Essay The Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Crops
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For thousands of years, humans have transformed their surroundings and neighboring organisms to suit their needs. The transformation first took place when humans spread seeds onto the earth to grow their own food, and continued when humans reached out to provide food and shelter to other animals in exchange for labor, companionship and sustenance. When early agriculture proved successful, the best and strongest animals and crops were chosen for the next generation. This was the dawn of genetic modification, and it is as old as agriculture itself. When speaking about genetically modified or genetically engineered organisms, an important distinction must be made. This new breed of technology does not use traditional means of gene…show more content…
These consequences can potentially affect human populations, but the environment can also be affected on a local or regional level. Most public concern has been focused on human health and safety regarding the use and consumption of these foods, but potential environmental impacts are important to consider as well. Many varieties of genetically engineered crops are intended to decrease the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but the scope of environmental impacts does not stop at chemical usage. Common concerns about GM crops include the effects of cross-pollination, so-called “genetic contamination,” and the escape of GM crops from cultivation and their interactions with native species. Conversely, the environmental benefits of GM crops range from reducing dependence on chemical pesticides to the ability to treat polluted soils with bioremediating plants (Ford, 2004). Many varieties of genetically engineered crops have been designed to decrease the need for chemicals, particularly pesticides. Herbicide-tolerant varieties are among the most widely used type of genetically-modified crop, which enables farmers to use a single herbicide to eradicate weeds rather than rely on a cocktail of pesticides and herbicides. Eliminating weeds in this fashion also decreases the need for soil tillage, which can negatively impact soil ecology. (Ford,
Genetically modified foods are something that inspires passions on both sides of the debate. On one side of the equation, foods that have been genetically modified can be grown in a number of different non-traditional locations and provide higher yields. This means that more people can be fed and world hunger can potentially be eliminated. On the other end of the spectrum is the fact that food allergies are dramatically on the rise and the genetic modifications to food are thought to be at least partially to blame.
There are certainly some advantages to the creation of genetically modified food and there are also some disadvantages that must be considered. These lists will help everyone be able to begin forming their own position in this ongoing debate.
What Are the Pros of Genetically Modified Foods?
The primary advantage of genetically modified food is that it can be grown virtually anywhere. Because the plants or animals have been genetically modified to withstand specific environments, places where farms didn’t used to be feasible can now become productive land for crops and livestock. Here is a list of some additional pros to consider on the subject as well.
1. Foods that have been improved genetically tend to have an improved stress tolerance, allowing them to withstand drought or harsh and unexpected climate conditions.
2. Many genetically modified foods have been created so that they’ll be able to grow faster, allowing for the potential of two harvests instead of one.
3. Genetic modifications can put in more vitamins and minerals into the food chain, helping everyone have a healthier overall diet.
4. Although its controversial, it may be possible to have genetic modifications in food that would incorporate specific vaccines or medication into the food supply so that human disease could be proactively treated.
5. Genetic modifications allow for crops to be more resistant to herbicides, pesticides, and other crop treatments that would normally harm the plant.
6. Foods that are genetically modified have the potential of being engineered so that they can taste better.
7. Higher yields can be produced from the same land even in just one harvest because the plants are engineered to provide more consistent results.
8. Foods that have been genetically engineered are typically able to stay fresher for longer, giving them longer shelf lives and this produces less overall food waste.
9. It provides consistent pricing because crops are less affected by weather changes, drought, or climate issues in general.
Genetically modified food has changed the way we all think about eating. By being able to create higher yields, more people can be fed. This also means that crop lands and livestock farms can be more productive and this could lead to an increase in the overall wealth of farmers who are embracing genetic modifications.
What Are the Cons of Genetically Modified Foods?
The primary disadvantage of having genetically modified food is that there can be several unexpected side effects throughout the entire food chain. People consuming the food may develop allergies or other long-term health conditions. The chemical compounds in the plants may go into their fruits in various amounts, creating an inconsistent food chain. These other disadvantages may also need to be considered.
1. Without labels on foods that are genetically modified, people are unable to make the eating choices they wish to make. There is no knowledge about whether the foods are GMO or not.
2. There are safety issues with GMO foods that have not been addressed. It is not known if genetic manipulation or spraying dangerous insecticides directly on our food is safe short or long term. If given a preference, the average person won’t eat genetically modified food. Labeling requirements of GMO food outside of the US have proven this time after time.
3. People may eating animal protein items while eating vegetables because of genetic modification, which may be against their religious preferences, their eating preferences, or even cause a medical emergency if they have a food allergy already present.
4. It reduces the diversity of each plant species because herbicide and pesticide resistance may also kill the beneficial insects that help to pollinate plants.
5. Ecological damage happens to the soil that supports GMO crops over time, robbing it of its resources to the point that it can no longer sustain life.
6. Crops that do not have genetic modifications may also be affected by the natural cross-pollination process.
7. There is no financial gain seen when the costs of GMO crops are compared to non-GMO crops. The cost of developing the genetic modifications may even make some crops more expensive to grow.
8. Resistance to herbicides and other crop treatments leads to higher chemical use to get the same results, eventually causing insects and weeds to grow anyway.
9. The chemicals that are introduced into some genetically modified food may wash into the water supply during storms or extended periods of rainfall.
10. Many genetic modifications are patented, making it less cost effective to feed the hungry or end malnutrition from a global perspective.
11. It has not been proven that GMO offer better yields for farmers.
It could be said that the consumption of genetically modified food means that people are trading food for food-like products. The main issue, however, is that the long-term effects of eating GMO foods has not been studied because the technology isn’t old enough to produce data. Even when data is available, however, it’s a very real possibility that industry studies will support genetic modifications and non-industry studies will not support food engineering.
What Do You Think About Genetically Modified Food?
If used properly, the science behind genetically modified food could be used to end hunger. If used improperly, the science could be misused and potentially endanger are entire food supply. This means that if we are to pursue this field of food science, we must have responsible management of the research being done and have third party independent verification and monitoring of results so that it becomes possible to distinguish fact from fiction.
Use this pros and cons list about genetically modified food to think about the subject today. What you put into your body becomes part of who you are. That’s why understanding this subject more completely can help everyone make an empowered decision about their health.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.