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Genetically Modified Food - Negatives and Positive for Australia

By Kderk2 Jun 09, 2013 2753 Words
Should GM food be grown in Australia and used by Australians? This report will discuss the positive and negative aspects of genetically modified food to decide. Genetically modified food has caused many debates over the years in whether it should be created and consumed because genetically modified food has both negative and positive aspects for humans, animals, plants and the environment. Freedman (2009) stated that, “Genetic Modification” means changing the characteristics of plants or animals so that they develop new features that people find desirable (p.6). This definition of genetic modification applies to genetically modified food. Genetically modified food, often called genetically modified organisms or GMO, is food (both plants and animals) whose DNA has been altered or changed by inserting foreign genes, through genetic engineering, which gives the food the desired trait. Scientists extract the genes that encode for the wanted, specific trait out of the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) of an organism (animal, plant and bacteria) and transfer it into the cells of the food to be modified. -------------------------------------------------

GM food is being produced because when compared to natural ways of improving the characteristics of food like selective breeding (breeding crops naturally by selecting food that has preferred or better characteristics to produce offspring with those characteristics) , genetic modification can improve the characteristics in a shorter time and with unrelated species. Natural breeding however can only breed species that are related, narrowing the variety of possible improvement. Cross breeding is limited to exchanges between the same or very closely related characteristics of species. It can also take a long time to achieve desired results and frequently interest do not exist in any related species (ISAAA “Genetically Modified Crops – Take Part in the Dialogue”, 2012, para 3). -------------------------------------------------

Freedman (2009) stated that GM food was originally developed to increase the capability of growing certain crops with higher yields as a way to help beat world hunger (p.4). Even though genetically modified food can be altered to increase its yields, genetically modified food is made for many reasons like improved taste, bigger size, longer shelf life, food with medicinal benefits, better livestock, increased farm profit, herbicide tolerant, pesticide resistant and being stronger (resilience to harsh conditions like cold weather). These are all improvements that can be considered as positive aspects to GM food.

Positive Aspects to GM Food
GM foods are created for the many positive aspects that the enhancement or alteration can provide. Depending on the crop/animal, the trait that is introduce to the food and the environment that the crop or animals with the inserted trait is introduced into, genetically modified products offer a number of benefits to the consumers and producers. Genetically modified food has positive aspects because it can provide many benefits. These benefits include improved taste in food, greater yields, bigger size of food, reduced maturation time, food with medicinal benefits, food with improved nutrition , disease resistant food, better livestock, increased farm profit, herbicide tolerant food, pesticide resistant food and food being resilient to harsh conditions (resilient to harsh conditions like cold weather). Positive aspects of GM food enable the growing population to receive food of higher quality and farmers to grow food more efficiently. Weeds can be a major problem for farmers who grow non GM herbicide tolerant crops. ISSA “Herbicide Tolerance Technology: Glyphosate and Glufosinate”, 2012, para 1 says that weeds not only compete with crops for water, nutrients, sunlight, and space but also harbor insect and disease pests; clog irrigation and drainage systems; undermine crop quality; and deposit weed seeds into crop harvests. Genetically modified food can be made herbicide tolerant which allows farmers/producers to spray herbicide all over the crops but only the weeds will die. There are two common herbicides which are glyphosate and gluphosinate. If a herbicide uses glyphosate, like roundup, the weeds die because the EPSPS enzyme (which is an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of vitamins, aromatic amino acids, and many secondary plant metabolites in the weeds) is blocked by glyphosate and dies. Soil bacterium genes are inserted in GM food because, depending on the bacterium, their genes can produce enzymes which disregard glyphosate enzymes, produce a glyphosate- tolerant form of EPSPS and can crops that have gluphosinate in them can have bacteria inserted which produces an enzyme that detoxifies phosphonothricin  (kills plants by blocking the enzyme responsible for nitrogen metabolism and for detoxifying ammonia). Herbicide tolerance in GM foods allows crops to be sprayed with crops but only the weeds will die which can’t be done with organic food as the crops will die with the weeds. The use of GM crops with herbicide tolerance can significantly increase crops yields with the help of pesticide resistance (kills pests that eat crop) as well and is a benefit for all farmers and producers.

