Genetically Modified Food:
World Wide Panacea or “Frankenfood” to Fear?
Never before in history has mankind so masterfully commanded its food chain. Thousands of years ago, much of our species made the leap from a hunter-gatherer level of subsistence to an agricultural society. With agriculture, slowly but surely many modifications were made to plants and animals used and domesticated by us for the purpose of feeding ourselves. New specialized varieties with specific desirable traits slowly emerged; with the advent of knowledge of hybridization, this process was greatly expedited. By today, much has changed in the way we shape the foods we put into our bodies. With modern food science has come the dawn of genetic modification. Food scientists working in tandem with genetic engineers can now isolate the genes for specific desirable traits from an entirely unrelated organism and splice them into an organism that we have traditionally consumed—say hello to “frankenfood.”
As a practice, genetic engineering is the careful modification of a living organism done by essentially rewriting its DNA, thus altering its genetic makeup “in a way that does not occur naturally” (Domingo 535). The process of genetically modifying a plant entails inserting genes into plant cells by injecting viruses which copy specialized DNA into the cells. The end goal is that specific traits deemed beneficial become newly expressed in the GMO (genetically modified organism). The movie Food Inc., narrated by well-known authors Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser (authors of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, respectively), dedicates a large portion of time to the modern use of genetically modified food—particularly soybeans—in American agriculture. The film hints at the various effects of using GM soybeans in agriculture, yet seems to be mainly focused on the economic impact the Monsanto GM soybean has on Midwestern farmers. It does at times indirectly suggest
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