Genetic modification refers to the alteration of a DNA of an organism to correct various defects or to improve it.
Genetically modified foods refer to foods that have undergone modification to enhance specific traits with the primary purpose of making them desirable or appealing to consumers. With the introduction of genetic engineering, production of genetically modified foods has been on the rise. Genetically modified foods are widely consumed in the world today. However, there are various controversial debates which have arisen concerning their suitability to human health and the environment. Several people have fears of using the products because of the unforeseeable health effects. The genetic information has enabled scientists to modify crops or animals by inserting genes from one organism to the other so as to make them bigger, stay fresh, and develop new pesticides from such organisms. The genetically modified foods have adverse effects on the environment, human health and global economy. As such, it should never be practiced in agriculture. Today, most herbs and pests have become resistant to herbicides and pesticides which are meant to eliminate them. This trend is attributed to genetic modification. Some people have developed allergies as a result of genetically modified foods (McHughen, 2000). However, genetic modification has led to increased crop yields and elimination of various nutrition deficiencies. The first genetically modified food was produced in the year 1992 in California. It was a particular type of tomato known as Flavr Savr. The primary objective of altering this tomato was to make it durable and prevent it from rotting fast just like the regular tomato. In this paper, I will discuss the major pros and cons of the genetically modified foods about solving the food crisis in the world, and its impact on the environment and health of human beings.
Arguments for Advantages of Genetically Modified Foods
Various countries such as Philippines and China began manufacturing genetically modified foods to help in solving the food crisis in the world. GMOs can be produced to mature faster compared to natural foods. Moreover, the genetically modified foods are more nutritious than foods which are produced naturally. In this case, they can be used to solve malnutrition cases in the developing countries. Genetic engineering has also been utilized to manufacture drought resistant crops. This is an initiative that would help reduce food shortages in most of the developing countries. For instance, Kenya has been experiencing poor rains for the last four years. In this case, it becomes difficult to predict when to expect rains to support their agricultural production. The country has imported genetically enhanced crops that would resist drought. With this, the country is assured of good harvest despite experiencing poor rains. The genetically modified crops also mature faster compared to the natural plants. Besides, they produce high yields compared to regular crops (Hallman, 2003). In this case, they have been used as a solution to the problem in most developing countries in the world. Genetically modified foods are usually produced so as to provide foods that can sustain the growing number of people in the world. Some of the arguments for genetically modified foods include the following:
Losing crops as a result of insects and pests leads to increased financial loss to most farmers and starvation in some of the developing countries. Farmers are always obliged to invest thousands of dollars annually in purchasing chemical pesticides for their crops. On the other hand, consumers are always discouraged from consuming plants treated with pesticides for fear of possible health hazards (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). Excessive use of pesticides is also harmful to the environment since they may find their way into the water sources thereby affecting the lives of organisms that utilizes the water. The manufacture of genetically modified has eliminated the use of pesticides thus reducing the cost of crop production.
Crops are usually affected by fungi, viruses, and bacteria. The knowledge of genetic engineering has allowed plant biologists to produce crops that are resistance to fungi and bacterial infections.
Also Study: Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods
Elimination of weeds is always expensive since farmers incur a lot of money to purchase large quantities of herbicides to kill the weeds. This process is often costly and time-consuming. Besides, spraying herbicides is harmful to the environment. Genetic engineering allows production of crops that can withstand weeds. The production of such crops limits the utilization of herbicides thus eliminating the harm which they may cause to the environment (Hallman, 2003). Moreover, plant biologists have been able to produce particular types of crops that require a single application of pesticide as opposed to multiple applications. In this case, they have reduced the cost of agricultural production by eliminating costs which are incurred in the purchase of pesticides.
There are crops or seedlings which are usually affected by cold temperatures. The plant technologists have been able to manufacture seedlings using antifreeze gene to allow them to withstand cold temperatures (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). For instance, cold water fish have been utilized in the production of potato and tobacco seedlings to enable them to tolerate or withstand the cold temperatures. The cold temperatures are usually detrimental to seedlings which are genetically modified. Therefore, this technology has enabled to eliminate food shortage in some of the countries that experience low temperatures in various parts of the world.
Drought and Salinity Tolerance
The growing population in the world will require the production of plants that will withstand drought and high salt content in various parts of the world. Today, most available land is utilized for construction of houses. Therefore, developing crops that can tolerate drought and high salt content will be a solution to the food challenge facing some of the populated countries in the world. People will be able to grow different crops in places that are considered inhospitable for agriculture.
