Contradictory effects of genetically modified organisms on agriculture

Conflicting Effects of Genetically Modified Organisms and The Change in Legislation Regarding Them Introduction You may think of genetic engineering as a science of the future, however you could not be more wrong. think of your favorite breakfast cereal, or perhaps your favorite cut of meat. Chances are they contain a genetically modified substance or where grown by ingesting genetically modified feed or modified themselves. According to a study conducted by the USDA (2014), Out of all the corn and soybeans grown in the U.

S, around 90 percent of them have been genetically engineered in some way. Yet you would have no way of knowing this, because there is no law that requires food containing genetically modified ingredients (Hemphill and Banerjee 2015). The genetic engineering of common agriculture plants and animals is far past its infancy. Altering these organisms and the restrictions and regulations placed on them are extremely important, yet most people have a general lack of understanding about these topics. The main topics that are focused on when discussing the use of these genetically modified organisms are the impact they have on the environment, the impact on non-genetically altered organisms, and the legislation surround the use and labeling in retail products.

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Environmental Consequences of GMO Usage While many people often have negative connotations about the use of Genetically Modified Crops, the advancement of science has helped farmers by reducing use of Herbicides, Pesticides and Insecticides used, as well as the amount of water required to grow the plants. Herbicides are chemical solutions used to kill invasive plants that take nutrients and water from crops that are growing.

