Research on the Controversial Topic of Genetically Modified Food

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When a question is posed such as this one, there will always be advantages and disadvantages that result in people having different views and opinions on what they think is right.

Genetic modification is a controversial field of Science

There are many views on Genetically modified organisms, there are also advantages to this, as well as disadvantages. Genetically modifying organisms can result in the farmers making more profit, while reducing the time spent on resources. However, not all farmers are making a profit, because some farmers who cannot afford to the Genetically Modified seed and therefore the richer farmers get richer and the poor farmers get poorer.

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Genetic modification of crops allows the engineers to change or adjust the genes of the organism, in order to make them beneficial for humans to consume. The organisms can also be modified to sustain the current surrounding climate changes and use it to their advantage to grow more efficiently.

Pesticides are used on crops that are not genetically modified, to protect the crops from the pests, targeting the crops. If the organisms are genetically modified, they will resist the pests, therefore saving money on using pesticides.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are known to decrease the food prices. This will be an advantage to the families that cannot afford to buy the food that is necessary to avoid starvation. The decrease in food prices can lead to a decrease in the number of people starving.

Genetically modified organisms are safer and healthier than traditional crops. This is due to the fact that nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the crops are lacking and the humans needs, can be added the organisms. This therefore results in organisms that are better to consume, than crops lacking necessary nutrients. Genetically modified organisms are meticulously tested and evaluated before consumption is allowed, therefore, are safe for humans to consume.

Although there are advantages to Genetically modified organisms, there are disadvantages as well. GMOs can be dangerous to some insects, such as butterflies, that are not harmful to the crops, but are important to the ecosystem. Due to the fact that Genetically modified crops are not planted or cultivated in a natural way, they can pose a threat to the environment.

Genetically modifying organisms produce unwanted residual effects. Some genetically modified crops leave residual substances that are not welcome, and may stay in the soil for a long period of time, even after the crops have been taken out of the soil.

Unfortunately, genetically modified organisms result in the production of more weeds and this is due the fact that these crops have the ability to act as mediators in transmitting genes to other wild plants. New herbicides are invented to keep these weeds under control. These new herbicides however, are not needed for weeds that are not Genetically modified and these chemicals are poisonous to some mammals and amphibians that are eating the GMO crops. The new herbicides also have a negative outcome on aquatic ecosystems.

Some Countries and regions in the world, may not agree with genetically modifying organisms and therefore an issue with trading may occur.

People are against Genetically Modifying foods because, in today’s world many people do not like change, as it makes them feel uncomfortable as they do not know all the effects and not knowing scares many people. Many people are also not aware of the reasoning behind genetically modifying foods and do not like the idea, because they do not think they should change what is not broken and the unknown is scary to many. There are also negatives to genetic modification of foods, because Genetically Modified Organisms pose a risk to the environment. This is because cross-pollination results in herbicide-resistant weeds that can threaten other crops and wild plants. It is also said that changing the crops genetic makeup will affect the food chain, for example scientists have said that Genetically Modified Organisms have led to birth defects among animals, and many think, that by the time we are aware of the long-term affect, it may be too late. Some people may be against genetically modified organisms, because they are not organic and people think that organic foods have a better taste and research found that peoples tastes buds and our consciences are intertwined and the more food consumers found pleasure in eating foods that they thought to be organic and not genetically modified.

2. Examples of crops which are modified include: Soya beans, maize and golden rice

Genetic Modification is carried out as follows; when genes that are of interest (because they have traits that are desirable) are identified, they are then isolated from other organisms. Then these genes are artificially inserted into plant cells that will grow into adult plants with these desirable traits. The genes can be transferred into the plant cell or plant tissue by using the “Gene Gun” method or the Recombinant DNA Techniques. The “Gene Gun’’ method is when pellets of metal that are coated with the desirable DNA are fired into the plant cells. The cells that take up the DNA are then able to be cloned and are able to grow into new plants.

Recombinant DNA Techniques is when a plasmid (T1 plasmid) is taken out of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which is a soil bacterium. The T1 plasmid is taken out the bacterium and then a restriction enzyme cuts the plasmid. Then the ligase enzyme splices the desirable gene into the plasmid, forming a recombinant plasmid. The plasmid is then introduced into the plant cell and the part that is with the gene then becomes integrated into the cells chromosomal DNA. The plant cells are then grown in culture. Finally, the transgenic plants are thoroughly tested, by growing them under different environmental conditions to ensure there are no negative effects on other plant functions or the quality of the product and the ensure the plants overall performance.

