Genetically modified foods are foods that have had their DNA altered in some way by insertion or deletion of genes to increase the survival or nutrition (Maghari, 2011). The debate surrounding this issue involves a range of facts and opinions concerning today’s world and that of the future. Genetically modified foods have been around for over twenty years, transferred from laboratories to farmlands all over the world. Technologies have changed, scientists are now able to measure GMOs effectiveness, fix mistakes, and transfer different genes to provide more reactions than just one individual gene would. Since they have been around for so long, people begin to wonder why we haven’t fully immersed ourselves in GMOs or eradicated them from our markets. The debate starts with, what is involved in the topic of genetically modified foods. This debate is framed around three board points, health the organism and those consuming, how ecosystems will be affected, and how genetic material transfers. Genetically modified foods encompass three different aspects genetically modified bacteria, plants, and animals. Genetically modified bacteria were sought after to help deter pests and bacteria and increase crop yields such as rhizobia, azospirilla, and agrobacteria found in nutrient-rich soil (Amarger, 2002). Genetically modified plants were made to have their own resistance to pests, improve nutrients, as well as survive in certain weather conditions. These plants could hold onto water for longer periods of time, provide essential vitamins to those in poorer countries, and crops that could once never flourish now can (Bawa, 2013). Geneticist could take out parts that cause allergic reactions in humans decreasing the number of fatal allergy attacks. Genetically modified animals allow for researchers to increase nutrient content by increasing certain vitamins and increase disease resistance. These organisms also go by another name called transgenic because genes from one organism were transferred to another (Lombardo, 2017).
GMOs have been around since the 1990s and have caused controversy from how these food items are affected too if we are somehow affected through absorption by the genetic transfer of DNA material. As our education and technology in genetics improved so did how we pick and transfer particular genes across species. The supporting arguments allow us to see that in an ever-growing population, genetically modified foods are the only way we will be able to survive. They state they will decrease the amount of land needed for huge agriculture production, decrease food costs, and increase human and animals general health. The opposing arguments discuss how we do not know how this transgenic material will move about the food chain, creating more problems in our resources. Genetically modified organisms will bring make food costs increase and people to have more health issues. Genetically modified foods can provide more nutrients per food item and eradicate food intolerance and allergies. Genetically modified crops can be tailored to provide better health benefits (Lombardo, 2017). The United States, Argentina, Canada, and China are major producers of genetically modified crops, areas with large populations (Maghari, 2011). By adjusting the genetic profile of the plant, a scientist can add vitamins and minerals, allowing those in poorer countries to obtain all their nutrients from fewer resources and at a fraction of the cost. The United Nations stated GMOs are the easiest way to stop vitamin A deficiencies by introducing Golden Rice (Lombardo, 2017).
Golden Rice, is genetically modified grain that has been altered to increase the amount of beta-carotene, better known as vitamin A. This genetic change could help save the lives of millions in African countries and save thousands from developing Xerophthalmia, the inability to see in low light, and overtime complete blindness (Freedman, 2013). If it has been proven to show such significant levels of Vitamin A, why isn’t it available to the public, why has the government not switched to only Golden Rice. Studies have shown this product does have an increase in beta-carotene but the increase is relatively small and until genetics can assure the levels above a certain percentage, it will probably not be available; so these individuals have to rely on other sources of the vitamin. Modification in animals allows for increased food quality. Pigs have been genetically engineered to express a fatty acid to increase the omega-3s in their meat (Ormandy, 2011). This is done by taking a fatty acid from the desaturase gene from spinach and placing it into a young piglet (Saeki, 2004). In a study conducted by Kazuhiro Saeki, showed the transgenic pigs had ten times higher fatty acids than those from wild-type pigs. “In addition, the white adipose tissue of transgenic pigs contained twenty percent more linoleic acid” (Saeki, 2004). This means pork could be an alternative source for essential fatty acids which then could decrease the chances of those consuming higher quantities of this food item of obtaining coronary heart disease and thrombotic disease (blood clotting) (Saeki, 2004). If pork production will then increase, will there be a need for beef cattle and other protein sources if pork will have all necessary fatty acids? The question arises, what if individual consume too much of the transgenic pigs and therefore consume an excess of essential fatty acids? There is data to support that an excess amount of fatty acids can cause the human body immune system to malfunction, leaving individuals open to infections. Does increasing the nutrition content of an animal outweigh the possible health decline of those consuming it over time? Now in a balanced diet, we could avoid this issue overall and enjoy the benefits of lower cardiovascular disease that affects so many but only the future will show how we adapt. From increasing quality in our crops to our production animals, but what will it do for those with food allergies. Genetically modified organisms could eliminate food allergies, allowing individuals to consume any food item without the consequences of an allergic reaction. There are eight major foods that account for the majority of allergic reactions, they are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and crustacean shellfish (FARE, 2018). By removing certain proteins from these items, a scientist could remove the allergy triggers.
