Changes around the environment cause changes in the food processing market. As the world’s population expands, the food processing industry searches for new ways to produce food of greater nutritional value. As a result, the industry has implemented a biotechnological development approach that includes genetically modifying foods to ensure food sustainability. The question of whether genetically engineered plants are healthy to eat has sparked heated controversy. Although some believe that this technology will help with food preservation, some argue that it poses ethical concerns. The paper provides an argumentative debate in favor of genetically modified foods’ development and use. GM foods have more benefits compared with native foods. As such, the production of GM foods should continue.
Genetically modified foods are foods with an altered genetic structure. According to WHO, behind the technology individuals alter the structures of foods in a manner “that does not occur spontaneously” (Dizon et al. 287). The technology originates from RNA technology advances. The first application has been in the 1994 production of a particular type of tomato that has had a prolonged shelf life. Unlike the traditional types, the GM type has the ability to stay longer on the plant for intensified flavor. Previously, farmers would harvest tomatoes when still green and ripen them using ethylene. The development has paved the way for producing other crops, which have been resulted in a significant production of GM foods. In the US, the majority of organisms produced through genetic modification are foods. The common crops include corn, cotton, and soybean. Almost 80 percent of food in US is genetically modified.
GM foods have numerous advantages. First, they guarantee a high production of food. Qaim and Kouser (1) mention that various factors such as “climate change, land, and water scarcity” threaten the availability and supply of food. With the rising population, the world requires a high food production to offer food for all people around the world. The technology ensures a large-scale production of food within a short time unlike conventional methods of production that require a longer time for organisms to mature. Maghari and Ardekani (1) reveal that “GM crops have increased crop yields by 21”. GM foods have a genetic high yield potential. Thus, the technology plays a significant role in ensuring food security across the world. Moreover, the technology seems to be in line with international standards that call for an equitable and fair food supply.
Secondly, GM foods influence the safety and quality of food. The technology behind the GM foods production has the potential of producing foods with significant nutritional contents. Such foods with high quantities of micronutrients help reduce cases of nutritional deficiencies resulting in a good health. The majority of developing countries have a high number of malnutrition cases. In these countries, people rely on their staple foods, which may have inadequate nutrients. Thus, genetic modification of such staple foods ensures that the foods contain additional nutrients, which prevent or minimize malnutrition. For instance, researchers are modifying rice that contains unusual amounts vitamin A and iron content. Such plans will help alleviate deficiencies among people who use rice as their staple food.
Thirdly, GM foods minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Traditional production force parents to use high quantities of pesticides. Moreover, consumers are against the use of such chemicals because they follow health issues. Furthermore, the overuse of pesticides is harmful to the environment and various water sources. The use of pesticides and fertilizers in traditional production is also costly as farmers pay more to acquire these chemicals and machinery in applying the chemicals. Consequently, it increases the production cost by reducing profits made by farmers. However, GM crops have toxins that help control pests. Verma, Nanda, Singh and Mishra state that the production of GM foods eliminates the need to apply chemicals and “reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market” (5).
Another advantage of GM foods is that their production minimizes the risks of agricultural wastes through herbicide tolerance. The genetic crops modification makes crops to be resistant to one strong herbicide. In the traditional farming, farmers use several types of herbicides to destroy weeds while protecting a certain crop. In this case, farmers incur high costs of production because of the high costs of such herbicides. Moreover, the use of such herbicides results in high levels of agricultural wastes to the environment affecting it.
GM foods are beneficial because medical providers may use them to administer vaccines. Although vaccines are paramount for the well-being of a human, a majority of people have limited access to these vaccines. The conventional method of administering vaccines is expensive and hectic, especially in developing nations. Researchers can modify foods in such a way that they incorporate edible vaccines in these foods. The aspect is important especially in regions where people have to travel long distances to get the vaccines. Verma, Nanda, Singh and Mishra reveal that “researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes” (6).
GM foods are resistant to viruses that affect crop production resulting in inadequate food. Various fungi, bacteria, and viruses cause plant disease. Consequently, these factors affect the growth and development of plants reducing crop production. The genetic makeup of the traditional crops makes them susceptible to plant diseases. However, GM foods have a solution to the problem. These foods are modified in such a way that they become resistant to plant diseases. Thus, the factor will save farmers from incurring losses and guarantee a bounty harvest. Moreover, it will ensure that people get a constant supply of food regardless of the presence of viruses.
GM foods are also tolerant to cold making it possible to plant them in areas with extremely cold conditions. GM foods modifiers use an antifreeze gene from fishes in various crops such as potatoes. The antifreeze gene enables plants to survive cold conditions. Traditional plants lack such modification preventing their survival in cold conditions. Hence, GM foods enable people in regions with extremely cold conditions to produce enough food regardless of the weather conditions. Moreover, the GM plants have the ability to survive in hot and dry conditions. The population increase has reduced land for food production to pave the way for housing. However, GM crops can tolerate drought and high salinity conditions. Therefore, they enable people to produce food in inhospitable places (Amin et al. 8).
