Digesting the Benefits and Drawbacks of Food

March 8, 2011
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As the wheels of the shopping cart turned, faint squeaks filled the grocery store. The customer scanned the aisle for anything that would hopefully satisfy her family’s hunger and achieve a healthy diet at the same time. Orange juice, check. Bread, check. Milk, ch-wait. All of a sudden, the lines of a recent article regarding genetically modified foods played in her head, “22% of cows are injected with growth hormones” (Teitel). The drawbacks of these foods seemed to have a greater influence over any sort of benefits stated within the article. Regardless, she glanced through the containers and stickers in hopes for labels that mentioned the modifications of the product.

No luck.

She took one last glimpse, but to no avail. Oh well. Snatching a random carton of two percent milk, the consumer unknowingly purchased a carton of milk from a cow transfused with growth hormones. According to some researchers, she may be putting her and her family’s lives at risk of disease. On the contrary, other researchers believe that she may be building up the nutrients within her family’s bodies. Although the concluding is unpredictable, genetically engineered foods continue to shape today’s society through anything and everything from the development of economies to the evasion of blindness.
A fraction of scientists claim that genetically modified (GM) foods can mislead and have already misled society to believe that the altered substances have the ability to solve crucial health issues of today. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advocates the controversy, regardless of the absence of labels intended to inform consumers of the content in a GM food. Several consumers show concern about the labeling of GM foods, or rather, the lack of. The FDA holds the authority to manage foods for both humans and animals, assuring the safety and health of the consumers by regulating unpredictable allergens and harmful substances within foods (“Benefit”). Without formal labeling, customers fail to recognize what the products in grocery stores truly contain. As customers lack the simple distinction of GM foods from organic foods, they lose the right to decide which is better for them and their family. The lack of descriptions of GM foods has generated a sense of urgency, especially within the customers concerned about their health. This minor, yet crucial decision of a consumer, especially of one supporting a family, would ideally impact the FDA’s choice to require a distinction of GM foods from organic foods. The issue of labeling has been a topic of interest and has continually shown to be a deciding factor between organic foods and GM foods.
Having high hopes in such an unpredictable field of controversy can easily deceive consumers to trust manufacturers to explain errors or even worse, rely on their experiments to find a solution to their personal health issues. Several scientists have conducted alterations within organisms or plants with a certain goal in mind, but ended up with something different altogether (Smith 48). As a result of these outcomes, particular researchers believe that the idea of genetic modifications should be avoided altogether. The limited knowledge of gene expressions restricts the probable benefits biotechnology could produce. Regardless of this limitation, substances continue to be tweaked in hopes of a more nourishing production of foods. If researchers took this approach, science would not be at the advanced stage it is at today. If we take the possible risks with each experiment into account, we must also take into account the feasible accomplishments we have the means of reaching.
Many consumers remain hesitant about deciding between GM foods and organic foods, normally expressing their main reservations over the general safety. Several believe that if the FDA shows uncertainty and hesitation in a simple task of providing descriptions of the GM foods, the overall idea of GM foods contains flaws major enough for the FDA to try to hide from the general public. At the same time, the FDA requires producers to undergo a process in order to guarantee that they have met safety standards with their products. Once this has been completed, the manufacturers send the concluding information to the FDA for a final evaluation. To further support the success of this procedure since its creation, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated that they were “not aware of any evidence that foods on the market are unsafe to eat as a result of genetic modification” (“Benefit”). The NAS’ support was later echoed by both the Government Accounting Office and the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, confirming the legitimacy in the FDA’s methods of ensuring medically harmless foods. Regardless of biased beliefs in FDA approaches, the consensus over the soundness of GM foods between multiple associations demonstrates the quality structure of the FDA.

