Genetically Modified Food
The aspect of the Genetically Modified Food and Organism has been a subject that has attracted global discussions in the recent past. Genetically Modified Food represents a tremendous growth and advancement in technology and efforts that various countries and institutions around the world have undertaken to solve major food problems. Indeed, there is evidence that the world’s population is growing at a high and worrying. It is disturbing because an analysis and forecast of the population of the next generation is very high to the extent that the food crisis is likely to be experienced in the future. Different countries of the world have, therefore, made attempts of ensuring that there is food stability for the citizens and one of the best technological advancements of achieving it is through the use of Genetically Modified Organism. The concept of genetically modified organism represents a tremendous progress in the scientific field especially the discipline relating to biotechnology. In addition, it indicates a new era and debates in the field of genetic engineering (Nelson 5). Many scholars have observed that the rate at which the population is growing especially in the developing countries is very high. Such a trend may present difficulties in ensuring sufficiency of food among the population. A Genetically Modified Organism is a living organism in whose genetic composition has been scientifically altered to achieve the desired organism (Nelson 3). It is because of the need to improve food security and stability that many scholars, government institutions, and scientists have joined hands to put an end to the issue of food insecurity. They seek to end this through the use of genetically modified food. The Genetically Modified Food is crop plants that are created using molecular bio techniques, and such food is for consumption by human beings. Ideally, genetically modified food is the food from plants whose genetic composition is altered and modified in a laboratory for purposes of supplying certain nutrients and meet human needs. The process of genetic modification involves either the deletion or insertion of different genes into a crop plant (Ling, Howard and Joseph 47). Furthermore, focus has currently shifted to the regulation framework that oversees the process in Genetically Modified Organism. Internationally, the Cartagena Protocol and bio-safety Convention regulates the trade in genetically modified organisms and food. The regulations also differ from one country to another, and many countries have formulated policies to guide the manufacture and distribution of genetically modified organism.
The Cartagena protocol provides the rules and procedures for the handling and use of the genetically modified food. It also facilitates the safe transfer of the genetically modified products within and across the borders. The main reason scientists advocate the genetically modified food is because of its traits during growth and development. The genetically engineered crops have inbuilt features that enable the crop to survive very harsh and unfavorable climatic conditions. The genetically modified food in particular is resistant to attacks by pests and herbicides. The yielding capacity is significantly high and has resulted into massive food production in many parts of the world (Kreiper 61). The crop plant is altered in order to be able to thrive and flourish in any environmental condition that includes the dry weather conditions. As a result, these crop plants have resistance to drought and famine. Moreover, majority of the genetically modified food possesses the genetic material from Bacillus thuringiensis that is naturally occurring bacteria usually found in the soil. Inserting those bacteria into the genetic composition of the plant makes the crop plant to generate bacteria toxins that assist it in destroying the insects and pests that want to feed on it.
Additionally, the genetically modified food has enhanced nutritional value hence supplying certain vital nutrients that cannot be naturally found from other growing plants Kramkowska, Teresa and Krystyna 3). The nutritional value carried by the genetically modified food has helped many impoverished and developing nations whose citizens experience malnutrition due to lack of essential nutrients. Lack of vital nutrients in the body increases the vulnerability to diseases and increased mortality rates since the immune system is weak. However, with the introduction of the genetically modified food, the problem of malnutrition is slowly diminishing in those developing countries, and the population can easily access the required nutrients in their bodies. Genetic engineering technique has also enabled the production of valuable products such as drugs that are intended for boosting the immunity and improving the health condition of human beings. The first commercial production and cultivation of genetically modified crops was in the year 1996. Since then several plants including maize, cassava, tomato, algae, and poplars among others have been altered (Agricultural Biotechnology 101). They were modified for purposes of producing fuel and also for consumption. The different generations of the genetically modified crops have also been produced. They include the South African corn variety that is enriched with vitamins and camelina sativa, which produces huge amounts of oils similar to the fish oil.
