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War, famine, disease, hate, overpopulation; these are all constant struggles that humanity must face every day. How to address these problems so that the world will be able to continue in a stable, productive way is constantly on the minds of scientist, politicians, peacekeepers and the everyday person. The issue I’m choosing to discuss is starvation. With our population ever increasing, how are we going to provide billions of people the proper nutrition? Do we continue using the farming traditions of the past, or do we look to technological advancements and genetic modification for the answers?
With technology ever changing, our knowledge of genetics is growing and all the while farmland shrinking. When farmers are producing less harvest per year and having to use more and more pesticides to keep their crops alive, exploring the possibilities of genetic modification (GM) within food is a wise choice. In fact, I’d say it was the way of the future. GM foods have several benefits and in many ways are better and more efficient than sustainable agriculture crops.
Scientists have been studying agricultural biotechnology for decades, looking for the best ways to advance our lives. It involves many complex procedures such as moving key genes from one organism to another, crosspollination and selective breeding of plants. These and other processes create beneficial traits within the plant species that allow it to grow and survive better than standard, farm grown produce. Some plants have become resistant to disease and can actually repel potentially devastating insects; this removes the necessity for pesticides.
Sustainable agriculture is the other proposed solution to solving the world’s food crisis. Sustainable agriculturists believe that with proper irrigation methods, natural fertilizers and insecticides crops of equal yield can be produced, matching that of bioengineered foods. GM food products are already a part of our every day life. “Recent estimates show that 60-70% of foods in the U. S. markets contain GE ingredients, meaning they contain at least a small quantity of some crop that has been genetically engineered. (Genetically Modified Food & Human Health).
” As our knowledge grows and technology advances they will only become more integrated into our society. Biotechnology has the possibility to remove harmful allergens by altering the plant’s protein structure. “… Genetic modification can be used to remove or change proteins that are known allergens in plant foods such as the soybean. Recent research has demonstrated that a particular protein causing soybean allergies can be eliminated by modern biotechnology. (Genetically Modified Food & Human Health). ” “… Vast areas of irrigated land have become waterlogged.
Chemical fertilizers have run off into rivers and lakes causing ugly, slimy blooms of algae. Crop diseases such as late blight in potatoes, the virulent fungus responsible for the Irish famine, appear to be spreading again… (Will the World Starve? : Feast and Famine)” These are only some of the effects from poor attempts at sustainable agriculture. As afore mentioned, with GM, crops can be made resistant to disease, able to grow faster and stronger, and without the need of harmful chemical fertilizers or pesticides (Will the World Starve? : Feast and Famine).
As our population grows exponentially and our farmable land is continuously being reduced we need to find a solution that takes up less space while at the same time providing quality food in the amounts required. Less farmland is available due to commercialization and soil nutrient atrophy. This doesn’t mean that other plots couldn’t be converted into farmland. “Farm acreage could increase by 10% over the next 40 years… … In many cases it would mean destroying forests or other sensitive habitats… (Will the World Starve? : Feast and Famine). ”
Protagonists of sustainable agriculture argue that GM foods are unhealthy, unsafe to eat and may have adverse effects in the future. They say that the problem isn’t a lack of food, it’s the poor countries inability to afford the necessary provisions. They also say that, “If done properly… ” sustainable agriculture will be sufficient enough. In response, “Currently, genetically modified foods on the market are considered safe to eat and no adverse effects have been reported since their introduction in 1995 (Genetically Modified Food & Human Health).
” In the short term, GM research will be expensive and costs will need to be recouped from the consumer, but in the long run food will last longer, be more nutritious and cost less to grow greater yields. Once we are able to make this technology available to third world countries at an affordable rate they will be able to prosper more rapidly than if they were to keep using the old sustainable agriculture methods. The process of sustainable agriculture requires a large amount of land and skilled farmers and laborers.
If done improperly the land will quickly loose its ability to sustain life. This would require farmers to have much more education in the areas of irrigation, natural pesticides and herbicides, as well as increased research on global climate conditions and the future of these necessities. Why require all this ever-changing knowledge and research when we can create a nutritional plant that is doesn’t require these processes and is immune to natural hazards? In the long run, this would seem the better decision.
Though we are still in the early stages of genetic modification, I believe that this is a science with unlimited possibilities which will inevitably benefit mankind in many ways. Discovering and learning about new processes takes time, funding, caution and diligence. The art of farming has been around for centuries and the process has worked in the past, but now today’s society has different necessities and newer knowledge. The past is just that, the past. It’s now time to meet the future.