In society today, we concern ourselves with the quality and quantity of food to help feed our ever-growing population. Now just imagine trying to feed a family of four with a 50mm long fruit that must be crushed to open and tastes bitter; that will take a lot. That was the original watermelon around 3000 B.C. (Rangel). It is hard to imagine the fruit nowadays, since a watermelon is now about the size of a bowling ball or even bigger. This leads us into the real question of how that change happened.
Humans over time, have genetically modified that fruit to grow bigger, sweeter, and easier to open. So, what defines a genetically modified food?
Genetically modified food has many names like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), transgenic foods, genetically modified, bioengineered organism or even selective breeding. To narrow the definition, let’s focus on just the food modifications. According to Trish Davidson, author of Genetically Modified Food, “the purpose of genetic modification is to create plants that are in some way superior to the plant breeds currently being used” (Davidson, GMF).
This means that food does not have to be genetically altered with another organism to be genetically modified, yet it can be just altered in a way that makes it superior to its predecessor.
Genetically modifying food is not a new thing, as humans have been doing it for hundreds of years to grow crops that are better. One of the first documented extensive research cases in genetics, that has led us to genetically modifying plants, was from the Father of Genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel, in 1865.
“He did research on pea plants and discovered that traits were passed from one generation to the next in a way that could be predict” (Davidson, Tish). No one understood his findings until 1900 because of how revolutionary it was. However, even before that, Gabriel Rangel, a writer from Harvard, stated, “the earliest evidence of artificial selection of plants dates back to 7800 BCE in archaeological sites found in southwest Asia, where scientists have found domestic varieties of wheat” (Rangel). Basically, the varieties of wheat found meant that ancient humans had selectively breaded them to get desired traits. That is why genetically modified food should be widely accepted all over the world; the modifications can make food grow faster and can make the food make more of itself.
By making genetically modified food more widely accepted, the human population can produce more and more food at a faster rate than previous years to combat our growing population. According to MIT, “By 2050, the global population is expected to rise above 9 billion” (Pei). To put that into perspective, again according to MIT, “If everyone in world used as much land per person as the normal United States citizen, we “would need four Earths” to sustain ourselves (Cribb)” (Pei). That is a lot of people, and at our current rate of growing food, it is not going to be enough. The best solution is to alter the genes of a plant or animal to mature at faster rates than is naturally possible. A great example of this is from a study of yeast by Lei Pei and Markus Schmidt*, who work for the US Department of Agriculture. In their research they found that “a yeast strain can be modified to have a 30% increased maximum growth rate (shortening from 0.6 to 0.8 replications per hour, or approximately 52 min)” (Pei). Sure, this may be a small rate of change, but every second of growth matters. Just imagine the possibilities of how fast we can grow food. genetically modifying food cannot only make them grow fast but more importantly we can make them stronger.
Another way genetic modification can be beneficial is once it’s modified the food can produced more food and last longer. One method of making them last longer is by genetically modifying plants to be resistance to bugs by genetically adding pesticides into the DNA. A great example in which people in the United states have more commonly accept the modifications because of the benefit of resisting bugs is from an encyclopedia by Tish Davidson in which it compares plants “In 1997, 17% of acreage planted in soybeans in the United States was genetically modified for herbicide tolerance as were 11% of the acres planted in cotton, and 4% of corn. By 2017, this acreage had grown to 96% of cotton, 94% of soybeans, and 92% of corn” (Davidson, Tish). This example that plants last longer with genetic modifications because the farmers could grow more crow without the disadvantages of losing cross from bugs. Though most people around the world do not like genetically modifications but if more people known the misconceptions they should be more willing to accept the modifications.
Most people that do not like modifying food make the claim that the modifications make the food taste different and makes the food unnatural. But according to KITV, a new channel, reported that sometimes it is true as “the Groundcherries can taste like pineapple but also like vanilla. It comes across as ‘tropical’ but also has undertones of tomato” (“Groundcherries…”). This highlights how the modifications made can positively affect the food making them taste better. The next counterargument is the modifications make the plant unnatural but that can easily be debunked as in reality most plants like the watermelon have been altered so it is just speed up evolution. Overall people around the world need to be educated more a great example of this was a study by china’s government in which “Chinese consumers were surveyed for their awareness, knowledge, and opinion on GM food…resulted in 11.9, 41.4, and 46.7% of respondents having a positive, neutral, or negative view on GM food, respectively. A minority of respondents (11.7%) claimed they understood the basic principles of GM technology, while most were either “neutral” or “unfamiliar with GM technology.” (Cui) This study gives awareness to how little people know about genetically modified food.
In conclusion Genetically, modifying plants can be beneficial by modifying the growing process to grow fast and modify the DNA to produce longer lasting plants. The united states should lead this movement. If more people are aware of the benefits to genetically modified food, then people will be more accepting of the modifications. Just think of the watermelon how big and great taste of it is.