Theintroduction of genetically modified foods into the market occurredover two decades ago. Since then, raging debates have emergedregarding the potential threats posed by GMOs on both environmentaland health aspects of human beings. This concern has contributed toextensive research on this issue with scientists trying to establishthe safety of GMOs before justifying their consumption. Technologicaladvancements have contributed significantly to economic progressions. Different technological concepts have been identified as compared tothe old days where technology was lacking, and most issues had to bedone manually. The agricultural sector is among those that hasstrongly adopted technology to ensure high yields and protection frompests. GMOs were introduced as a remedy to food insecurity (Preedy149). This technology involves the modification of the geneticmaterial of organisms with the intended goal of attaining desirablefeatures. Despite the perceived benefits of GMOs, the stiffresistance has arisen due to its apparent effects on the environmentand health. Even though technology may provide a solution to foodcrisis in different parts of the world, GMO may not be the solutiongiven its adverse effects on humans and the environment.
Accordingto research that was done in 1999, it was established that the larvaeof monarch butterflies died as a result of exposure to pollen whichwas derived from genetically modified corn. Therefore, this raisesquestions concerning the safety of GMOs on the environment. When itcomes to humans, GMOs have been linked to certain health risks. Therehas to be clarity on expounding the genetic effects that such foodsmight have on humans after consumption (Robinson and John 2).Accordingly, the proponents of GMOs have not established the likelyeffects on the existence of future generations. The long-termconsequences have not been fully elaborated to convince the generalpublic on their safety. There is a need to rely on facts hence theproponents have to fully back up their arguments with solid reasonsbefore they campaign for its adoption (Porfilio 30). There is anincreased risk of acquiring disease such as cancer due to theconsumption of GMOs such as corn, soy and sugar beets. Most of thesefoods are sold to the public without disclosure of their modificationprocess. The GMOs have been linked to increased resistance toantibiotics and the resurgence of allergic reactions (Robinson andJohn 4). A lot of research has been conducted on the effect of GMOson animals. Most have reported the development of stunted growth andformation of cancerous cells following the tissue analysis of animalorgans. Given that human beings have a similar body system to that ofanimals, such adverse effects cannot be ruled out. The addition ofsupplementary chemicals to foods meant for human consumption is thelikely cause of the increase in cancer incidents.
Proponentsclaim that the desired traits can be achieved through the insertionof specific genes into host plants with outcomes that can be easilypredicted and have desired effects. However, this process isextremely mutagenic, inaccurate and crude (Kloor).The GM crop harbors erratic genetic changes and alters thebiochemical composition. This is the main reason for the risingincidences of allergic reactions and nutritional interference, inaddition to the unforeseen environmental effects that contribute tocrop failure.
Promotersof GMOs have argued that the massive consumption of geneticallymodified crops is associated with no known health effects. Thisperception is considered disingenuous. Epidemiologists have notjustified this assumption, and none has tried to establish thecorrelation between health and consumption. To further worsen thesituation, such investigative studies cannot be performed in mostcountries due to the non-labeling of genetically modified crops. Itis thus difficult to establish a link between consumption ofgenetically modified foods and a health effect due to the issuementioned above.
Mostadvocates of GM foods have focused on elucidating the health benefitsof these foods as a result of additional fortifications. However,such enhanced foods are not readily available in the market asclaimed by proponents. On the contrary, the manipulation process hascontributed to the reduced nutrition of GM foods as compared toorganic foods. The “golden rice” is one of the GM foods that wasestablished to offer additional nutritive benefits regarding vitaminA replacement. This crop was developed targeting areas where diseasesoccurred as a result of vitamin A deficiency. However, it is widelyunavailable in the market. Proponents have blamed the delay in goldenrice commercialization to tight regulations and campaigns byopponents. Surprisingly, the main reason for the delay is due toresearch associated setbacks. The levels of beta-carotene contentwere significantly low in the first produce of rice hence individualshad to consume greater amounts of rice to attain the required intakeof vitamins. Therefore, the engineering process had to be redoneagain (Robinson and John 6). The fight against vitamin A deficiencyhas been facilitated by WHO. The organization has mainly focused onthe provision of supplements and encouraging women to breastfeedtheir babies. These methods are considered efficient and cheap ascompared to the genetically modified crops. Many lives have beensaved through the use of these basic approaches as compared to theadoption of GM rice which is extremely costly, and it’s stillunavailable. Fruits and green leafy plants are rich in beta carotenehence there is no need for the introduction of this component intorice.
Geneticallymodified crops have been manipulated to survive the use ofherbicides. Most of the proponents for GMOs argue on the basis thatBt crops have been engineered with Bt toxin which is naturallyproduced hence it is harmless. This claim is based on the fact thatthe derivative bacterium occurs naturally in the soil henceconsidered safe when used in insecticides. This perception is falsebecause the Bt toxin used in genetically modified crops does not haveany similarities to the toxins that are present in the environment.Activation of the Bt toxin that is naturally found in the environmentoccurs in the gut of the pests and later on breaks down rapidly inthe presence of sunlight. On the contrary, genetically modified Btcrops comprise of a Bt toxin which is usually available in apre-activated form and is continuously ‘turned on.` Research hasestablished that GM Bt crops significantly affect butterflies andother beneficial predator insects that are vital in farming.
