestation or a disease? Will the altered plant DNA eventually alter human DNA and create plant people? (I know, I know, this one’s unlikely. It would make a fun novel though; someone should get on that.)
So many apocalyptic possibilities.
Sources (and extra reading)