A benefit that GM food can provide is reduced maturation time. Food can spoil quickly before it is even sold to the consumer. If GM food with reduced maturation time was grown in Australia, food would last longer in the stores and wastage during the transportation of the food would be reduced. Reduced maturation would allow people more time to eat the food before it spoils.

Another positive aspect to genetically modified food, which is beneficial to Australia and the rest of the world, is GM crops being resilient to harsh conditions. Produce could be able to grow in dry areas with minimal water supply and produce could be resilient to harsh conditions like cold winter snaps. “Australian Government- Genetically Modified Food Explained” states that there is only a limited area of arable land in the world – for example 70% of Australia is too dry to be used to grow crops. But by isolating the genes that allows some shrubs and trees to survive in the outback, and incorporating them into other crops, it could allow them to grow in areas with less water and so increase the total arable land and greatly increase food production. GM food could also help the problem of produce not being able to withstand cold temperatures by inserting genes of organisms that can withstand the cold temperatures, like an arctic flounder, and insert it into the produce. This is just one of the positive aspects that GM can supply however it should be decided on whether the positive aspects of genetically modified food outweigh the negative aspects of GM food.

Negative Aspects to GM Food

The debate on whether GM food should be produced and consumed is a very controversial matter as there a many concerns about what the GM food is doing to humans, animals, plants and the environment. These concerns/negative aspects are that there could be health risks, ecological risks, biodiversity and welfare of animals used for produce, at risk. These negative aspects could possibly mean that even with the benefits that GM provides, the negative aspects are too serious and harmful to pursue consuming and producing it.

A major negative aspect to GM is the concern of health risks that GM foods could have on consumers. There’s a lack in studies to test if GM foods are safe or not, and studies that do exist have produced worrying results. “Institute for Responsible Technology- Health Risks” states that in 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that, "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. These aren’t the only health risks to eating GM food but there are also risks to receive toxic and allergic reactions. Allergens, proteins that promote an allergic reaction, could be inserted into food if the genes of the allergen give the food the desired trait. This is a problem because people could consume the food and have an allergic reaction. Some allergic reactions can be so severe that it can cause death. Toxins, like bacillus theringiensis (Bt) used in some GM foods are also found to be toxic to not only insects but to animals and humans aswell. Bacillus theringiensis have toxins called insecticidal crystal proteins or delta endotoxins that kill insects through the digestive system. “GMO Myths and Truths”, 2012 (pg 51) affirms that in a 2012 test-tube (in vitro) study, genetically engineered Bt toxins were found to be toxic to human cells. One type of Bt toxin killed human cells at the dose of 100 parts per million. The findings displayed affirms that Bt toxin, does infact affect humans despite the opposite claims given by GM lobby and regulators. There hasn’t been nearly enough research performed on GMOs to make an informed decision on their safety (Kresser 2012).

There are other issues involved with GM food besides health risks. One of the many risks is pests becoming resistant to pesticide. This is a problem because eventually pesticides (like Bt) won’t be effective, causing pests to destroy farmer’s crops and all farmers will have to find a way to control pests. This will happen over time when few pests, with gene variations that allows them to be resistant to pesticides, survive even when eating the crops while the rest of the pests die. The pests that do survive will reproduce, giving the offspring the gene variation of being resistant to pesticides and overtime, almost all pests will be resistant to the crop. Weed resistance to herbicide is also a similar problem to pest resistance to pesticide. Weeds can become resistant similar to the way pests do, as stated earlier, or they could possible become more resistant through gene flow/out-crossing. Gene flow is the transfer of genes or alleles from one organism to another. The trait that allows plants to be resistant to herbicide could be transferred to the weed through gene flow which would make it resistant to the herbicide. “Herb Resistance, and Weeds are Spreading in the United States”, 2011 affirms that herbicide resistance is growing. At least 21 weed species have now developed resistance to glyphosate, a systemic herbicide that has been effectively used to kill weeds and can be found in many commercial products. If weeds become resistant to herbicide, farmer’s yields will decrease drastically and maintaining crops for all farmers will be much more difficult.