Modifiedcrops have led to the establishment of ‘super weeds’ which havecontributed to the rapid deployment of herbicides. This has occurredas a result of selective pressure whereby some weeds have becomeresistant to the effects of herbicides hence they can withstand thespraying effects. Such weeds ultimately reproduce and end up passingresistant genes to their offspring. As an act of desperation, farmerstend to continuously spray their farms to try to get rid of theseresistant strains (Robinson and John 3). As time goes by, farmersrealize that there are no changes on the elimination of the weeds andfinally resort to the use of extremely toxic chemicals and mixtures,for example, 2,4-D. Some are forced to embrace manual mechanisms suchas pulling of weeds using their hands or plowing of the farm throughthe use of farm machinery.
Theother case for consideration refers to the “mystery wheat” inOregon. People naturally have confidence in procedures andtechnologies that they know best. In instances where they do nothave enough and relevant information regarding the technology, itemsor procedures, they will avoid their utilization (Miller). The UnitedStates department of agriculture has not yet been in a position toidentify the origin of the “mystery wheat” hence leading tocontinued protests against GMOs. Furthermore, this issue has raisedquestions about the seeds available in the market for farming. Mostpeople are concerned on whether the agricultural department was awareof the situation in regards to the availability of such seeds in themarket. Without the authorization of the agriculture department andresearch centers, one cannot be confident that a given crop will nothave any adverse impacts on either the environment or to consumers(Conko). Therefore, seeds need to be authorized, and lack of this maylead to the questionability of such seeds among farmers (Miller 227).
Thereis a notion that GM foods are needed to feed the ever expandingglobal population. However, this perception is difficult to justifydue to low yields that have been witnessed in GM foods (Robinson andJohn 1). There are no genetically modified crops that perform betterthat non-modified crops when it comes to toleration of poor climaticand soil conditions. The reason for this situation could be explainedby the fact that, similar to high yields, there is a complexity ofgenes involved when it comes to toleration of extreme conditions(Porfilio 30). These processes are difficult to understand hencehindering the modification process of such genes. Dramatic increasesin yield have been linked to sustainable agricultural techniques suchas organic farming which produces not only benefits to theenvironment but also to human health. An example of a friendlyfarming technique involves the intensification technology of riceproduction. This is an agro-ecological technique aimed at increasingrice productivity through changing how water, soil, and plants aremanaged. The primary focus of this method is to improve theconditions in the soil, improve water absorption for the developmentof the roots and plant as a whole (Preedy 153). Positive results havebeen obtained from this production technique hence this result showsthat genetics is only a smaller fraction of the answer to foodsecurity. The primary objective should be on the techniques aimed atimproving crop growth. Land productivity and food security areattained through sustainable farming techniques aimed at soil andwater preservation.
Theconventional technique of crop production has been verified to beeffective as compared to genetic engineering. Conventional breedinghas aided in the production of resistant strains of crops which cansurvive harsh climatic conditions, less fertile soils, diseaseinfections and additionally have good nutrient utilization (Porfilio9). This technique has been made possible through the concept ofmarker assisted selection which has hastened the process ofconventional breeding. One of the positive aspects of this techniqueis that it avoids the insertion of foreign genetic elements into thegenetic material of host plants which is the case for geneticmodification. Different crop varieties are used to establish a basefor resilient plants (Robinson and John 8). This is in contrasts tothe technology of genetic modification which narrows on the diversityof crops and fixed technological requirements which demand forincreased expenses and years of research before a new trait can bediscovered (Genetically Modified Food Is Unsafe).
Insummary, it is justified to conclude that genetically modified foodshave greater adverse effects as compared to non-GM foods. Therefore,to ensure there are no environmental and health effects, it isprudent to withdraw GM technology from the agricultural andbiotechnology industries. Other techniques such as conventionalbreeding of crops offer alternative solutions to food insecurityhence there is no need of interfering with genetic composition ofplants.
"GeneticallyModified Food Is Unsafe." GlobalSustainability.Ed. Dedria Bryfonski. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2016.Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs."2015. OpposingViewpoints in Context.Web. 27 Oct. 2016
Conko,Gregory, and Henry I. Miller. "The rush to condemn geneticallymodified crops." PolicyReview165 (2011): 69+. OpposingViewpoints in Context.Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
Kloor,Keith. "Opponents of using genetically modified cotton in Indiaclaim that the technology has resulted in the suicides of hundreds ofthousands of farmers. They appear to be wrong, and the real reasonswhy Indian farmers take their own lives remain largely unaddressed."Issuesin Science and Technology30.2 (2014): 65+. OpposingViewpoints in Context.Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
Miller,Henry I. "Against the grain: the real mystery behind Oregon`spatch of `mystery wheat` is why we let the USDA suppress biotechcrops in the first place." HooverDigest4 (2013): 87+. OpposingViewpoints in Context.Web. 27 Oct. 2016.
Miller,Norman, ed. EnvironmentalPolitics Casebook: Genetically Modified Foods.CRC Press, 2016.
Porfilio,Kate. "Our GMO Labeling Debate: Human Health, the Environment,and the Precautionary Principle." (2016).
Preedy,Victor R. "Genetically Modified Organisms in Food." (2016).
Robinson,Claire, and John Fagan. "10 Reasons We Don’t Need GMO Food."2014