Golden Rice:

Golden Rice is genetically modified to biosynthesize beta-carotene. This is done when the genes that are of interest, which are the genes that enable golden rice to have to ability to make beta-carotene are located and isolated. The T1 plasmid is removed from the Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which is a soil bacterium, and then a restriction enzyme is used to cut the plasmid. The ligase enzyme then inserts the gene that is of interest, along with the promoters into the plasmid and in doing so a recombinant plasmid is formed. The plasmid is then inserted into rice embryos and the part containing the gene then becomes merged into the cell’s chromosomal DNA. The genes that encode the instructions for making beta-carotene are transferred. The transformed rice plants then grown by tissue culture and then they are planted out to enable them to grow normally. The transgenic rice plants are then thoroughly tested and this is done by growing them under different environmental conditions to make sure that the transgene does not have adverse effects on how the other plants function or the overall quality of the product and to examine the plants general performances.

Soya bean:

This has been genetically modified to survive herbicides plant-killing ingredient and to increase the protein.

First identify a new trait that the plant is desired to have and identify which organisms (soya bean) already contain it. Test the plants to find a plant the is best fit in order to produce a transgenic Soya bean. A special chipping device is then used to shave a small piece off the seed, so that it can be grinded up into a powder form and analyzed using genomemapping technology. Now that the genes have been attained, the next step is to insert these genes into the plant. The Soya bean is then heated to put it under pressure, which enables then to make it vulnerable to Agrobacterium tumefaciens. This specific organism invades the plants DNA, tricking them into producing amino acids and sugar that will feed the bacteria. The pollen carries the DNA in its genome, therefore in the event of pollination, a new seed is produced, containing the trait, which is then advanced into the next generation. After extensive testing, the Soya bean seedlings are narrowed down to the best candidates. There is then more weeding out of the seedlings, resulting in one Genetically Modified seed. The Soya bean seedlings grow. The Soya beans are test candidates for an automatic germination system, that sucks up the individual seeds and plants them. Then dirt is blown over them from their roots to examine their health, which automatically supplies nutrients the plants need in order to grow sufficiently. Lastly the plant needs to be planted and tended to and then eventually harvested.

Golden Rice was genetically modified, because rice that is eaten does not contain enough nutrients, that bodies needs other than starch and there is a large Vitamin A deficiency in Africa and Asia. Vitamin A is a necessity to human bodies, as it plays an important role in the growth and development of many systems in the body. By genetically modifying rice to be Golden Rice, it has enabled the production of beta carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A when metabolized by the body. The genetic modification of golden rice will result in a decrease on demands of food consumption in order to get enough of the Vitamin A nutrients and this will therefore result in less foods needed to be brought and consumed to give the people the vitamins and nutrients that they are in need of. This will therefore improve the world hunger crisis as less food will need to be consumed, therefore more food is available to others around them that are in need.

Genetically modifying Soya beans will help fight the world hunger crisis, because the Soya beans have been genetically modified in a way that they are able to grow at a faster rate, making them more profitable and this will reduce the price of soya beans. Reducing the price will allow people with very little or no income, to now buy or buy more, because it is now more affordable. Therefore, this will result in more people being able to afford and consume the soya beans. Genetically modified soya beans are also modified to be able to resist harsh conditions such as weed killers and severe weather conditions and this will result in more of the harvest surviving, therefore there will be more to sell and this along with them growing faster, it will result in the soya beans’ price to decrease. With a decreased price, soya beans become more affordable to people and enable them to buy more and for those who were previously unable to afford it, they can now buy the soya beans and have food to eat and this therefore helps fight the world hunger crisis.

The South African Department of Agriculture works closely with farmers in regulating the cultivation of GM crops

The Genetically Modified Organism Act (The Act number 15 of 1997) has been put into place. This Act put into place three regulatory authorities for a successful execution of its aim. The three regulatory authorities are; an Executive Council, Registrar and an Advisory Committee. This Act puts limitations on the research, production and the marketing of the Genetically Modified Organisms. The Genetically Modified Organisms Act aims to guarantee that everything done that involves genetically modified organisms will be done in a way to lessen the possibility of consequences that can be harmful to the health of humans and animals and the environment.