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Henderson, Luukinen, and others (2010) say that they are typically split into two subclasses, non-selective and selective, meaning one will kill most plants it comes in contact with, while the other will only kill a specific kind of plant. The chemical is applied as either as a liquid on the surface of the plant, or a salt that is distributed on the ground around the base of the plant. Glyphosate presides in the first class of herbicides. It is one of the most common herbicides used in the United States. It kills the plants by interrupting the production of several proteins that are essential for growth (Henderson, Luukinen, etc 2010). a common usage of genetic engineering on plants is the introduction of herbicidal resistant genes in common mass agriculture plants. Genetic engineering is not just limited to herbicide resistance. There are also strains or common crops that contain insect and other pest resistant genes. An example of this is a strain of Genetically modified corn used in Mexico by Aguirre Luis and his associates (2015) that is resistant to a common pest in the area, called a corn earworm. These are only several examples of the benefits to using gmo’s and their impact on the environment. However, some Genetically Modified Crops are dangerous because they produce biological pollutants and resistant plants coined “superweeds” by Bain, Selfa, Dandachi, and Velardi (2017) that damage the environment and make it more difficult to grow other crops. With the higher usage glyphosate due to genetically engineered crops, has come the rise of these herbicide resistant “superweeds”. They are common through out the United States as well as other countries that are using lots of genetically modified crops such as Argentina and Brazil. In 2014, these “superweeds” cost farmers around one billion dollars just in the U.S (Gilbert 2013). In response to this increase in resistant weeds, farmers have started increase the use of deadlier, more concentrated herbicides since glyphosate has lost its effectiveness. The herbicides now in use are extremely more toxic to the surrounding environment as well as human and animal health. According to research done by Adler (2010), just in the U.S in there were 10 recorded species of mutated weeds or other plants that developed a resistance to glyphosate in (p. 74). These species most often target the fields of the most important and widely used crops in the country, including cotton, corn, and soybeans. These plants are costing hardworking farmers around the world billions of dollars, and also causing a severe, widespread, and negative impact on the environment. Effects of Widespread GMO Usage on Plant and Animal Life Coinciding with the large effect genetically modified organisms have on the environment, they also often have a direct impact on the native plants and animals that already exist there. Many genetically modified organisms are transplanted genes that make them grow faster and larger than their normal counterparts. In the example of plants, they slowly kill off surrounding plant life by sprouting up in large numbers covering a large surface are of the ground. They then steal nutrients from the crops and sometimes block the sunlight from directly reaching the native plants, which ultimately results in their demise. The most prevalent example of genetically altered animals impacting native species is the usage of genetically modified fish. They similarly to GMO plants, are often transplanted with genes to make them grow large and at a quicker rate. Tripathi and Gopal (2015) summarized that if they were to escape from there holding tanks, they could reproduce with native populations and cause the species to become too dominant and could subsequently bring about the extinction of other species of fish in the area. The larger sizes these fish have would only help with the initial competition between the native species and the altered fish. These fish are also given other genes that help them survive more effectual in the cold water of the storage facilities, which would only increase the chances of this happening. If they bread with the natural population, this could affect natural breeders by infecting their populations with altered genetics (Tripathi and Gopal 2015). However, even with all of these potential negative consequences genetically modified organisms can have on their native counterparts, there are still some great potential uses for these altered organisms. For example, according to Mayher (2016), scientists are testing the safety of a strain of rice that contains boosted levels of essential vitamins that affect eyesight. They are doing this to combat a child eyesight problem found commonly in Southeast Asia, since rice is the most common crop grown in that area. Likewise, the altered fish have potential benefits as well. Since they can be grown quickly and to a very large size, they can be used as a cheap food source for people living in poverty (Mayher 2016). Discussion and Potential Effects of Changed GMO Legislation Over the past decade, the FDA has been implementing polices for the growing use of genetically engineered plants and animals, yet there are some people who think that they are not doing enough and think that the FDA should regulate genetically engineered food and food products more tightly. Vermont became the first State, in April 2014, to require the open tagging of foods containing genetically modified organisms, which became effective in July 2016 (Federal Trade Commission 2018). They did this at the state level, because at the federal government level no law or legislation exists that forces manufactures to declare if their products contain ingredients that contain altered genetics, or that were grown on engineered feed. After this, the ruling was opposed by many large manufacturing corporations. In 1967, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act was passed, which required manufactures to provide all major ingredients in their product. This of course excludes certain things that fall under the trade secrets category, which allows the corporations to withhold information that would give away their trade secret or “magic formula”( Federal Department of Agriculture 2016). For those pushing the advancement of regulation, Hemphill and Banerjee (2015) simplify the argument into three concise points, the Right to Know, Right to Choose, and Religious or Ethical Right. Those for stricter regulation say that we have a right as a consumer to know what our food is made from, and coinciding with that, we have the right to choose what we buy. So, we have a right to know if something contains genetically modified material, and secondly, we have the right whether to purchase said item. And lastly, similar to the second point, we as consumers have a right to not purchase any item with altered genetics due to an individual’s personal religious and or ethical beliefs. On the opposite edge of the sword, the main proponents of keeping the intact legislation or relaxing it are typically the manufactures and corporations that have larger stakes in the food and agricultural industries. An example of one of the corporations is Monsanto. They are a publicly owned company and are headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Monsanto sells services and products to the farming industry including herbicides, equipment, and seeds (Mahtani 2015). They are an example of who would be directly affected by stricter legislation on genetically altered organisms. They are one of the more popular companies involved with the genetic research of agricultural plants. Hemphill and Banerjee (2015) also covered the opposing viewpoint quite well. Most of these corporations claim that by restricting the use and have the labeling of products containing genetically modified material would cause a price hike in manufacturing costs, which would then later down the line put a limit on the choice of the consumer. Increased costs could also cause manufactures to cut costs in other areas to compensate, thus leading to people losing their jobs. This also ties in with their next point. Because changing the legislation would cause an increase in manufacturing costs, it would also drive the price of the items themselves up as well, making the consumer pay more for the same products, even if some of them don’t contain genetically modified organisms (Hemphill and Banerjee 2015). These companies also say that by requiring the labeling of the products containing genetically altered organisms, “it could mislead and falsely alarm consumers” (Hemphill and Banerjee 2015). While the opposition to increased regulation is more supported by large corporations than the average joe, there are still some valid arguments on their side of the debate. Conclusion Genetic engineering has been going on for several decades. Before that, genetic selection and breeding has been going on for hundreds of years. Chances are most of the processed food you pick up at the store could have genetically modified organisms in it or be fed and grown on them. The genetic engineering of common agriculture plants and animals is far past its developing stage. It will be very relevant as time goes on and become more advanced as the science of genetic modification grows. However, the impact these organisms have on the environment, on non-genetically altered organisms, and the legislation surround the use and labeling in retail products will remain very relevant for a long time.

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Contradictory effects of genetically modified organisms on agriculture. (2022, Apr 07). Retrieved from

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