Malnutrition is a major problem that most countries have been experiencing in most developing countries. Most people in the developing countries rely on various crops such as rice and maize as a staple food. Genetic engineering has made it possible to produce rice or maize with essential nutrients that can reduce deficiency (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). For instance, food technologists have been able to manufacture rice that contains vitamin A to contribute to reducing food deficiency in the third world countries.
The knowledge of genetic engineering has been utilized in the production of less expensive vaccines and medicines to help combat the spread of various diseases in the developing countries. Food technologists have been able to manufacture vaccines which can be injected in different edible foods such as potatoes and tomatoes. In this case, it would be easy to administer vaccines. It would eliminate the utilization regular injection of vaccines.
Arguments against Production of Genetically Modified Foods
However, several cases have arisen that contradicts the production of genetically modified crops and foods. The production of the genetically modified foods is usually unpredictable. Its production has led to the evolution of mutated plants or foods of the actual species. The production of the crops has resulted in the development of drought-resistant weeds which affect the quality of crop production (McHughen, 2000). The drought-resistant weeds are harmful to the ecosystem since most of them have also become resistant to the herbicides which are used to eliminate them. Some of the arguments that contradict the production of genetically modified foods include the following:
The development of genetically manufactured crops involves alteration of DNA of various organisms especially plants (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). During pollination, the pollen grains from plants whose DNA have been altered may spill to the nearby crops thus causing different effects in the ecosystem. This can lead to the development of unwanted species that may cause long-term effects on the health of people who consume such plants.
The alteration of the genetic makeup of various plants has had multiple negative impacts on the environment. The cross-pollination that takes place between natural and genetically modified crops has had different effects on biodiversity and flora and fauna. Besides, the development of the plants in the surrounding environment has also been affected. As a result of cross pollination, various plants have developed which have become resistant to the pesticides. Besides, super weeds have developed. These weeds are resistant to herbicides making it difficult to control them. Cross pollination between genetically manufactured crops and the natural crops have also led to the development of various breeds of plants that cannot yield produce. Besides, other breeds have become prone to attack by different fungi and bacteria.
Alteration of the DNA of a particular organism can sometimes have various genetic implications. Genetic mutation is detrimental to the environment and the human health. As a result of artificial insertion, poisonous species of plants have emerged which have caused various health hazards to the human population (McHughen, 2000). Besides, some people have developed allergies as a result of the production of genetically modified foods. During the process of genetic modification proteins which have allergic effects are usually transferred to other crops. Allergic effects can also develop during the biotechnology process resulting in the production of allergen crops (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). For instance, most children in the United States and Europe have developed life-threatening allergies to various kinds of foods such as nuts and animal products. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the food biologists to conduct and extensive research to determine the harm that genetically modified foods may cause to the consumers. Genetic modification has also affected the development of individual plants. For instance, some trees such as mangoes and oranges in various regions no longer produce fruits (Hallman, 2003). Some trees have also developed weak trunks. These effects are attributed to the genetic mutation that has occurred in these types of plants. Gene coding between various organisms has also resulted into proteins that are suspected to the primary cause of various cancerous diseases.
Genetically modified foods also do have potential risk to different animals such as insects which are involved in the process of cross-pollination. Other animals which have been affected include birds and organisms which stay in water and soil. Genetically modified crops pollen grains are the primary cause why some insects and worms have become resistant to pesticides (McHughen, 2000). Such pests undergo mutation if they ingest the pollen grains causing them to become resistant to pesticides.
The majority of the GMO crops are developed to tolerate herbs, drought, and pests (Grunert, Lone, & Joachim, 2003). However, there are some crops which have not been able to withstand pesticides and herbicides. In this case, there is increased utilization of pesticides and herbicides to protect the crops from the effects of pests and weeds. The pesticides and herbicides which are used sometimes spill into the water sources thereby affecting the lives of organisms staying in the water (McHughen, 2000). Moreover, the herbs and pesticides are consumed by humans in various foods such as tomatoes and potatoes. There are also GMO plants that produce their pesticides which further poisons people. The pesticides generated by these plants may also affect soil and the surrounding plants. The toxins contained in the genetically modified foods are also harmful to other animals such as bees, birds, and caterpillars which often consume these crops. The toxins included in the GMO crops have also been the leading cause of deaths among domestic animals such as cows, sheep, poultry and horses in various countries in the world.
Genetically modified foods have various advantages. However, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. There are numerous ethical and religious issues concerning their production and consumption. The decisions to manufacture genetically engineered crops should be looked upon so as to reduce the devastating effects which have been experienced in the past.
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