In 2008, Mohan B. Singh stated in her trends in plant science article, after testing a hypoallergenic peanut, there was a twenty-five percent decrease of Ara h 2 protein, therefore reducing a peanut allergy. Reproduction of this plant with a non-transgenic and transgenic would only cause for a fifty percent chance the offspring would show lower amounts of the allergy protein so it still allows for native individuals to be in a population (Singh, 2008). This change would allow those who have these issues to be able to consume all plants and proteins so in an ever-growing world, all resources could be shared without consequences. Genetically modified foods also conserve land, resources, and decrease herbicides. These food items use less land to grow more food than traditional non-GMO. With the human population increasing, the amount of land used today for agriculture will not be enough to feed everyone. By 2050, there will be up to 10 billion people in our world and by the Oxfam estimates, there is only enough land for crop production for 8 billion people (Lombardo, 2017). GM crops are able to grow in areas that were once impossible for them to survive and require less water and resources (Lombardo, 2017). Farmers and caretakers of these croplands will have fewer pesticides/herbicides to apply because the GMOs will already have built-in immunity and are able to flourish without much babysitting as today’s non-transgenic plants. Thousands of individuals do not wish to consume items that have been treated with certain herbicides due to the hazardous chemicals contact and runoff consequences (Whitman, 2000). Rather than using double the land to farm organic produce and risk losing the products to environmental conditions and pests, farmers could use half the land, at half the cost, to feed twice as many people.
According to Lombardo, from 1980-2011 there has been an average of forty to seventy-five percent decrease in the amount of water used for irrigation for GMO corn, soybeans, cotton, rice, and potatoes. With over 148 million hectares of farmland used for genetically modified crops, that is a lot of water and resources saved that would otherwise be lost (Maghari, 2011). The opposing side has other facts to give that show genetically modified foods could be the downfall of our world. GMO critics state these food items may increase the chance of DNA transference, increase herbicides, and increase food allergies. In order to create transgenic organisms, vectors are used. Vectors are used to move the DNA from one organism to foreign organisms, these may include viral promoters or antibiotic resistant genes. These genes could then cause mutations in the current organism or the generations to come (Maghari, 2011). The constant mutation and recombination could cause allergic proteins to increase or arise where they were once diminished or cause organisms to become resistant to other environmental factors (Maghari, 2011). Over the years, this could cause for the creation of superweeds or super pest that will help to destroy our crops. This consequently will increase the number of herbicides and pesticides used to get rid of these issues, and if the pest keeps evolving over time, we will not have any available crops for human consumption. GMO farmers currently use a herbicide called glyphosate, it has been considered a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization (Lombardo, 2017). Who is to say when these effects will start to show or how much longer additional herbicides will have to be used before scientist “perfect” the product, at the cost of the consumers. This also gives rise to the question about will genetically modified organisms transfer DNA to the humans that consume these food items. DNA does not fully defragment inside the human gut, individuals believe this DNA could be absorbed and bring about changes, including antibiotic resistance and cause allergies (Maghari, 2011).
