Technology is in everything people do. Major leaps in technology are accomplished everyday. One large area in which technology has played a role is in the world of biology and living organisms. Scientists can now create plants that are resistant to diseases, herbicides, and insects.
These plants are referred to as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. This technology is not new; however, it has recently become an issue. Nearly 80% of processed foods contain genetically modified organisms (Lupkin). When more people began to find out about these new crops, there was some backlash. Some people believe GMOs are harmful to the human body, while others think that it is playing God.
However, there are many benefits as to why GMOs should be planted. GMOs are not a serious health problem to society or the environment. Modification of plants has been going on for centuries. Scientists would breed different plants to make hybrids, then breed those hybrids with other hybrids to achieve the plant with the genes they wanted. This process could take many years.
Genetically modified organisms are a similar outcome as hybrids, they just take less time. GMOs are made by inserting new genes into the plant DNA. These new genes can prevent disease, ward off insects, and a number of other things. Most foods in the supermarket are, or contain, GMOs. Wonder why strawberries can be bought year-round? The answer is simple: GMOs (Lupkin).
Additionally, much of the corn that livestock consume are GMOs. For example, cows eat genetically modified food. Humans then eat the cow’s meat, or drink their milk. People are concerned because they believe that the GMOs contain diseases, and those diseases are passed through the animal products, such as milk. However, there are no diseases in GMOs, and even if there were, the disease would have to be contained in at least 72 percent of the food consumed in the 70 hours before the cow was milked (Ruse and Castle). Consumers are concerned about a health risk in the milk.
So, even if there was a disease in a certain milk, the likelihood of that disease being passed on to the consumer is very low. Thousands of tests have been conducted on the effects of GMOs. Some have been conducted by large corporations that would benefit from the use of GMOs, while others have been managed by organizations against the use of genetically modified organisms. For example, one of the largest seed companies in the world, Monsanto, said that, due to an “extensive body of rigorous testing” they were confident of the safety of their seeds (Gasparro).
There are also other studies conducted by independent sources. According to Jon Entine, a journalist from Forbes, “Every major international science body in the world has reviewed multiple independent studies—in some cases numbering in the hundreds—in coming to the consensus conclusion that GMO crops are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods” (Entine). The Non-GMO Project said that studies which found GMOs to be safe were conducted by large corporations who benefit from these foods (“GMO Facts”). However, in an overview ten years of GMO safety, four scientists looked at a total of 1783 studies from independent sources and did “not detect any significant hazards directly connected with the use of GE crops.” Additionally, in every study which resulted in saying GMOs are risks, the scientists were able to discredit (Nicolia, et al).
These independent sources have shown through many different tests that GMOs pose no potential health risk if consumed. Also there have been a plethora of research on the safety of genetically modified foods, people still say “there haven’t been enough independent studies on the long-term health consequences of [GMOs]” (Gasparo). People who are against GMOs do not believe that there has been enough research or unbiased research regarding the safety of these genetically modified organisms. However, there have been thousands of tests conducted, and they all say GMOs are safe (Entine). Additionally, according to a report from the American Medical Association, “no overt consequences on human health have been reported” in the past twenty years in which GMOs have existed (AMA). There just simply hasn’t been a case in which a health risk has been discovered from the result of consuming food containing GMOs.
People also argue that foods made with GMOs pose potential health risks. However, after plant genetics are modified, and a new GMO is created, the United States Food and Drug Administration must approve the GMOs before they are placed into the foods that humans consume (Paturel and Yamakawa). The FDA has approved the use of GMOs since 1999 (“FDA”). This organization makes sure that the plant is not too far derived from the original organism. If the plant is drastically modified, or contains aspects that can potentially cause allergic reactions, then the FDA requires the food containing the GMO to be labeled.
This provides an extra layer of safety concerning GMOs. Since GMOs modified a plant’s DNA, many people think that it is a way to control nature. Some even think it is “playing god” (Liberatore). However, humans have been changing the earth for thousands of years. People pollute, reroute water paths, and a number of other things.
And yet, some are concerned about new plants. There was a similar outcry when George Washington Carver experimented on new plants and created new products. However, today, he is regarded as one of the most important people in scientific history (Bagley). The idea of controlling nature is something that should pass as time rolls on. Not only are GMOs safe for the health of humans, but it also improves the health of the environment. Certain genes can be added to the DNA that repel bugs from the crops.