Genetically modifying food could be a negative aspect for the animals being used as produce as their welfare could be at risk. Genetically modifying animals could cause animals stress and suffering. Examples of poor animal welfare with GM food is when the animals are modified to produce more milk or more amounts of meat, Freedman, 2009 states that this could cause increase strain on their joints and internal organs, which could lead to health problems such as arthritis. This is just another negative aspect showing why GM food may provide more concerns than benefits

Voting Decision and Recommendation

After evaluating the given information comparing the positive aspects with the negative aspects of GM food, the final decision is that GM foods should not be grown in Australia and used by Australians. I would recommend to my friends and neighbours to also vote no about whether or not GM foods should be grown in Australia. Even with the positive aspects that GM foods may bring I believe that the negative aspects outweigh the positives. One Positive aspect to GM food was weed and pesticide tolerance but a negative aspect shows that it wouldn’t be a positive for very long once the negative aspect of weeds and pests being resilient to pesticide and herbicide takes over. Longer shelf life and crops being able to grow in harsh conditions would be great for Australians however it is not important enough to risk health for. A major negative aspect that has driven me to decide that Australia should not grow and use GM crops, are the health risks involved. Animals should not be put in pain at our expense for extra food, yet if Australians were to grow and produce GM livestock, the animals welfare could be at risk with the over use of modifying with growth hormones and such. The gathered information on the negative aspects of GM crops shows alarming results and I believe, until long-term study has been carried out to prove that GM food is safe and weeds and pests won’t become resilient enough to not be effected by herbicides and pesticides, Australians should vote no to allowing genetically modified food being grown and used.

Source Analysis

Science and Society
Genetically Modified Food
How Biotechnology is Changing What We Eat

Science and Society – Genetically Modified Food- How Biotechnology is Changing What We Eat was published by the Rosen Publishing Group, Inc in 2009, so the information isn’t to old that it’d be outdated, and was a very useful source for this assignment. This book held information neither biased nor one-sided as it gave general information, good aspects of GM food and bad aspects of GM food and information throughout the book was relevant to the information need for the assignment, however it could’ve been more in-dept. The author of the book is Jeri Freedman who has earned a B.A. degree from Harvard University and she has worked for companies in the medical field. The information from this book was very useful and if need, I would use it again.

YouTube Video:
Genetic Engineering: The World’s Greatest Scam?

This source was very useful for explaining the negative aspects of GM food. The video was uploaded in 2009; however the information still seemed up to date. The video was made and uploaded by Greenpeace which is a well known organization that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. This information was very one-sided though which was good for explaining the negative aspects. The video helped with explaining and I would definitely re-watch videos from the same source again.

Are GMOs Safe?
Chris Kresser was the author of this webpage and is a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicinal and did his undergraduate work at UC Berkley. It was uploaded in November 2012 so the information used was recent and not outdated. This website was helpful for writing my most focussed area in my assignment which was the health risks. This information was easy to understand even though his information might be siding slightly with the no GM side and being bias, this information was very useful.

All websites were viewed between the 1st and the 31st of May.

* Healey, J 2004, Genetic Modification, The Spinney Press, NSW. * Freedman, J 2009, Genetically Modified Food, The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc New York.

* Genetic Engineering: The World’s Greatest Scam? 2009, YouTube, viewed 24th,25th,26th May 2013, <> * Kresser, C 2012, Are GMOs Safe?, viewed from the 16th-31st May 2013,<> * Verma, C Nanda, S Singh, R.K Singh R.B Mishra S, 2011, A View on Impacts of Genetically Modified Food on Human Health, viewed 24th- 31st May 2013, <> * Katch, V 2013, Do We Really Need or Want Genetically Modified Foods?, viewed 17th- 31st May 2013, <> * Institute for Responsible Technology Health Risks, viewed 25th - 31st May, <> * Genetically Modified Foods 2013, viewed 26th – 31st May, <> * WSSA Herbicide Resistance, viewed 26th – 31st May <> * Herbicide and Weeds, Are spreading in the United States 2011, viewed 26th – 31st May 3013, <> * ISAAA Herbicide Tolerance Technology: Gylphosate and Glufosinate 2012, viewed 26th – 31st May, <> * Pesticide Resistence, viewed 26th – 31st May, <> * Genetically Modified Food Explained, viewed 27th – 31st May, <> * James, C 2011, ISSA Genetically Modified Crops Take Part in the Dialogue, viewd 27th – 31st May, <>

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