Critics tell the world that it is against nature’s plan for genes to cross the species barrier (Freedman, 2013). A wheat plant shouldn’t have the DNA from a corn plant, a cow shouldn’t have DNA from a cotton plant, it may change the DNA in ways we never thought possible. There are studies that show Bt corn (genetically modified corn) expressed an allergy protein and villagers in India that work with Bt cotton developed skin allergies. (Maghari, 2011). This shows genetically modified crops cause an increase in allergies and problems for farmers. If these crops were incorporated all over the world, there is no telling how many people could be affected. As discussed earlier, Golden Rice has been engineered to increase Vitamin A, but there is no significant data to show it has a significant increase in the amount of nutrition it provides. If there was significant data then the government would make it so that it was readily available. Poorer countries would have adequate vitamin levels and not risk any more individuals from obtaining irreversible blindness. If genetically modified foods are so important to our ever growing world and healthier for us, why are individuals willing to pay twenty-nine to forty-five percent more for non-GM goods (Wunderlich, 2015). This is a matter of where the consumer is obtaining their facts, whether that be from agriculture biotechnology distributors or critics, there will be bias. There was a study done Gilles-Eric Seralini, from the University of Normandy that showed rats fed Bt-corn contracted tumors at higher rats than those fed non-GM corn (Freedman, 2013) Pro Ag-biotech industries will not publish this data because when they produced the same study, they did not see the same results. But then you have to think about the issues, why would a company show they are in the wrong, especially in a huge industry. Genetically modified foods will cause changes in pests, production animals and human health. These genetic processes and results have not been thoroughly tested to show they are safe for current consumption and genetic transference over natural reproduction.
I believe genetically modified foods are the only way we will be able to survive and thrive in the world to come. There is only a small sector where farm animals are fed non-GMO feed, that is a roughly four-fifths percent of cropland and half a percent of pasture is organic, how are we to survive on that currently (Van, 2014). If we were to change today and go completely organic, how long would it take to grow enough food to feed today’s population; how much land would we need, how much water, how many caretakers. Genetically modified foods reduce chemical pesticides by thirty-seven percent, increase crop yield by twenty-two percent, and increase farmers profit by sixty-eight percent (Gruissem, 2015). As consumers, we are angered when the price of gasoline increases by five cents and I know from personal experience I am angered when I see avocados increase from sixty-eight cents per to one dollar and thirty-four cents per. Families are growing and with jobs and wages being low, we appreciate when the groceries are on sale. As consumers, we appreciate when a label says it was grown with little impact on the environment so we feel like we are doing our part. That is what we are doing with GM foods, we are reducing herbicide and pesticides use, and saving our lakes and oceans from runoff. The performance of non-genetically engineered food animals was the same as non-genetically engineered food animals (Van, 2014).
There is no conclusive evidence that shows GMO cause any genetic changes or transference in human or production animal DNA (Maghari, 2011). For example, there is a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, produces fatal proteins to insects but it is used in pesticides for organic crops and humans have never been affected (Freedman, 2013). Data was collected from the rat study by the French Institution has not been replicated because their data was skewed to show bias. The rats used in the study had a higher chance of obtaining cancer, his controls were not stated and he did not state how he obtained his analysis of the cancer result (Freedman, 2013). If the results could have been replicated then the European Food Safety Authority would have removed the Bt corn from its market and never produced it again until new measures were taken. GM foods allow for increased nutrition, increased health and decrease our impact on the environment but they are not perfect. They raise the question of transference and the impact of reproduction on nearby crops and individuals but I believe with proper testing, we can eradicate these notions of uncertainty. Genetically modified foods are the way of the future, without them, our future is dim. Why not flourish in the technology we have today and promise the generation tomorrow food and health.