Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Research Paper
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Protection and preservation of the environment through increased yields and reduced use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. This is because genetically modified foods grow at a faster rate and in bigger quantities which means less forest land is cleared for agriculture and the natural habitats and biodiversity is preserved. The crops are also made pest and disease resistant which means that less pesticides and herbicides are used which could pollute the environment and the underground and surface water. Drought resistant crops and seeds mean that there is less water that is needed in the growing of the crops thereby preserving the limited water supplies.
The genetically modified foods are more nutritious as they can be infused with important minerals and vitamins that are essential for preventing malnutrition. An example is the creation of the golden rice that contains beta-carotene which is converted to vitamin a in the human body. This leads to rice that is nutritious enough to keep a person healthy. This is important as rice is the staple food in many parts of the world and plain rice does not provide enough nutrition for the body to remain healthy. Genetically modified foods are also healthier and depending on the type of food contain less quantity of artificial sugars as well as fat. They also have higher fiber quantities (Fumento 173).
In the future, genetically manufactured crops may be used to produce edible vaccines against infectious diseases. The production of Norwalk virus and the Hepatitis B virus can be produced in genetically modified sweet potatoes. This will in turn ensure the cost of production of vaccines is reduced availing it to the poor in developing nations and therefore ensuring widespread vaccination.
Agribusinesses pursue profit without concern for potential hazards to the environment and the consumers. This means that they will focus more on how quickly their products are selling instead of finding ways of reducing the risks that are involved with the consumption of the product.
Genetically modified foods might have an unintended harm to other organisms. For instance, in the developing of pest resistant crops, it is impossible to determine if the endotoxins that are being used to target specific pests will kill more than that particular pest alone. This means that there could be insects that could also get killed which are important to other plants and therefore affecting the bio system of the area. This can also end up affecting the food chain resulting in the death of other organisms which are reliant on the organisms that was killed. The genetically modified crops that have their own pesticides also cause other unintended consequences among which could be other pests which are resistant to pesticides. The same applies to crops that are designed to be resistant to viruses resulting in the occurrence of new strains of super viruses due to the genes of viral resistant plants being passed on to other plants. There is a possibility of loss of regional biodiversity due to single mono-crops being imported and transplanted into ecosystems that are foreign to them.
Gene transfer to non-target species through the process of cross pollination is also a risk that arises from genetic modification of crops. Seeds and pollen from the genetically modified crops can be dispersed to other plants, like weeds giving them whatever traits that the genetically modified crops possess. They thus bring about genetic pollution which can bring about weeds which can be resistant to herbicides and therefore causing another problem in the rearing of the crops. An example is when the American export of rice that was intended for Europe had to be cancelled when some of the crop produced was found to be contaminated with genes that were not approved probably from cross pollination with crops that were produced conventionally, (Charles).
There is also a concern that allergic reactions may rise due to genes transfer can bring with it allergic reactions to the new crop they are transferred to. As a result, concerns of allergic reactions come about due to fear of allergies one having for one particular organism may be introduced into another organism that one is not allergic to and become increased. This is only in the case whereby protein introduced possesses allergenic properties and is introduced to the edible part of the particular plant. Due to the difficulty of predicting allergens, there should be careful selection in gene donors so as
to avoid widespread consequences. An example is the soybean that had the traits of the Brazil nut was shown to induce an allergic reaction in individuals who were allergic to the Brazil nut (Streit 1758). This would mean that other genetically crops could bring about allergic reactions in consumers without them necessarily consuming the crop they are allergic to, directly.
Another concern is that the use of genetic markers in the process of genetic modification to determine the successful embedding of the desired genes can bring about resistance to antibiotics. These genes are normally scrambled before they get used but it is feared that they may be contributing to resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria in the digestive tracts can pick up antibiotic resistant genes present in genetically modified foods and it may bring about an increase in the problem of bacteria adapting to antibiotics (Villar and Bill 5).
Should the use of genetically modified crops increase, there is bound to be an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor as the rich will be the ones able to afford the genetically modified crops and the poor will have to depend on the other conventionally grown crops. This is also applicable to the companies that deal with the production of the genetically modified crops wanting to produce more products to sell and therefore try to find ways in which the products may be popularized to encourage its use (Kaplan 283).
Agricultural-biotech companies wish a profitable return on their investment in the process of genetic modification. This will mean that the cost of purchasing these super seeds will be high thus making them unavailable to the poor who really need them.
Patent infringement will come into play due to the approach that is used in the industry to draw compositional comparisons between conventional and genetically modified crops. They are referred to as substantially equivalent when they do not have a significant different. It is for this reason that genetically modified crops are regarded to as safe as the conventional crops. There is also the issue of the patent holder companies using their control of their own genetically modified foods to control the market in such a way that they can make the most profit from it. They defend their actions by saying that it helps them control or rather prevent seed piracy (Villar and Bill 8).
It is also difficult to evaluate the level of safety in conventionally grown crops as compared to individual chemical, drug or food additives. This is due to conventional crops being complex and having varying compositions with regards to their differences in growth and agronomic conditions. The toxicity in food is tested by chemically analyzing the macro and micro nutrients and known toxins. Relying on this method is rather dangerous due to the need of better diagnostic methods such as the use of mRNA fingerprinting, proteomics and secondary metabolic profiling, (Kaplan 149)
There is also cases of land grabbing in some third world countries like in the Southern Cone of Latin America whereby peasants and indigenous communities are displaced as plantations specializing in genetically modified crops push the agricultural frontier into the forests and in turn increasing pollution and health problems. There has also been an increase in the use of pesticides like the herbicide glysphosate.
There are also claims that the consumption of genetically modified food has adverse effects on the growth and development of the embryo in mice. Whether this is the same case in human embryos leaves a lot of questions in the mind of consumers who fear that the same case will be in human fetuses. There is demand that more tests be carried out on humans so as to see the effects rather than depending on the tests carried out on animals (Pusztai).
The benefits of the use of genetically modified crops are outweighed by the harmfulness they pose. There have been policies which have been set in countries around the world in relation to how genetically modified crops are produce. Australia banned the planting of genetically modified food crops from 2003 to 2008. With Canada, there was an attempt to ban the production of the growth of these "super crops" which did not pass and the country is now amongst the largest producers of genetically modified canola in the world. In Europe, the EU passed a law making it mandatory to label genetically modified foods as is the case in Japan, Australia and Malaysia. In Japan, it is mandatory for genetically modified foods to undergo testing as at April 2001. In…
Sources Used in Documents:
Charles, Dan. Agriculture Department Probes Rice Flap. 6 Jan. 2007. 11 May. 2010.
Cook, Guy. Genetically Modified Language: The Discourse of Arguments for GM Crops and Food. California: Routledge, 2004.
Fumento, Michael. Golden Rice -- a Golden Chance for the Underdeveloped World
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