GM Foods and Crops
GM (genetically modified) foods and crops are a recent experiment conducted by multiple scientists, with many goals for the outcome of these new foods. These foods have been genetically modified to produce desirable traits and properties. The basis of this genetic modification is to select one favored gene from a separate organism and place it into the organism of interest that is going to be altered. The favored gene is inserted using a gene gun which shoots the gene into a cell of the desirable organism at high speeds. The outcome of these alterations are monumental since GM foods have the ability to solve real world issues and revolutionize food. The altered foods have the potential to be better tasting and hardier (with relation to longer lasting shelf life), as well as aide the increase of food supply. These foods can also reduce the use of pesticides, be used as vaccines, and solve issues related to malnutrition.
Scientists have been faced with how they could decrease the occurrence of malnutrition for a long time. In third world countries, 2 million children die from malnutrition each year. Out of those who survive malnutrition as a child, many children are sometimes discovered to have blindness (Key, 2008). Recently, scientists have found a way to solve these issues. A team of professors began a project called ¨Golden Rice¨ and created a strain of rice that has been genetically modified to produce Vitamin A. It is able to be grown in salty soil conditions, and has a goldish hue. They created this crop so that it could be grown at no extra cost in poorer countries and improve the lack of nutrition there. This product could be a lifesaver for many and is already in use in parts of Africa (Golden Rice Project, 1999). But GM foods aren’t just helpful with malnutrition. They have also greatly influence the use of pesticides.
Thanks to genetically modified crops like tomatoes, corn, and soybeans, the use of pesticides has been decreased significantly. Certain crops have been engineered to be resistant to pests that are most harmful to them. These strains of food then don’t require pesticides to keep insects off them. This is significant because since less crops will be dying from pests, there will be more amounts of food. In Lauren Hinson’s article Bioengineering Plants and Genetically Modified Foods she states that “GM crops have higher production rates than traditional crops, resulting in more produce per acre with less waste” (Hinson, 2002). Pest resistant plants won’t affect just food though. Because less pesticides will be used, there won’t be as much chemical runoff into soil and drinking water. This will make many different natural resources more usable. GM foods have changed the way we think about food, and the environment, so why not change our view medically too? Thanks to genetic engineering, scientists are beginning to discover ways in which food can help with protection against viruses and disease.
New experiments show that scientists can modify the genes in certain crops to make them vaccines. If a person eats the food, it will immunize them. This will affect the world medically in many different ways (University of Utah). First, no one would have to get shots (by use of needle) to be immunized any more. “Perhaps one of the most exciting projects involving bioengineering plants is the development of “edible vaccines” for infectious diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and Hepatitis B. These vaccines would be inserted into the genetic material of the plant, where the inactivated virus would trigger resistance in the consumer when eaten” (Hinson, 2002). Another benefit of vaccinated foods, is that in poorer countries where there is a lack of refrigeration, it is hard to keep vaccines injected by needle fresh (Hinson, 2002). It is also hard to keep up with proper sterilizations. GM vaccinated foods would solve these issues. There would be no need for sterilizations and for needles to be refrigerated. This new invention could be huge. But GM foods aren’t just useful for big issues. They can simply improve the taste and toughness of normal foods.
Scientists have been able to genetically engineer foods so that they will grow better. They will be able to stay on the shelf longer and have a better overall taste. The first genetically modified food, a Flavr Tomato, was created in 1994. It was modified so that it would have a longer vine life, be fresh to harvest in winter, and have a better taste. Since then, multiple different genetically modified crops have been sold throughout the world’s super markets (Hinson, 2002). The public has been against this though. People have made assumptions that GM foods are bad, but they haven’t researched the scientific evidence that would prove their theories wrong.
The public has speculated that GM foods are a danger to citizens. For one thing, people think that these foods will specifically affect the citizens with allergies. Allergies are caused by the body reacting to certain proteins. People are concerned that with the transfer of genes from one organism to another, scientists could be taking genes from an allergen and inserting it into a “safe” food (one that doesn’t cause allergies), there for making these GM foods harmful. This is untrue because GM foods may actually result in fewer allergies. This is due to the scientists eliminating those proteins before inserting them into the new plant. GM foods could decrease allergies, preventing them from occurring in these new foods (Hinson, 2002). Another public concern is whether GM foods have been properly tested. People think that GM foods are not required to be observed and tested. They think that any new GM food can be introduced to the public right away. This is untrue because GM foods do in fact go through a lengthy process where they are tested and observed by multiple government organizations. These organizations will veto any foods they deem unsafe or find have a loss of nutrition (Key, 2008). “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA” (Key, 2008). This makes it unlikely GM foods could be harmful to citizens. Though there is all this proof, people continue to fight GM foods. Not even large government organizations can convince them.
The U.S National Library of Medicine wrote an article on GM foods, where they listed the positive attributes of GM foods, and how they have many positive attributes. They said that GM would result in more nutritious food, tastier food, disease and drought-resistant plants that require fewer environmental resources (such as water and fertilizer), decreased use of pesticides, increased supply of food with reduced cost and longer shelf life, faster growing plants and animals, food with more desirable traits, such as potatoes that absorb less fat when fried, and medicinal foods that could be used as vaccines or other medicines (The National Library of Medicine, 2019). As scientists and large organizations try to prove that GM foods aren’t bad, hopefully they will be more accepted by the public.
GM foods could change the world and fix immense real world problems. Imagine a world without malnutrition, or the decrease in pesticides. Vaccinated GM foods could change the medical world greatly. GM foods could also change simple things like taste and increased supply of food. If the public was educated on GM foods and discovered what they really are as well as what they could do, we could make so many things possible. And with scientists and experts continuously experimenting, we will be discovering new ways to use and create GM foods/crops in the future.
Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. (1999). [The Golden Rice Project]. Retrieved
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Hinson, L. (2002, November 18). Bioengineering plants and genetically modified
foods. Retrieved March 18, 2019, from https://projects.ncsu.edu/cals/course/
Key, S., Ma, J. K., & Drake, P. M. (2008). Genetically modified plants and human health. Journal
of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101(6), 290-8.
University of Utah. (n.d.). Genetically modified foods. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from Genetic
science learning center website: https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, March 7). Genetically modified foods. In Medline
plus. Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://medlineplus.gov/foodsafety.html