Biotechnology Essay, Research Paper
Genetically Modified Foods
Are genetically modified foods safe? Genetically modified foods are crop plants created for human or animal consumption using molecular biological techniques. These plants have been modified to enhance certain traits like increased resistance to herbicides or improve nutritional content. This process traditionally has been done through breeding, but is not very accurate. Scientists have been using biotechnology to implant the gene that makes the plants act the way they want them to. Genetically modified foods have advantages and disadvantages on the environment and advantages and disadvantages on society. We have to weigh the positives and negatives to see if genetically modified foods are healthy for us and if we really need them.
Genetically modified foods have a huge impact on our environment. One way that genetically modified foods are hurting our environment is that process can involve the exchange of genes between two totally different species. People are actually putting scorpion toxin into corn and fish antifreeze into tomatoes (De Greef). These changes in the plants make the plant able to with stand the attack of pests and weather, but it is still possible that the plant?s DNA will cross and make bad toxins. If a farmer plants a crop that has the resistance to herbicides, drought, cold, and pests those plants can eventually cross with weeds and then the farmer will end up with weeds that are resistant to everything too. Then the scientists will end up having to make the plants stronger to fight off the weeds, then the weeds will get stronger, and the cycle will keep on going. Another argument for the ban of genetically modified foods is that the world does not need to grow them. Mainly because of the fact that the United States and Europe are overproducing food and have to set aside land and destroy crops. Land is also being degraded and wildlife killed by the strength of the new crops. As a result if we use a less intense technique, like normal farming, it will reduce pollution and produce healthier foods.
There are also some positive impacts that genetically modified foods have on the environment. In fact, a ruling was made that there are no threats to the environment at this time (Becker). There is a gene that is transplanted into corn that is being produced for chickens to make the chickens have more meat on them. There are other genes that are being made to have the plant make their own pesticides (Becker). Through the use of biotechnology, crops are now able to withstand drought, frost, and pests. This means that crops would be able to be growing in places where crops could not grow because of conditions.
Genetically modified foods also have an impact on our society. They have many negative effects. One of the negative aspects is the testing requirements. “There are no requirements for independent testing, for long-term testing, for testing on humans or testing for specific dangers to children or allergic people” (Clinton Urged). Scientists say that there needs to be long-term testing because genetically modified foods could give rise to the spread of new poisons, new allergies, and even a reduction in a food?s nutritional value (Clinton Urged). For example, in 1989 thirty-seven people died and one thousand five hundred people were disabled after eating a genetically altered health food supplement that had contained a previously unknown toxin (Clinton Urged). In fact, the only long-term research that was carried out in the UK was government-funded research by a government-appointed top scientist. This scientist concluded that genetically engineered potatoes caused severe harm to their control-rats (De Greef). The UK government immediately dismissed his result and his research institute silenced him. The FDA is currently being prosecuted for covering up the same kind of research that was done in the UK that suggests possible risk in genetically engineered foods (De Greef). The EPA recently heard from scientists who warned them that there is no safe level of allergens in foods (Kimbrell). This is starting to have a great effect on our society. In fact, Starlink is a company that produces an insecticide protein. It has not been approved for human consumption over concerns that it could cause dangerous allergic responses in some people. The EPA?s review of Starlink found that the data submitted was either inconclusive or indicates that it exhibits some characteristics of known allergens (Kimbrell). For example, not to long ago Kellogg?s was forced to shut down production at one of its US cereal plants because the company could not find corn that was not contaminated by Starlink corn. Another example is Nestle. Nestle is the world?s largest food company and is the leading maker of infant formulas. They also make Butterfinger candy bars, Toll House chocolate chips and Nestle Quick. Nestle has pledged to avoid genetically modified ingredients in several European countries, yet it refused to accept this in the United States (Clinton Urged).
Genetically modified foods also have some positive aspects on society. In 1999, there were thirty-seven genetically modified foods that were commercialized. In the next few months there is expected to be thirty more. Transgenic seed generates fifty to seventy million dollars a year (Genetically Modified). Many companies hire people because of the need to test the new products that are designed. There are one hundred and thirty thousand new hybrid varieties of corn produced each year (Genetically Modified). Only twenty of these new types will become commercial. Which shows that they are doing tests. Another advantage for genetically modified foods is soy. New soy products will be used in baked goods, eggs, meat, cheese, and sport drinks. Soy also reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and prostate cancer. Mark Van?t Noordende, from ABS Global was quoted saying, “The use of all these technologies together hold tremendous promise for enhancing the quality of products in several industries” (Genetically Modified). He also went on to say, “Dairy and beef producers should begin to see tremendous improvement in commercial characteristics such as milk production and carcass traits, and these advancements will benefit the entire food production chain from dairy and beef producers to distributors and retailers” (Genetically Modified). Right now there is a bill in Congress to start labeling genetically modified foods and their products because the consumer needs to know what they are placing in their bodies (Clinton Urged).
So are genetically modified foods safe for the environment and for society? They are safe for the environment because they reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides. But at the same time they are bad for the environment because they could cross-pollinate with other plants and it would take harsher and harsher conditions to kill the undesired plants and kill animals. It is a multimillion-dollar industry that could be causing the death of people because agencies around the world are allowing them to be put in the stores. Then other countries ban them all together. Yet there seems to be no long-term testing being done on the effects they have on human beings or warnings on the products that they do contain genetically modified ingredients. The only solution that can be done is to continue testing all the genetically modified products, so that when they do get into our stores they are safe for everyone.
Becker, Hank. Revolutionizing Hybrid Corn Production. Copyright Economist Newspaper, 1996.
Clinton Urged to Protect Consumers From Bio-Corn Contamination. November 25, 2000. 10 November 2000. http://www.consumerunion.org/food/gef2cpi1000.htm.
De Greef, Willy. A Moral Maize. Copyright Economist Newspaper, 1996.
Genetically Modified Foods. November 25, 2000. 10 November 2000. http://www.csa.com/hottopics/gmfood/oview.html.
Kimbrell, Andrew. “Seeds of Conflict.” PerAds-Ecologist 29 no.4. (Jul 1999): 249-250