This requires fewer pesticides to be spread on the fields (Maxmen). This is beneficial to the environment because pesticides that are spread onto fields can be washed into water sources, creating a problem for fish and other animals that obtain water from these sources. Additionally, the pesticides used on fields kill more than just the insects that could potentially harm the crops. In China, where genetically modified corn is used, the use of pesticides has been cut down by fifty percent since the new genetically modified corn was used in 1997. China has also experienced an increase of spiders and lady birds, commonly referred to as “lady bugs” (Ruse and Castle). These insects are beneficial because they are predators of other insects that affect the growth of plants (“Ladybugs”).
In the United States, the adoption of genetically modified crops led to a reduction 46.4 million pounds of pesticide in 2003 (“GM Crops”). Globally, there has been a nine percent decrease in the use of pesticides since 1996 (Brookes and Barfoot). Since these chemicals can harm more living things than they were intended for, GMOs using fewer pesticides creates a more sustainable planet. The population of the earth continues to grow.
As it grows, humans will need to produce more food in order to feed these new people. According to the United Nations, the world population will increase to nine billion by 2050. This is a 27 percent increase from right now (“Population”). These people will also need space to live. Using more space to live will take space away for crops to grow. Additionally, climate change can also contribute to a loss of land.
This means crops will need to be grown more efficiently in smaller spaces. According to Bill Gates, in order to feed the world’s population, productivity of the production of crops needs to increase, and the only way that will happen is under “appropriately used tested control on foods” (“Bill Gates”). Gates thinks that GMOs are needed in order to feed the world, but they should be controlled, and in an appropriate way. Bill Beam, a farmer who uses genetically modified seeds says he “feels an obligation to not just the United States, but to the world” to feed people. He says that if everyone planted organic, production of food would drastically decrease (GMO OMG).
Organic crops are not as hardy as genetically modified ones, so they are more susceptible to diseases. They also have more competition with other plants, along with plants of the same species. A genetically modified plant, however, can be grown more closely to a plant of the same species and will not compete for essentials like water, sunlight, and nutrients (Bunge). This means genetically modified plants can be grown more closely, improving overall yield per acre. This proves GMOs are necessary in order for improved productivity in the growth of food.
An example of how increased productivity is needed through the raising of GMOs is through the actions of the European Union. The European Union banned all GMOs from its products in 1999 (“The Good, Bad”). However, that decision was based off of one study that used questionable techniques (Ghorashi). Now, some scientists are questioning that decision. Anne Glover, the European Union’s chief scientist, now backs the use of GMOs, saying “improvements in farm yields for major crops have remained limited or non-existent in the past decade.
” Since no technological advances have been made in plants due to the ban, Europe is running out of food (Simon). They need to find a solution, and the simplest one is the use of genetically modified plants. Due to a possible decrease in the land where crops are grown, these crops will become increasingly unavailable if they continue to be planted as they are now. With a limited supply of one item, but the same demand, the item becomes more rare. Rare things mean higher prices (Porterfield). Some foods, like maize, could possibly double in price by 2050 (Gray).
Not only do these increased prices affect the everyday consumer, who might be annoyed because of the high price, but they also affect the poor and those in poverty. Millions of people in poverty may not be able to afford certain foods, or even food in general. This can lead to malnutrition or even starvation (“High Food Prices”). 21,000 people die each day because of hunger. That is over seven million people each year (“Hunger”).
According to the World Food Programme, “hunger is the greatest threat to health worldwide” (“Global Walk”). However, all of this could be avoided if enough food were grown. The only way that could happen on limited spaces would be if genetically modified plants were used. Genetically modified organisms are safe, and they are beneficial to the environment. It should not be forgotten that the world needs to be fed, and in order to do this, productivity of the growth of crops needs to increase. New changes always come with uncertainty, and for good reason; people need to be cautious.
However, GMOs have been consumed for over twenty years, and there has not been a single case in which GMOs were linked to a health complication. Through many studies, GMOs have been proven to be safe. People need to be able to embrace the new changes, instead of constantly living in fear of what they might be eating. Works Cited AMA. Bioengineered Foods. Rep.
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