Every nation strives to attain self-sufficiency as far as food is concerned. Unfortunately, this has become a tall order for many nations, thanks to the ever-growing population which has increased demand for food supply. In essence, many nations have called upon technology in an effort to meet this challenge leading to the advent of genetically modified foods. The making of genetically modified foods involves cloning and DNA sequencing of certain genes, the reassembly of certain DNA fragments, as well as the transfer of these genes to make plant cells, from which plants are regenerated through the cell and tissue culture.
These plants have their DNA altered to as to enhance the desired characteristics such as the nutritional content, or resistance to diseases. It is worth noting that the enhancement of desirable traits is not new. Traditionally, it has been undertaken via breading. However, conventional methods of plant breeding have been seen as time consuming, as well as inaccurate. On the other hand, genetic engineering has the capacity of creating plants that incorporate the exact, desired traits, in a rapid and accurate manner. Research shows that approximately 70 percent of processed foods in most grocery shops, in the United States, incorporate genetically modified ingredients.
These mainly include maize, soybeans, rapeseed oil and cotton. In essence, most foods that are processed in the United States incorporating high-fructose corn syrup or field corn, such as snack foods, breakfast cereals, and soda have a likelihood of incorporating genetically modified ingredients. It is worth noting that the ingredients are also incorporated in animal feed, as well. It is evident that the genetically modified foods have played a key role in enhancing food sustainability in the United States. However, there have been concerns as to the appropriateness of substituting natural foods with the genetically modified foods. Questions have been raised as to whether the incorporation of genetically modified foods does more harm than good. It goes without saying that genetically modified foods have both pros and cons. In this case, the question is whether the disadvantages of GMOs outweigh the advantages.
Thesis statement: The production and incorporation of Genetically Modified Foods should be discouraged at all costs.
As much as Genetically Modified foods may have their advantages, their production and incorporation in the market should be discouraged. This is especially due to the magnitude and the weight of the negative effects with which the foods come.
First, it is noteworthy that the foods come with adverse ecological and environmental problems (Jaffe, 8). As stated, the foods involve the alteration of the plant’s DNA so as to enhance their resistance to diseases and pests, which would consequently enhance their yield. However, this introduces another problem of the evolution of resistant weeds and pests. Resistance may evolve in cases where there is no sufficient selective pressure. In essence, the introduction of these foods, especially on a commercial scale, introduces a strong, selective pressure in the habitat, which causes the evolution of resistant insects within a certain duration of time (Jaffe, 8).
This would, therefore, nullify the transgenes’ effects. In cases where the herbicides are sprayed regularly, the surrounding weeds are bound to develop resistance to the herbicide. GMOs are also likely to damage other organisms in the ecosystem thereby leading to loss of biodiversity. A study established that the pollen from B.t corn resulted in high mortality rates among monarch butterfly caterpillars. The caterpillars eat milkweed plants rather than corn. However, there are fears that when pollen from the corn is blown to the milkweed plants in nearby fields, caterpillars would eat the pollen and die. The study’s results proved this theory and showed that the toxins incorporated in the genetically modified crops would eliminate numerous insect larvae species indiscriminately. It is unfortunate that there is no way in which the plants can be raised to eliminate the crop-damaging pests without harming other unintended targets.
In addition, genetically modified foods are known to incorporate a high level of toxins and allergens. These are bound to have adverse or negative effects on the health and wellbeing of the individuals who consume them. This is especially in cases where the consumers have serious allergic reactions. It is worth noting that the transferred gene may not necessarily pose a health risk on the individual. It is the gene expression and its products’ effects that are considered in this case. The new proteins may be synthesized to produce unpredictable, allergic effects. As an example, bean plants that are genetically modified to enhance their methionine and cysteine content have been discovered to incorporate highly allergenic transgene proteins.