The South African Department of Health introduced labelling regulations, under the Foodstuff, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, which is Regulation 25. This regulation proclaims that any food that has been produced through Genetic modification that is extremely different to the traditional foods, must be labelled. These genetically modified foods are listed as very different to the traditional foods, if they differ in the make-up, value of nutrients, how it must be stored, how it should be prepared and cooked, allergenicity or genes that originate to humans or animals.

The Consumer Protection Act, Regulation 293 for the Department of Trade and Industry proclaims that all Genetically Modified foods must be labelled. Regulation 293 focuses on the consumers inherent right to the information.

Your personal viewpoint on the research you have carried out

From the research I have conducted, I would say that genetically modified foods are a solution to the crisis, because genetically modifying the foods, it is resulting in the prices decreasing. With the value of tax increasing by 1% food has become more expensive, but by genetically modifying the foods the price will ideally decrease and become more affordable to people. Genetically modified crops are more resistant to severe weather conditions and weed killers and can therefore grow until harvested. Genetic modification can be done in a way where higher nutritional value, increasing amount of protein, vitamins and minerals can be added to the foods so that the crops harvested, have all the nutrients, minerals and protein that humans need. This will result in a decrease of food intake, as they can eat less and still get all the nutrients that their bodies need. They will save money on buying lots of foods and will use the money to feed those around them properly. They will also be able to stop buying the cheap unhealthy foods, because the price of the genetically modified foods will ideally decrease and be more affordable and therefore the people will be able to buy more foods with nutritional value. This will result in a more balanced and healthier diet.

When I went looking for my five products containing corn, I realized how many foods that I ate had genetically modified ingredients in them and I had never known. Now that I know which food do contain these ingredients, I did not think about never eating them again and always making sure my food was not genetically modified, I was just simply interested, which helped my view on genetically modified foods.

My viewpoint has changed and has been influenced by the sources, because in the beginning I did not have a strong opinion and was undecided, but through conducting my research and reading many sources, my viewpoint has become clearer. Through reading the sources I saw many negatives about genetically modifying foods but I also saw positives that can help people and our economy improve.

Table showing the relationship between 5 foods from 4 different stores and if they contain a form of Genetically Modified Corn

Spar Pick ‘n Pay Checkers Woolworths

Corn Flakes The Corn used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label. This product contains genetically modified Maize and it is very clearly labelled. The Maize used in the product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label. This product does not contain any form of corn. This Product was used because this store does not sell Corn Flakes.

Sweetcorn This product contains modified Maize Starch and it is clearly labelled in the ingredients section.

The Sweetcorn used in this product is not genetically modified, however, the Corn starch is and it was clearly labelled in the ingredients section. The Sweetcorn used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label. The Sweetcorn used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified, however, the starch is modified and it is clearly labelled in the ingredients section.

Canned Spaghetti This product contains modified Maize Starch and it was clearly labelled in the ingredients section. This product does not contain any form of corn. The Corn starch used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label. The Corn starch used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label.

Corned Meat The Maize Starch used in this product is not labelled as genetically modified, however it is labelled that the product may contain genetically modified ingredients. This product contains modified Maize starch and this was clearly labelled in the ingredients section. The Corn starch used in the product is not labelled as genetically modified. There is no information about genetically modified ingredients on the label. This product does not contain any form of corn.

Tomato Sauce This product contains modified starch and is clearly labelled in the ingredients section. This product contains modified corn starch and is clearly labelled in the ingredients section. This product contains modified Corn starch and is clearly labelled in the ingredients section. The Corn syrup used in this product is not genetically modified. There is no information on genetically modified ingredients on the label.

Primary Research

Personally, I would feel most comfortable buying my food products from Spar and the reason for this is that although out of the five products I chose, two of the corn products were not genetically modified, I am not against genetic modification. I was originally going to choose Checkers, however it concerned me that they did not have any genetically modified foods, which made me think that they were not labelling them correctly. They also had very little Checkers branded foods, therefore it would not matter if I shopped at Spar or Checkers, because I would buy other brands of food that is the cheapest and common in most stores. I also feel most comfortable buying my foods from a store that does label modified foods, instead of no labelling at all, thus making me feel as if I can trust the store that is honest with their customers. I am not against genetically modifying foods, as before I never knew what it was and never cared what the label said, but know that I am aware, when I shop I will be more aware of the foods ingredients and occasionally check the label out of interest. Spar is honest and make the clients aware about genetically modified products and thus I feel as though I can trust them with the food they produce and I eat and therefore would feel more comfortable buying my food from Spar.

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