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Genetically Modified Food and Crops Essay

Abstract

Since the 1980’s scientists have been altering crops, including some of the food we eat (Fairly & Gaskins, 2000). Genetically modified food has always been a concern for many people. I find the concerns to be unwarranted because there has never been a negative health report due to the fact of consuming GM foods. Biotechnology gives us the best means for solving the world’s food shortage now and in the future. Genetically modified crop plants are now grown on nearly 150 million acres in the United States alone, helping farmers to increase yields, reduce pesticide spraying, and save topsoil (Conko & Miller, 2011). What are we actually eating? Looking at ingredients on the back of a product was almost considered out of the ordinary ten to fifteen years ago.

But now it is one of the most important factors in the decision on whether or not a consumer will buy the product. In all the research I conducted there was never a proven harmful effect from genetic engineering. However, the benefits are scientifically proven which gives genetically modified crops the advantage over traditional farming. The proposed ideas and research by scientist show that a lot more can be done with GM food other than eating it. Globalization of GM crops is becoming apparent as well as GM crop commercialization.

_Keywords: GM Food, GM Crops, Genetically engineered crops, Biotechnology, GM organisms._

“Genetically modified organisms can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “biotechnology” and it allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another” (World Health Organization, 2002). For more than twenty years of scientific, humanitarian, and financial success genetic engineering has been applied to agriculture. This has been accomplished without injury to a single person or damage to the ecosystem.

However, activists are still fighting the use of genetically modified crops (Conko & Miller 2011). Millions of people around the world suffer from malnutrition and with the steep projected increase of our world’s population in the next fifty years a change needs to be made. Genetically modified crops increase yield, nutrition and uses fewer pesticides all without proven negative effects. GM crops and all its benefits make it the gateway for the world’s agriculture success.

Genetically modified crops are becoming the building blocks for agriculture advancements. Scientists are continually working to create more benefits for consumers as well as farmers. The main concern of GM foods is negative health risks however, they are actually more beneficial. GM foods have longer shelf life, contain higher nutritional value and are safer to eat. For example, “GM corn has lower fungal toxin content then non-GM corn, and farmers typically produce GM crops using fewer pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers” (Tyson, 2001). By drastically reducing the use of chemicals on the plants it provides a major improvement for the consumer’s safety and nourishment. Because scientists slightly tweak the DNA of the plants with other genes it is possible that food allergens may end up in GM products. Steve Taylor, a scientists at the University of Nebraska states that, “the food-allergy threat is small because food engineers now avoid using genes from nuts and other common food allergens.

The benefits of genetic engineering justify the risk” (Fairley & Gaskins 2000). Products from biotechnology are no less safe than traditionally bred crops. According to Dr. Prakash, “genetically improved products are subjected to intensive testing, while conventional varieties have never been subjected to any such regulation for food safety or environmental impact” (Prakash, 2000). Every GM food that is currently available on the international market has already passed risk assessments and is not likely to pose a risk for the consumers. No effects have been shown and GM foods will continue to be regulated in more and more countries (World Health Organization, 2002). GM crops are never expected to present a health risk and therefore should reassure government officials worldwide in the use of this technology.

Another concern of GM technology is the effect it has on the environment. The environmental risks of biotechnology are also unidentified just like the health trepidations. No scientific evidence proves that GM crops are harmful to the environment. “U.S. officials pointed out that scientists in Europe had been unable to find any evidence of added risk to human health or the environment from any GM crop variety developed to date.” In fact, none of the studies by Europe found any scientific evidence of added harm to humans or the environment (Paarlberg, 2003).

GM engineering will actually help the environment rather than harm it. In the U.S. alone farmers annually administer more than nine hundred seventy million tons of insect and plant killers. Now GM crops have the ability of containing their own insect and plant killing gene which means the farmers can use fewer chemicals (Tyson, 2001). To ensure that the environment is remaining safe, risk assessments are conducted for the GM product as well as the area in which the crop will grow (World Health Organization, 2002). Furthermore, the United Nations

Environment Program has used funding for developing countries to implement biosafety regulations for GM crops. The UNEP wants these regulations implemented before any crop is planted no matter the cost or delay (Paarlberg, 2003). Since 2011, The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved seventy four different GM crops. In each case the crops data was reviewed for several years and each “concluded that they will have no significant environmental impact” (Conko & Miller 2011). These precautionary measures toward genetically modified crops allow the government to regulate farming actions and safeguard the environment.

