Is Genetic Engineering the Answer to Ending Global Hunger?

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Is Genetic Engineering the Answer to Ending Global Hunger?

Nick Simmons
SCI207: Dependence of Man on the Environment

Instructor: Thomas Davis


As with traditional plant breeding, genetic engineering seeks to develop plants that feature certain desirable traits. These could include developing plants that feature "input" traits such as resistance to pests or resistance to fungus and disease or plants that can withstand frost or drought conditions. This could also include developing "output" traits such as plants that have much higher nutritional content than traditional varieties (Turk and Bensel, 2011). Unlike the first green revolution, which was achieved mainly through traditional plant-breeding approaches, genetic modification of crops represents a fundamentally new technology. Traditional plant breeding sought to cross-breed or combine traits from the same plant types to produce a new and better variety (Turk and Bensel, 2011). In contrast, genetic modification works by removing genetic material from one organism and inserting it into the DNA of another, often in "novel" ways or in combinations that would never occur in nature (Turk and Bensel, 2011). This paper will be touching basis on positive aspects, as well as negative aspects to determine whether genetic engineering is the answer to global hunger.

The use of genetically engineered crops has grown rapidly in countries like the United States, especially for soybeans, corn, and cotton where GM crops make up between 70-90 percent of total production. This rapid growth has raised concerns about the environmental, health, and economic impacts of widespread use of genetically engineered crops (Turk and Bensel, 2011). Both the developed and developing worlds are facing a critical moral choice in the controversial issue of genetically modified food, also known as genetically modified organisms and genetically engineered crops. Critics of these modifications speak dismissively of biotech foods and genetic pollution. On the other hand, proponents like Nina Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown, authors of Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods (2004), promote genetically modified organisms as "the miracle of seed science and fertilizers" (Coleman, 2005). Most of the world's beer and cheese is made with G.M.O.'s, as are hundreds of medications. In an article published last October, James Nicholson, then U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and an aggressive promoter of U.S. policy in Vatican circles, wrote that "millions of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Argentines and other people have been eating genetically modified food for nearly a decade-without one proven case of an illness, allergic reaction or even the hiccups.... Mankind has been genetically altering food throughout human history." And according to its supporters, biotechnology helps the environment by reducing the use of pesticides and tilling (Coleman, 2005). Trans Greenpeace campaigner Von S. Hernandez told reporters that the Philippine government must focus on alleviating poverty and improving access to food, saying hunger is more of a social, rather than scientific problem (Anonymous, 2000). "It is irresponsible, if not downright deceptive, to claim that increased global output of food via genetic engineering is going to help 800 million people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition today. Hunger is a problem of distribution, access and poverty in parts of the developing world," Mr. Hernandez said. Greenpeace scientific adviser Dr. Jan Van Aken advised the Philippine government against allowing the commercial production of GM crops because of the uncertain effects these crops may have on the environment (Anonymous, 2000).

Bill Gates, the Microsoft chairman who is pouring part of his fortune into alleviating global poverty,...