The cassava enhanced with proteins, and golden rice is among the third generation of the genetically altered crops. The production and use of the genetically modified food have been the center of the debate for a long period. Private institutions and not for profit organizations have sought to ensure proper regulation of the genetically modified food due to the implications on the population. The regulation mainly focuses on the approaches taken by the governments in assessing and managing the production and use of genetically engineered food. It also involves the control and use of the genetic engineering technology. It is worth noting that diverse nations have implemented different regulations depending on the intended purpose of the crop. The Cartagena Convention and Protocol provides a worldwide regulation, but it is worth noting that such regulation has sparked different opinions especially between United States of America and Europe. The European Union agrees with the processing and importation of the genetically modified food but vehemently prohibits such cultivation within Europe (Ling, Howard and Joseph 49). Numerous controversies have filled the market regarding the kind of food being sold and whether those foods are fit for human consumption.
Several other developed countries like Australia and Japan have banned the sale and production of the genetically modified food despite its numerous benefits. However, United States of America has provided full approval for the production, sale and use of the genetically modified food (Ling, Howard and Joseph 48). Such approval is given only after meeting the condition that proper and extensive research has been conducted by companies who want to deal with GMOs. Indeed, some scholars agree with the fact that genetically modified food has introduced a new era in human existence. In addition to ensuring adequate food supply, the genetically engineered crop is resistant to very powerful herbicides hence helping reduce environmental damage and the cost incurred in purchasing multiple weed killers. Studies indicate that many farmers in different parts of the world waste much time by engaging in un-productive activities such as tilling and spraying huge quantities of herbicides to eliminate weeds. These farm activities are time-consuming and costly. However, genetically modified crops are herbicide tolerant, therefore, reducing the environmental damages and expenses involved in buying weed killers. Such actions facilitate the protection of the environment and its sustainability. An example is the genetically modified soybean by the Monsanto that require one application of the weed killer as opposed to numerous and frequent applications (Kramkowska, Terese and Krystyna 3).
In addition, the genetically modified crop is resistant to diseases such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that pose a threat to plant growth and survival. The genetically engineered crops are thus beneficial since they possess the ability to resist diseases. It implies that there is a guaranteed level of food production since an outstanding threat to plant growth and survival is diseases (Agricultural Biotechnology 100). Research shows that many nations especially the developing countries are unable to control crop diseases that destroy their crops due to high poverty levels. In fact, a huge portion of the government resources and manpower has been channeled to solving the problem of crop diseases but the efforts have yielded no positive results. It is so because the weed killers manufactured are not environmentally friendly and are sometimes harmful when consumed by human beings. Genetically modified food and crops have provided a solution to these countries because they are disease resistant and can grow well in poor climatic and deplorable environments. The massive financial losses experienced by farmers every year are attributable to destruction by pest and insects. Farmers incur many costs while purchasing chemical pesticides that cannot fully destroy pests.
The destruction of crops by pest and insects leads to starvation and perpetual state of poverty. However, the genetically modified crops are pest and insect resistant (Agricultural Biotechnology 100). Crop Plants such as B.t. Corn can assist to eliminate the use of chemicals that can cause environmental degradation, soil erosion and are also harmful to human beings. The use of chemicals is a potential health hazard especially if such chemicals contaminate the water supply system. Therefore, engaging in the genetically modified food can help reduce health complications caused by the use of chemicals and is cost saving since genetically altered crops require no chemicals. The drought resistance ability of the genetically engineered crop plant has enabled people to cultivate unsuitable and previously inhospitable grounds thereby increasing the level of food production. Scientists have sought to create plants that can tolerate icy and humid temperatures. It is true that high-intensity freezing is likely to promote seed insensibility, therefore, making the seed unable to germinate. However, with the introduction of the antifreeze gene into plants such as tomato and tobacco can enable the seed to tolerate freezing temperatures. Due to the ability to cultivate new regions, more land has been left for housing the ever increasing population of the people.
The genetically modified food has reduced the dependency syndrome tremendously. Different countries of the world have adopted the production and sale of the genetically modified food thereby increasing their financial stability and becoming self-reliant in terms of food security (Kreiper 62). Agricultural discipline remains one of the most vital fields to devote state resources in because it promotes food security and empowers the youth on the aspect of self-employment opportunities. Such food has enhanced the yielding capacity leading to a higher output per unit of land. There is a substantial growth and improvement in the quality of food since new crop varieties are now achievable using the genetically modified crops. Apart from the many benefits of the genetically modified food, criticisms emerged since its introduction into the market. A lot of controversies circulate and has attracted heated debate around the world. Diverse interest groups, religious institutions, government representatives, and environmental experts have raised concerns about the safety of the genetically modified food (Agricultural Biotechnology 99). They have particularly criticized and questioned the role of the government in regulating GMO and in what the term as the failure of the government in exercising proper control. They also blame the government on failing to implement adequate regulatory framework to monitor the production and use of the genetically modified food.
