Genectically Engineered Foods: Harmful or Helpful

By , Reno, NV
Genetically-modified (GM) food is a term used to label crop plants created for human or animal consumption. The plants are modified using molecular biology technology to create or enhance desired traits in the organism, like resistance to pesticides or higher nutritional value. Genetic engineering allows scientists to create these plants in very fast time periods, unlike the traditional method of breeding which is very time consuming. For example, scientists can identify a gene responsible for herbicide resistance and put in a plant that lacks the gene. The plant and its future offspring will exhibit this new trait for life. With this new technology plants can be created that can do all sorts of things, whether it is hold more nutrition or even clean up the earth.
There are many advantages to GM foods, considering that world population is over 6 billion people and is supposed to double in the next half-century; with GM foods, the problem of world hunger will not be an issue because all plants will have an increased crop yield, which of course results in increased food. That’s definitely a plus in anyone’s book. Crops can also be modified to be pest resistance, disease resistance, frost resistant, drought tolerant, have increased nutritional value, and also be used as edible vaccines. If they were to become completely government sanctioned, the technology of GM foods could allow for an unlimited source of nutritious foods. Over 85% percent of the U.S corn supply is genetically modified and corn is one of the U.S’s biggest cash crops. This shows just how invaluable GM foods have already become to our economy and way of living. In fact, scientists and university researchers estimate that over 70% of processed foods contain genetically engineered materials, and this is after tons of people saying that GM foods are a bane and an abomination against humanity. This indicates that GM foods have already become a part of American culture, whether we like it or not. For those who would rather not see GM foods in their diet, some genetically engineered plants can be used as treatment towards environmental problems. This is called phytoremediation. This would be accomplished by modifying plants to take up certain types of pollutants from the soil and contain or purify them. With these GM plants, many environmental problems, such as those posed by toxic waste dumps might be overcome.
There are however some criticisms against GM foods. For example, unintended harm to other organism has been documented like genetically modified maize killing the monarch butterfly. However, this was later proven to be an exaggeration and monarchs were found unlikely to be destroyed by the GM maize. Another concern is that herbicide resistant plants will crossbreed with weeds, resulting in a super-weed that would be impossible to eradicate, though as of yet, this case has yet to be researched fully. Another possible concern is that gene modification might have unknown effects on human health but the data surrounding this is flawed and does not hold up to scientific scrutiny. A 2008 review published by the Royal Society of Medicine stated that millions of people have been eating GM foods for over 15 years and no ill effects have been reported, strengthening the argument that GM foods aren’t harmful to people.
GM foods are an alternative that could be used to solve world hunger problems, but first we need to overcome the problems and psychological stigmas it carries. Only then can we move to create a unified front on this technology. However, it is an exaggeration to say that these things will happen quickly. At best, we have a couple more decades before the science of genetically engineered foods is perfected. But on the other hand, waiting a few more years is not so bad when one thinks of the potential rewards that we, as a planet, can look forward to if GM foods becomes a viable market solution.





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