Biotechnology in the form of genetic engineering lends a variety of potential benefits as well as risks. It has improved the production of food by making plants tolerant or resistant to drought, frost, insects and viruses and also helped plants to compete more effectively against weeds for soil nutrients. The use of genetic engineering however has raised concerns about its potential risks to human life and the environment. The yield, the use of nutritive substances and resistance to diseases can be improved on the contrary the negative effects of genetic engineering on plants should be considered. What does genetic engineering entail? Why is genetic engineering used on plants? When was the first known act of genetic engineering on plants carried out? What are the possible side effects of genetic engineering on plants? What are the benefits associated with genetic engineering on plants? The cautious approach to the use of genetically modified crops that reckons on inclusive liability could allow consumers to reap great benefits from genetically modified crops while mitigating their serious risks.
The comparing and contrasting of the benefits and side effects of genetic engineering in plants is a prominent topic today. Biotechnology and the process of genetic engineering in plants has emerged and advanced throughout the planet in recent times. The introduction of genetically modified foods into food supplies has had varying degrees of success country by country. The mixed feelings that surround genetically modified foods are due to the rampant debate surrounding the technology of genetic engineering. The first genetically modified plant had produced in 1982, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant (6). The first field trials of genetically engineered plants occurred in France and the USA in 1986, when tobacco plants were engineered to be resistant to herbicides (6). Research on genetic engineering in plants is very relevant today since it is becoming a more popular topic as each day goes by. While it can be traced throughout history, its modern marvels have come to light in just the last few decades. Although genetic engineering in plants--which proves to be beneficial to consumers worldwide—will bring greater yield and in turn increased food supply, negative side effects also loom and pose a great threat to humans as well as other species of animals. II. Definition
Genetically engineered or modified foods are defined as organisms which had their genetic material altered in a way that usually does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. Genetic modification can be performed on plants, animals or even microorganisms. Historically, agriculturalists cultivated plants and animals for many years to bring about the desired characteristics. For instance, dogs were produced ranging from poodles to Great Danes to dogs bred for specific purposes; hunters, herders and protectors. There are also roses from sweet-smelling miniatures to today's long-lasting, but scent-free red. Selective breeding over time created these wide variations, but the process depended on nature to produce the desired gene. Humans then chose to mate individual animals or plants that carried the particular gene in order to make the desired characteristics more pronounced. Genetic engineering allows scientists to speed this process up by moving desired genes from one plant into another or even from an animal to a plant or vice versa. III. What crops are used?
According to the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are over 40 plant varieties that have completed all of the federal requirements for Commercialization (6). Some of these crops are tomatoes and cantaloupes that have modified ripening characteristics, soybeans and sugar beets that are resistant to herbicides, and corn and cotton plants with increased resistance to insect pests (5). Though all the products may not...
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3. Qaim, M. 2010. The benefits of genetically modified crops—and the costs of inefficient regulation. [Internet]. Washington (DC): RFF Policy Commentary Series. Available from: http://www.rff.org/Publications/WPC/Pages/The-Benefits-of-Genetically-Modified-Crops-and-the-Costs-of-Inefficient-Regulation.aspx
4. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics. 2003. The use of genetically modified crops in developing countries. [Internet]. London: Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Available from: http://www.nuffieldbioethics.org/sites/default/files/GM%20Crops%20short%20version%20FINAL.pdf
5. Diaz M. Plant genetic resources and food security [e-book]. New York: Nova Science Publishers; 2010. Available from: eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 26, 2013.
6. Koch J, Wolf T. Genetically Modified Plants [e-book]. New York: Nova Science Publishers; 2008. Available from: eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed June 26, 2013.
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