GM foods provide an opportunity for farmers to solve the issue of limitations within food crops and to improve the capacity of such crops. Moreover, the technology enables farmers to develop better breeds in cheap and easy ways. Previously, farmers have had to develop new breeds by expensive and time-consuming methods. Moreover, the probability of these methods failing has been high. The methods have also limited the ability of farmers to produce the needed breeds. GM technology gives scientists and farmers the chance to recognize suitable genes from various species. The technology enables the scientists to use various species such as similar species, non-plant varieties, and close relatives. Consequently, in such a case, unlike in the conventional breeding methods, GM technology permits the scientists to transfer one gene instead of many genes as in case when using conventional methods where one can only transfer multiple genes.
GM crops have various positive effects to the environment. As mentioned earlier, the crops have the ability to reduce the use of harmful pesticides. The reduction in use of pesticides results in a decline in the emission of carbon dioxide to the environment. GM crops promote the sequestration of carbon into the soil reducing its effects in air. Moreover, these crops encourage the use of non-tillage techniques of farming. The non-tillage techniques reduce the use of machines in farming. Subsequently, such techniques help to save energy resulting in positive effects to the environment. In such a case, the techniques also help to reduce the emission of harmful carbon dioxide gas to the environment.
GM foods are significant in reclaiming land back to nature. GM technologies help to increase yields. Moreover, these technologies result in high yields on small pieces of the land. Traditional farming requires extensive pieces of land to register high production. Consequently, increase in population results in encroachment of the natural habitats. The practice disrupts the natural ecosystems resulting in negative effects to the environment. However, Amin et al. state that “where yield of staple crops have increased the land released is put to other economic uses” (19). The aspect confirms the capacity of the GM crops to improve the forest cover.
As discussed above, GM foods are safe for the consumption of human beings. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration has confirmed the safety of GM foods to the public. However, a good proportion of the public and other governments across the globe remain skeptical. Critics against the consumption of GM foods provide various reasons to support their position. They argue that these foods have environmental, health, and economic effects. They give an example of pollen grains from corn that causes death in butterfly caterpillars. Moreover, they argue that such crops have toxins that affect numerous insects and insect larvae (Verma et al. 9). Furthermore, the critics argue that the presence of GM crops may result in the elimination of native crops. They claim that pollinators have the ability to transfer the GM seeds to regions with native crops resulting in the native crops contamination.
To conclude, the modification of foods genetically is a contentious issue. The first production of these foods has resulted in unending discussions with critics supporting and arguing against their use providing the reasons for their positions. Both sides provide evidence for their claims. The paper has focused on the benefits and the advantages of using GM foods. From the discussion above, the benefits of the GM foods surpass its disadvantages suggesting that the foods are fit for the consumption of human beings. Moreover, accepting the production and use of GM foods will help reduce cases of famine, especially in areas with extreme weather conditions.
Although some critics argue that GM crops have adverse effects on the environment, GM foods help preserve the environment by reducing the use of chemicals in fertilizers. Hence, some of the claims by those against the GM foods are unsubstantiated. However, there is a need for scientists to conduct more research to produce the best types of crops with more advantages.
Amin, Latifah et al.” Risks and Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods”. African Journal of Biotechnology, no. 10(58), 2011, pp. 12481-12485, http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/AJB/article-abstract/A8873AF32086. Accessed Sep. 2011.
Dizon, Francis et al. “Genetically Modified (GM) Foods and Ethical Eating”. Journal of Food Science, no. 81(2), 2015, pp. 287-291, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1750-3841.13191/abstract. Accessed 28 Dec. 2015.
Maghari, Behrokh M., & Ardekani, Ali M. “Genetically Modified Foods and Social Concerns”. Avicenna Journal of Medical Biotechnology, no. 3(3), 2011, pp. 109-117, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3558185/. Accessed Jul.-Sep. 2011.
Qaim, Matin, & Kouser, Shahzad. “Genetically Modified Crops and Food Security”. PLoS ONE, no. 8(6), 2013, pp. 1-7, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064879. Accessed 5 Jun. 2013.
Verma, Charu, Nanda, Surabi, Singh, Ram K., & Mishra, Sanjay. “A Review on Impacts of Genetically Modified Food on Human Health”. The Open Nutraceuticals Journal, no. 4, 2011, pp. 3-11 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/215650437_A_Review_on_Impacts_of_Genetically_Modified_Food_on_Human_Health. Accessed Feb. 2011.
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