Since the 1990s, GM foods have developed to become aids to the human being’s physical state (“Advantages”). Several instances support this fact and have shown dramatic results: greater numbers of vitamins and nutrients within foods, resistance towards pesticides, increased efficiency of crop production, a reduction, or even an elimination, in allergens, an improvement in state of life as a whole, an ease in production, and even tastier foods. Individuals have grown increasingly dependent on GM foods, considering that in 2001 alone, 75 percent of foods were modified through biotechnology (Lewis). If such a large percentage of foods were already being consumed in 2001, there is a likelihood that the percentage of consumption has infinitely increased ten years down the road to what it is today in 2011. Although a number of details in the steps of altering the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) remain unknown, the facts that have already been proven push scientists to continue the research on GM foods.

A significant advantage of GM foods serves those in the heart of third world countries that struggle with starvation and corruption. GM foods allow manufacturers to mass-produce their goods. By producing mass amounts of their products, they not only validate the quantitative advantages, but assure a dramatic development in the quality of life in a third world country. Each third world country may struggle in a different aspect, but what most countries have in common is the deficiency of vitamins and nutrients. With the capability of increasing the amounts of particular proteins or vitamins and modifying certain characteristics of the foods, prevalent diseases in various third world countries can be avoided.

GM foods offer a transformation of DNA, allowing the presence of desired traits to dominate that of unfavorable traits. The ability to do this within both organisms and plants has been considered one of the greatest accomplishments of GM foods. Any type of experiment, successful or futile, bring up new questions regarding the topic as well as additional concerns about producing the desired characteristics. GM foods have been proven to be effective, but complications constantly arise due to researchers’ and common society’s lack of understanding and information on the dispute.
Dealing with allergies has become a daily routine for a large percentage of the population, nothing that a simple dose of Benadryl can’t take care of. In the United States, one in five people have allergy symptoms, totaling 55 percent of the U.S. population (“Benefit”). Seeing that soy is a frequent allergy, particularly in adolescents, researchers decided to attempt to remove a major protein allergen, P34, in 2002. This experiment succeeded in dissolving the allergen, fortunately showing no effect on the development of the soybean plant. The effectiveness of this testing yielded favorable products, but the perpetual process of finding a solution to eliminate all soy allergens will be tedious considering the 15 plausible and unique soy allergens present in the bloodstream. With technology rapidly advancing, achieving the goals set by scientists and researchers is at the tips of our fingers, completely realistic and attainable.

Through genetic engineering, plants have the capability to produce medicinal drugs, including vaccines and antibodies for a variety of diseases. These illnesses can vary from something as minor as diarrhea to the life-threatening disease of cancer (Teitel). Although none of these medical issues have officially been resolved, each of these concepts is a step in the right direction to solve these illnesses. With these prospective gains, biotechnology can change the future of the medical field. This aspect has yet to be fully developed, as with several other aspects of biotechnology. Nevertheless, every updated concept concerning GM foods is expanded upon in hopes of gradually contributing to a final solution to curing the diseases, leading to a better lifestyle in general.

Even though the opposition gives authentic proof resisting GM foods, advocates of the controversy have provided stronger and more convincing evidence concerning the numerous benefits: establishing a potential cure to the problems in third world countries, producing greater numbers of nutrients, having the ability to narrow down desirable characteristics, and weakening or eliminating allergens. Researchers have carried out multiple experiments in order to hopefully reveal the advantages and further developments of GM foods. Despite any unpredictable imperfections in the course of the experiments, scientists have been able to safely create alternates for organic foods with the hopes of benefiting the overall health of society and creating a better future for all.

Works Cited
“Advantages of Genetically Modified Food Supplies.” Discovery Education. 21 Jan 2011. Film.

"Genetically Engineered Foods Will Benefit Americans." Opposing Viewpoints: America in the Twenty-First Century. Andrea C. Nakaya. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.

Lewis, Ricki. "Genetically Modified Foods." Genetics. Ed. Richard Robinson. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003. 106-110. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.

Smith, Jeffrey M. Seeds of Deception. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003. 48. Print.

Teitel, Martin, and Kimberly A. Wilson. "Genetically Engineered Foods Are Not Safe to Eat."Current Controversies: Genetic Engineering. Lisa Yount. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. Web. 21 Jan. 2011.

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