Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
It seems that in the last decade or so, an increasing number of Americans have made a conscious effort to lead healthier lifestyles.
This is probably due to the abundant amount of research that supports the fact that balancing a healthy diet and an active lifestyle is the key to living a longer and healthier life. In a society that has grown so used to eating processed food filled with high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats, this task can be more daunting than one might expect. With so many opinions on what to eat and what to avoid, the subject of “eating healthy” has turned into a worldwide debate.
A hot topic in today’s food production industry is the increasing number of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), available for the general public. GMOs have a large population of supporters and perhaps an even greater number of skeptics; however, almost both parties would agree that continued research focused on the impacts of genetically modified organisms will prove valuable for society as a whole. According to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i. e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. ” Simplified versions of genetically modifying crops and animals have been practiced by humans for thousands of years. Instances of great success, as well as near catastrophic consequence; in turn creating power arguments of historical evidence for both GMO supporters as well as protestors.
Supporters will often mention fact such as the “invention” of many modern day foods, such as corn. Modern corn has evolved through human interference throughout much of modern history. Natural bred corn, which is referred to as teosinte, is a thin, grainy vegetable that hardly resembles what we would recognize as corn. However, through practices of selective breeding over thousands of years, teosinte plants began to change in appearance. Farmers would selectively breed those plants with more desirable traits, and would discard those with traits less desirable for consumers. Overtime, this process would create one of the most quintessential foods in the modern world.
The benefits of selective breeding is not limited to corn; in fact, most common vegetables and livestock have evolved under some early process of genetic modification. This could be considered a strong argument that genetically modified has had a positive impact for humans. There are also instances of history in which genetic modification has not proved so positive, and protestors are certainly inclined to mention these horrors stories of modern science in the argument against GMOs. Genetic engineering, or GE, is a more modern, as well as complicated, process of modifying the genetics of an organism, in 1973, a team of two scientists named Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen were able to successfully “specifically cut out a gene from one organism and paste it into another”. The success of these two scientist, as well as the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision in 1980 to allow the patenting of GE organisms, led to private companies investing billions of dollars into genetic engineering research.
Although guidelines were in place to insure safety and containment, foreign science communities began to find the limitations of genetic modification. In 1990, a German company was initially successful in modifying the genes of a specific bacterium to perform the task of breaking down plant waste, creating an ethanol byproduct. This product passed initial testing, and the German company was given permission to conduct field trials to see the bacteria in effect. When microbiology professor Elaine Ingham heard about the approval of these trials, she remained skeptical and took it upon herself and her research team to ensure the safety of this genetically modified organism. The team soon discovered that these certain bacterium has the capability of killing any terrestrial plant species during its process of creating ethanol. A recent article on organics. org stated, “This new miracle GMO had all the necessary approvals to be commercialized and it was going to be. However, a team of independent scientists led by Dr. Elaine Ingham remained skeptical and luckily so. They discovered after some testing what the bacteria is actually capable of doing and after exposing the results the gene-altered bacteria was never commercialized. If not for their efforts, there is no doubt that this would have ended the world”. This microbiology horror story is enough for many protestors to draw the conclusion that tampering with the nature genetic structure of organisms is an unsafe process that should be avoided.
The availability of these genetically modified products is also a topic commonly brought up in the GMO debate. Protestors will often mention how the decision by the supreme court to allow the patenting of GMOs has put immense pressure on small farmers. These small farmers have been overshadowed by the large scale monocropping of foods genetically modified to produce increased yields and have a longer shelf life. This has created an increasingly competitive market that puts small farms at a large disadvantage. Supporters will often bring praise to the fact that through genetic engineering, farms are able to produce larger, more nutritious food that rots slower than natural at a lower cost. This keeps prices more affordable for customers, increasing the availability of fresh food to those who struggle to make enough money to feed their families. “Golden Rice” for example was genetically engineered to contain more vitamin A to help combat malnutrition in third world countries. It is estimated that nearly 330,000 children in India die of vitamin A deficiency annually.
The availability of nutritious food for those living in poverty is strong argument for the cade of GMOs. Although they may disagree on method, both GMO supporters and protestors share the common ground that above all else, they want to ensure the safety and health of the general public. The specific concern of skeptics is the possibility of GMOs negatively affecting human health. Production of allergens, decreased nutrition, and antibiotic resistance are suspected by skeptics to be side effects of consuming genetically altered food. These concerns have been addressed in over 100 studies comparing natural food to genetically modified food. The World Health Organization has concluded from these studies that genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption. In my own opinion, I believe there are a number of compelling arguments both for and against the continuation of commercialized genetically modified organisms.
The most powerful claim that supports the continued development of GMOs is the idea that these organisms can help to feed the rapidly growing population of Earth and has proven to create essential food resources for people living in poverty. The most convincing counter argument to the continuation of GMO development is the idea that we may be able to permanently disrupt the natural systems of Earth with our genetic altering.
This being said, I believe that with enough universal regulations and safety procedures in place, research aiming to improve the stability of genetically modified products could be performed safely. This puts a large responsibility on the scientific community to be aware of the limitations of genetic engineering, as well as keep all agents safe and contained until properly tested. Both side of the argument share common ground on the issues that revolve around this topic, including the availability affordable food containing adequate nutrition to all people, as well as the history of success and failure of genetically modified organism cases.