Wednesday, October 12, 2011
An Educated Stance on Genetic Engineering
The benefits of genetic engineering include a higher yield in crops (“Benefits of gm," 2011), extended life-span of products, a decrease in the use of insecticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers and therefore the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere and water supply (Borello, 2011), reasonable cost of products (Holdsworth, Knight & Mather, 2005) due to more efficient farming, availability to yield in less than favorable conditions as well as yielding higher in limited land, and lastly, an abundance of efficient farming helps combat starvation in places where viable land is sparse which aids the proper development of children by providing proper nutrition (Borello, 2011).
After reviewing a few articles, the only real threat I am finding is possible allergies to the genetically engineered produce ("Benefits of gm," 2011). There were concerns for tipping the eco system discussed in a couple of the articles, however, the scientists interviewed made valid points about genetically modified crops improving the food chain rather than providing a detriment (Borello, 2011). Of course there are moral objections which suggest molecular biology is “playing god (Holdsworth, Knight & Mather, 2005),” but if good can be done, some would say not pursuing genetic engineering further is the real risk.
Personally, I think that genetic engineering is the next logical step in agriculture. The population is higher due to advances in medicine and to support our population efficient farming is not just necessary, it is integral (Borello, 2011).
I find it rather unfortunate that personal beliefs are getting in the way of widespread genetic engineering with all the benefits that are possible. Arguments include taking money from the local farmer, making the industry more about farmers than consumers, prices of genetically engineered seed increasing and pests and herbicides adapting to genetic mutations (Holdsworth, Knight & Mather, 2005).
Between 1996 and 2006, Biotech put thirty-three billion dollars in the pockets of farmers. As of 2009, 90% of the 13.3 million farmers using Biotech products were independent farmers cultivating on a small land-mass (Gustin, 2009).
The original research teams responsible for mainstream genetic engineering, succeeded by Roger Beachy, responsible for GE tomatoes resistant to the tomato mosaic virus, was experimenting with increasing the nutrient value of produce. However, Beachy claims that the companies willing to lend funding to academic research were not willing to pay more for such nutrient rich foods, namely General Mills and Kellogs (Borello, 2011).
It is easy to point the finger at something so controversial and novel when profits fall, but according to Monsanto Co., one of the biggest biotech companies in 2009, prices of farming supplies have increased for everyone whether or not they are cultivating with genetic engineering (Gustin, 2009).
In the business of herbicides and pests mutating to adapt to genetic modification, that is a nature at her finest. The only thing we can do to combat these mutations destroying future crops is continue research and development as with any product (Borello, 2011).
Benefits of gm foods outweigh risks. (2011, June 30). South China Morning Post, p. 10.
Borello, B. (2011). Food fight.Scientific American, 304(4), 80-83. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy2.apus.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=59347926&site=ehost-live
Gustin, G. (2009, February 12). Biotech produces bumper-crop, states use of gm seeds has grown but critics remain wary. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, p. C2.
Holdsworth, D., Knight, J., & Mather, D. (2005). Consumer benefits and acceptance of genetically modified food. Journal of Public Affairs, 10(5), 226-235. DOI: 10.1002/pa.24