On the same note, genetically modified are known to cause antibiotic resistance in individuals. This is because the development of genetically modified foods involves the enhancement of their ability to fight certain herbicides and pesticides. It is worth noting that these herbicides and pesticides may have the same ingredients as the antibiotics, in which case the bodies of the consumers would resist the antibiotics. Unfortunately, this may affect the ability of individuals to use certain drugs.
The modification of the foods genetic composition also involves the introduction of other bacteria and virus. This comes with the possibility of triggering the development of new diseases in human beings. Studies have shown that quite a large number of diseases can be traced to the composition of the foods that are in available in America today. Unfortunately, these are the same health hazards that are transferred to other nations in the name of eliminating hunger. The essence of substituting hunger and starvation with health hazards is entirely illogical, especially having in mind that there are other ways in which the problems can be eliminated without endangering the lives of the consumers. The downside of these foods is compounded by questions as to the nutritional content of these foods. As stated earlier, the key issue in the modification of the foods’ genetic composition is to enhance their nutritional content, as well as resistance to diseases. However, it is worth noting that this is not always the case.
It is not always the case that the genetically modified foods have their nutritional content increased. In some cases, the genetically modified foods may, in fact, lose their nutritional content in the course of modifying their genetic makeup.
However, my stand does not undermine the fact that these genetically modified foods have boosted the supply of food in many countries. This is especially having in mind that most countries have less than enough food supply thanks to low levels of rainfall, pests and diseases. In addition, there are instances where the genetically engineered crops conserve the environment by increasing the ease with which weeds are controlled and allowing for reduced plowing and consequently, reduced soil erosion (http://www.monsanto.co.uk/monsantouk/biotech_slides/ad4.html). Moreover, the genetically modified foods are crafted or engineered in such a way that they resist pests. In essence, the modification of the genetic makeup of the crops allows for less usage of pesticides, in which case the crops may even be safe (Coleman, 7).
As much as this may be the case, it would be illogical to ignore the depletion of the nutritional content of these crops. These crops may not necessarily have improved nutritional content rather they may have their nutritional content depleted. In addition, it is worth noting that the process of modifying the genetic composition or makeup of these foods involves the introduction of bacteria and virus, some of which have been known to weaken the immunity of consumers to certain ailments. In fact, a study that sought to examine the effects of these foods found that GMOs weaken the intestines of consumers as compared to natural foods.
The question, therefore, is whether countries should allow genetically modified foods to substitute natural crops. In my opinion, the foods only enrich the large corporate farms at the expense of consumers and the small scale farmers. The argument that the technology is needed so as to feed the country is baseless. After all, studies have shown that the United States has the capacity to feed the entire world when considering its farms and land value. In addition, the problems that the foods introduce both to animals and plants cannot be ignored. This is especially having in mind that they endanger the health, wellbeing, as well as the lives of the consumers. Of course, anyone would prefer to have something that has some side effects and survive rather than starve to death. However, it is preferable to have foods that have the appropriate nutritional content and do not harm the environment or the consumer. This is especially having in mind that the available farms have the capacity to feed the current populations without the GMOs, in which case the excuse on supplementing food supply does not stand.
Jaffe, Gregory A. Lessen the Fear of Genetically Engineered Crops. Christian Science Monitor. 2001, p. 8.
Coleman, Gerald D. Is Genetic Engineering the Answer to Hunger? America Magazine Web 2005 retrieved 29th June 2012 from http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=4027
Biotech PowerPoint Slides. Retrieved 29th June 2012 from http://www.monsanto.co.uk/monsantouk/biotech_slides/ad4.html
Snow, Allison and Pedro, Moran Palma. Commercialization of transgenic plants: potential ecological risks. BioScience. 1997. Pp. 86-96
Mitten, Donna, Rob MacDonald, and Dirk Klonus. Regulation of foods derived from genetically engineered crops. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 1999.
Ferber, Dan. New corn plant draws fire from GM food opponents. Science. 2000. p. 1390.
(Jaffe, 8) (Coleman, ) (Snow and Pedro) (Mitten et al, ) (Feber, )