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Genetic Engineering and Food

The world population has topped to 6 billion people and is predicted to double in the next 50 years. Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is and will continue to be a major challenge in the years to come. Genetically Engineered foods promise to meet the difficult task of providing an adequate food supply and aid in the prevention of starvation. Biotech crops posses the following traits that prove them to be superior to conventional crops; pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, and drought tolerance. Genetically Engineered foods will produce faster, healthier, and economically efficient crops.

Genetically Engineered foods were first introduced in the early 1990’s. The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was a tomato created by California Company in the 1990’s. It was genetically altered so that it took longer to decompose after it was picked. Genetically Engineered Food or Genetically Modified Foods (GM) foods are created to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. Genetic modification of foods is done by using a process of either Cisgenesis or Transgenesis. Cisgenesis is the process by which genes can be artificially transferred between organisms that could be conventionally bred.
The dictionary definition of Genetic Engineering is the development and application of scientific methods, procedures, and technologies that permit direct manipulation of genetic material in order to alter the hereditary traits of a cell, organism, or population. This genetic modification can be performed on animals and humans but is limited at the moment. Genetic modification allows for the development of perfectly bred organisms that posses the best traits available.

Although genetically modified foods prosper, there is still a great deal of controversy over it. The main issues are environmental hazards, human health risks, and economic concerns. Environmental organizations against GM foods raise concerns that pesticides in GM foods will not only kill the intended insects of crops but as well as other organisms that need the crop to survive. It also poses threats of the effectiveness of pesticides. Some insects such as mosquitoes will develop resistance to these pesticides creating new problems. The environmental group Greenpeace acknowledges that “GM food crops should be withdrawn after a feeding trial for the Austrian government found GM corn damaged the fertility of laboratory mice” (Cummings 11).

The reason for all the controversy and disapproval of gm foods of the public and health organizations lie within the regulations. Without critical research, GM foods can knowingly be harmful to us, the environment and animals, yet the government refuses to acknowledge or address concerns. In 1992 RBGH was approved within the US by the FDA. RBDH is a hormone in cows that produces more milk in less time. This genetically engineered hormone though, had great health risks which include, breast, colon, lung and bone cancer to the consumers. The question is how did the FDA and other government agencies approve such hazards. Big corporate giants such as Mansanto Company, the undisputed plant biotechnology leader in the world are responsible for 90 percent of the globes genetically engineered crops (Kimbrell 54). They have had their own people working for the FDA. In 1992, Michael Taylor, an attorney for Mansanto, was assigned to the deputy commissioner of the FDA. Under Deputy Commissioner Tailors influence, the FDA decided to exempt federal regulations on GE foods that entered the US market.

With the big corporate influences in the FDA, Genetically Engineered foods reach the US supermarkets with ease. These new genetically modified foods did not require any regulation or labeling, which once again kept the public in the dark. Once corporate members of GE foods had left the FDA, and lost their influences in other government agencies, the public and other health agencies raised concerns. RBGH was banned in the United States. From then on all genetically engineered foods were heavily regulated, required labeling, and needed scientific research to ensure that it did not cause any health risks.
When it comes to genetically engineered foods, the rest of the world has been well ahead of the US. After news spread about the RBGH incident, the European Union declared a moratorium on the further development of GE products. Also influencing the European Union decision to put a hold on GE foods was the previous occurrence of Kraft foods recalling millions of dollars worth of taco shells after scientist discovered health risks that failed to meet the EPA standards for human consumptions (Kimbrell 28). It wasn’t until 2004 that the European Union lifted their ban on genetically engineered products and institutes strict labeling and traceability requirements. The European Union also established a rigorous approval process for future Genetically Engineered crops and foods.
Genetic Engineering can help famers produce heartier and tastier fruits and vegetables. (Wekesser 65) By altering plant genes, scientist can also create bug and herbicide resistant cotton and plants that produce biodegradable plastics and human proteins for medical treatments. John Dyson a writer and contributor to Reade’s Digest disagrees with those who fear the consequences of biotechnology, he argues that regulations are in place to prevent the abuse of this new technology as before there was very little to no regulations.

Today Genetic engineering of foods heavily prospers. It has been recorded that an estimated 87% of U.S. soy, 52% of U.S. corn, 55% of U.S. canola and 79%of U.S. cotton has and continues to be genetically grown in the U.S. After Scientist, and government agencies have established correct regulations and in depth research about Genetically Engineered products they have concluded that they do not contribute any harm to anyone or anything. There is more land cleared every year for genetically engineered crops then for conventional crops. (Wekesser 23)
Genetic Engineering has produced a revolution in biotechnology by creating high quality plants and animals that are more disease resistant and more nutritious. Richard J. Mahoney (29) emphasizes the following “while the United States is the world’s leader in biotechnology, it is facing strong competition from Japan and other nations.” The United States must continue investing in biotechnology if the nation is to prosper. The Japanese have been so interested in biotechnology, that they have proclaimed it a national priority to invest in biotechnologies. By staying ahead in biotechnology America will have an advantage in the global economy.

Although Genetic Engineering has been proven safe and effective there is still those who don’t and will not support it for ethical reasons and personal reasons. For those people there are still alternatives. We still have a huge variety of products that are grown naturally; these products can be found in almost any supermarket. The negative to this is that farmers have to raise the price of their products because it cost more to grow food the conventional way rather than genetically.(Kimbrell 42) Although there will be no worries about organic food, GE foods still beat Conventional foods in the nutritional category. This is because GE foods can be enriched with more proteins and minerals.
Genetically Engineered foods have been offered to countries such as Africa in order to help out with starvation. Agricultural biotechnology, whereby seeds are enhanced to instill herbicide tolerance and provide resistance to insects and disease, hold great promise for Africa and other areas of the world where circumstances such as poverty and poor growing conditions make farming difficult. Too many children are suffering from malnutrition and hunger. Genetically Engineered crops are the key for Africa and poor nations to end starvation and save many lives.

I agree that genetically modified foods should be continued to be our main source of growing and producing crops. The public needs to start and continue supporting this way of life. It is the quickest, safest, and low cost effective way of producing groups. GM foods allow us to developed ways of growing crops that use less water, pesticides less care. This allows us to create food for the global economy so that we can meet everyone’s needs and prevent starvation.