The initial reason GM organisms were created was to improve crop production. “The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides” (Tyson, 2001). Producers are getting a lot more for a lot less which translates to products with lower prices. The improved production of crops and technology accounts for the lowered costs and have “forced tremendous competition in the herbicide and insecticide markets” (Prakash, 2000). This also helps traditional farmers because it now allows them to buy these products at a cheaper cost.

In fifty years the world population could exceed eleven billion people unfortunately, the current food supply is not expanding at the same rate. Because of this, GM crops need to expand and gain popularity over traditional farming. Global GM crop farming in 1999 covered about one hundred million acres (Tyson, 2001). Now, genetically modified crop plants are grown on nearly one hundred fifty million acres in the United States alone (Conko & Miller 2011). These statistics show that GM crop farming is rapidly expanding and the benefits are obvious. Biotechnology and its productivity give us the best chance to safely solve the food needs of today and the future.

Poor farmers in tropical countries face problems such as crop pests, drought and low soil fertility (Paarlberg, 2003). These are the people who annually struggle to produce enough food for their families. Bugs, drought and disease destroy many acres of farmland every year. Fortunately scientists are creating GM crops with built in resistance to insects and diseases. GM Crops are also being developed that can grow in deserts or near salt water which allows more area for farming (Fairley & Gaskins, 2011). Because GM crops are now being built in with these resistances farmers won’t experience huge financial setbacks caused by pests killing their plants. Since the majority of malnutrition people in the world live in developing countries this opens up the opportunity for them to increase crop yield and provide enough food for everyone. Also, in developing countries people often have to survive off a single staple that own its own doesn’t supply sufficient amounts of nutrients.

Food scientist hope to solve this problem by creating crops equipped with vitamins and minerals. According to Tyson, “one of the most promising is “golden rice,” which can stimulate our bodies to generate vitamin A. In the developing world, vitamin-A deficiency kills two million children each year” (Tyson, 2001). A development through GM foods may be able to save two million people which would be a life changing breakthrough. Scientists are also trying to perfect “eatable vaccines.” They are genetically adding vaccines to tomatoes and bananas, since traditional vaccines are expensive to manufacture and require specialized storage. “Eatable vaccines,” will be easier to transport, store, and administer in third world countries (Tyson, 2001). Biotechnology holds unlimited potential for areas of the world where poverty and poor agricultural conditions make farming challenging. The U.S. needs to ensure the people of these countries that GM food is safe and will be nothing but beneficial to their people.

Genetic engineering is a crucial factor in agricultural productivity and if it continues to safely expand it could help meet the problematic food challenges that have already started. Genetic engineering holds great possibilities that could change the world. Simply peeling back a banana infused with antibiotics could be the next breakthrough science has to offer. Biotechnology continues to show safety is not an issue. GM farmers are now administering fewer chemicals on their crops. This reduces the amount of air pollution and water contamination in the environment. Genetic modifications were being made since farming started. Farmers always crossed bred the most successful plants year to year and without any concerns from the public.

Today, scientist have a better understanding of how genetic modifications work making it safer for the consumers. However, government regulations are still implemented just for precautionary purposes. The United States is fortunate enough to grow numerous varieties of crops and also have the ability to choose the method of how they are grown. Unfortunately, not every country has these advantages. Genetically modified products allow these developing nations to grow crops at a more productive rate. Commercialization of genetically modified agriculture needs to be strictly monitored to make sure regulations are followed. Over industrialization of farming today is negatively viewed therefore making it essential that a golden mean is set for genetically modified products.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Fairley, P., & Gaskins, P. (2000). Food Fight!. _Scholastic Choices_, _15_(8), 16.

CONKO, G., & MILLER, H. I. (2011). The Rush to Condemn Genetically Modified
Crops. _Policy Review_, (165), 69-82.

World Health Orginization. (2002). Retrieved from website: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/index.html

Tyson, P. T. (2001, April 12). _Harvest of fear_. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/exist/

Prakash, C. (2000). Genetically engineered crops can feed the world!. Retrieved from http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/biotech.html

Paarlberg, R. L. (2003). Reinvigorating genetically modified crops. _Issues in Science and Technology, 19_(3), 86-92. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.sju.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/195920735?accountid=14071


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