The most wonderful activity a human being can experience is new flavors and foods. For example, the first time a person tastes a delicious juicy piece of prime rib or a delightful hamburger with cheese and ham, his world is never the same. However, since the beginning of the twentieth century, the production of food has been supplemented by science. This has triggered an angry dispute between the people who support the advances of biotechnology and people who love nature.
In order to understand the controversy, we have to know the meaning of genetically modified foods. With new technological advances, scientists can modify seeds from a conventional seed to a high tech seed with shorter maturation times and resistance to dryness, cold and heat. This is possible with the implementation of new genes into the DNA of the conventional seed. Once these “transgenes” are transferred, they can create plants with better characteristics (Harris 164-165).
The farmers love it not only because it guarantees a good production, but the cost is also reduced. On the other hand, organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of Earth have campaigned against GMO (“Riesgos”) because they think that they are negatively affecting the earth (Gerdes 26). Both the advocates and the opponents of genetically modified foods have excellent arguments. Advocates claim that the world may benefit greatly from the production and consumption of GM foods, especially those countries with high rates of poverty and starvation.
Experts insist that the GM products will put an end to world hunger. It is estimated that the world population will grow up to 9 billion people in 2050, and a good alternative to feed them is the GM products. Nowadays, in almost all African countries people are dying because of hunger and hunger-related diseases. The estimate of life expectation in these countries is fifty seven years old, and it will decrease to forty seven in 2020 (kwengwere 2-3). The governments of these countries are battling to put a stop to this unfair situation.
Experts have said that the best alternative is the implementation of GM cultures in Africa; it will reduce the deaths, increase the life expectations and nourish the whole continent (Forsberg 1). The future of Africa is uncertain, but it is sure to depend on the hands of GM production. Many people are asking how GMO would prevent all these problems. The key is in the production. The growth of GM crops is faster than the conventional seeds. For that reason, farmers can produce more and more. These seeds are resistant to cold and hot weather and have more chances to resist dryness than the others.
Also, these crops are herbicide resistant; that means that farmers can spray with herbicide and defeat the weeds without altering the crop. For that reason, a lot of money is saved by the reduced use of pesticides, and the cost of production is benefited. Almost 8. 25 millions farmers all over the world planted genetically modified seeds in 2004, compared to 7 million in 2003, said the international Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA)(“Biotech” 1).
In addition to the strong production, as John B. Alfred, a professor in the department of food science and technology at Ohio State University, said, “These foods are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts”(Alfred 1). These GM plants are modified to produce proteins that plants would not produce by natural means. They grow up with built-in Vitamin A that prevents blindness in people who have Vitamin A deficiency. Scientists have also created GM potatoes which absorb less oil when fried. That means less fat in the potato, converting popular french fries from junk food to nutritious and healthy food.
Scientists have also developed an apple with a built-in vaccine which prevents childhood pneumonia (“GM Food” 1). These are only some benefits of the genetically modified foods, but some people are asking themselves, do we want mutant plants, killer tomatoes and other atrocities to replace natural food? The introduction of genetically modified agriculture and foods in our system has caused a number of questions about negative consequences. Is the GM food secured for the health of human beings, and how is this affecting the ecosystem?
The impact of these GM crops on natural ecosystems is uncertain. There are many concerns. If the GM plants mix with another species, they might form an undesired plant or hurt the animals that live in the ecosystem. “Genes can move in pollen by wind or insects. Seeds can get stuck in machinery or mixed in storage and transportation systems. There are very many routes of vulnerability,” said a panel chairman David Andow of the University of Minnesota (“Riesgos”). In 1999, a report said that only 56% of monarch butterflies survived after eating milkweed surfaced with engineered corn pollen.
A study found out that the larvae was poisoned with the toxin on the corn pollen. This pollen could also mix with another relative or unrelated plant and form an undesired plant resistant to herbicides and almost impossible to kill (Dougherty 1). Another determent of GM organisms is that Bio-technology companies are taking commercial control over the farmers through their products. This means that the farmers will depend on the companies, and the production of agriculture products will be in some way monopolized.
Only 1% of GM research is aimed at crops used by poor farmers in poor countries. It can cost up to 200 million dollars and 12 years to develop a GM crop, and that cost has to be recouped by selling to farmers who can pay for it. The price of the food will increase, poor countries will suffer the consequences, and the hunger will still be there (Hazards 1). A good example that proves this is Argentina. This country is in second place of GM production and is the only developing country producing genetically engineering crops on a large scale.
All this production is exported to foreign countries while millions of Argentineans are suffering hunger. Instead of focusing on risky technologies, all that money used should be directed to giving poor people land, credit, resources, and markets so they can feed themselves and sell their surplus crops (“Feeding the World” 1). There are four multinationals that control the seed market. Monsanto, Syngenta Bayer CropScience, and Dupont, but about 91 % of all GM crops grown in the world are from Monstanto (Brown 1). This shows that GM crops are more likely to benefit rich corporations than poor people.
Another consequence of GM crops is that genetic modifications can develop proteins in plants which a consumer could be allergic to. For example, one of the most common allergies is with the peanut. What would happen if peanut proteins interlace into tomato seeds? Then people with peanut allergies would not be able to eat genetically modified tomatoes. There are many reasons to stop the production of GM food. It can produce serious long-term nature accidents, but there is no way to know much about it until is too late (“GM Food” 2). In conclusion, the application of genetically modified food has a lot of pros and cons.
There is so much disagreement about the benefits and risks of GM because there are so many different views surrounding it. This issue is very important today because it will change our future. How would the world be when every single living creature will be in some aspect genetically modified? Would we be more resistant to illness? Or would we be weaker and more vulnerable to diseases? Would this be the beginning of the mutant era? Regardless of the answers to these questions, we will need to consider the implications of genetically modified foods.