Genetically modified food is believed to be a health hazard to human beings. Some experts have pinpointed out that many agribusinesses engage in the trade of the genetically modified food for the profit motive without thinking how such food can affect the population. The alteration and introduction of alien genes to food can cause serious repercussions on the human health (Kreiper 61). In fact, majority of children born in developing countries that heavily rely on the genetically modified food have weak immunity systems. Furthermore, such children have allergic complications to a wide variety of food. It implies that the possibility exists that the modified genes introduced into the plant triggers allergic reactions in the body when ingested by the human beings. Biologists have observed that pests just like mosquitoes are beginning to develop resistance to the genetically modified crops. Such a situation requires more time and resource which may not be available. In another way, there might be unintended gene transfer to certain species such as weeds. The result is that herbicide tolerant weeds would be generated, which threatens the growth and survival of the intended plant. The result is that it leads to reduced crop production and can result in heavy losses by farmers.
Some people argue that the genetically modified foods were not intended for human consumption. In fact, some of the scientists who modified the potato utilized the lectin gene, a substance that is poisonous to the mammals. Then marketability of the genetically modified food has drastically changed following the controversies surrounding its harmful effects. Many companies involved in GMOs are complaining about the lengthy and cumbersome process that one should undergo in order to transport and trade in GMO products. Generating a universal and acceptable regulatory framework to guide the production and sale of the genetically modified food has not been possible. There are other countries that are opposed to the idea of the genetically modified food and have anti-genetically modified food protesters very active. The existing regulatory framework is inadequate, and little been done on areas such as food labeling, transportation and safety testing (Ling, Howard and Joseph 52). Experts appreciate that cross-contamination may also occur, and there is no technology that can be used to test such contamination. Finally, little has been done to educate and enlighten the people about the positive and negative impacts of genetically modified food. Every person needs to have full awareness so that it is upon the buyers them to decide what best suits their needs.
Creating and enacting news policies and regulatory frameworks could be time consuming, expensive and challenging but it becomes a necessity to guarantee the safety of the population. In conclusion, the genetically modified food presents a greater achievement in technology advancement and human history. In fact, if the food is verified as being fit for human consumption without any health hazard, then majority of food problems in many developing and developed countries can be eliminated. The problem of malnutrition and increased susceptibility to diseases in other countries can be solved using the genetically modified food. It ensures that various governments can fully supply food for its entire population at all times and provides an avenue for employment opportunities. Agricultural production is termed as one of the essential investment that every country needs to invest in since it not only facilitates adequate food supply but also enable the government to boost its employment opportunities. Hence, the ever growing population especially the youths can access employment and become self-reliant thus reducing instance of crime that arises as a result of idleness of the youth.
Stringent policies and regulations need to be formulated and implemented to guide the production, labeling, and safe handling of the genetically modified food. Heavy penalties should also be imposed to those persons who are found guilty of misleading and misrepresenting customers by selling food that are genetically modified and are unfit for human consumption. In the general perspective, genetically modified food is one of the debatable topics in the world. There are various reasons why genetically modified food is preferred on the modern society. On the same note, those opposing genetically modified food have raised various concerns, especially those related to health. Genetically Modified Food represents a tremendous growth and advancement in technology. Genetically modified food has enhanced nutritional value and reduced food shortage on the global arena. The issues to do with genetically modifies food will remain debatable for many decades.
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Kreipe, Marie. Genetically Modified Food: Trade Regulation in View of Environmental Policy Objectives. Hamburg: Diplomica-Verl, 2010. Print.
Ling, Howard G., and Joseph P. Lakatos. "California Proposition Thirty Seven: Implications For Genetically Modified Food Labeling Policy." International Journal Of Business, Marketing, & Decision Science 7.1 (2014): 47-58. Business Source Premier. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Nelson, Gerald C. Genetically Modified Organisms in Agriculture: Economics and Politics. San Diego, Calif: Academic Press, 2001. Internet resource.