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Gentically Modified Crops

By dfoxbuxton Oct 24, 2014 2290 Words

Raising Enough Food with GMOs
American agriculture is the world’s leader in production and also seems to be the envy of other countries. The reason why is because U.S. agri-business consistently produces more food on less land and at cheaper cost than the farmers of any other nation. When famine loomed in Mexico and southern Asia in the mid-20th century, agricultural crop researchers saved the day. Scientists at Mexico's International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center  and the Philippines's International Rice Research Institute  came up with new, high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice that raised harvests and kept starvation at bay.(Dimick) Today as the population grows we need to look at new research again. This type of research may need to come in the form of genetically modified food production. The impact of GM food production will affect the world’s food supply. So you may be asking what are GMOs and how will they help with the world’s food supply in the next 50 years? GMO stands for “genetically modified organisms,” which means plants or animals have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.(GMO Defined) This new technology can make many diseases transmitted by insects become less invasive and destructive. GMOs would not only be more effective in the United States but in countries that are having a hard time feeding their nation because of the devastating insect problems. In Africa they grow a plant called Cassava and it is the main crop. The problem is that whitefly insects love it. The whitefly’s range is expanding due to the warming climate change and now affects most of the countries Cassava crops. A GMO could help out with this situation but there is one major problem, the genetically modified crop seeds are expensive. To keep up with the world’s climbing population between now and 2050, we’ll need another green revolution. The new green revolution definitely will need to happen soon and with a heavy emphasis on continuing work of breeding better crops, but with modern genetic techniques the GMO industry is leading the pack in both controversy and speculations.(Folger) First released in the 1990s, GMOs have been adopted by 28 countries and planted on 11 percent of the world’s arable land, including half the cropland in the U.S. About 90 percent of the corn, cotton, and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.(Folger) Most people in the United States don't realize that they've been eating genetically engineered foods since the mid-1990s. More than 60 percent of all processed foods on U.S. supermarket shelves—including pizza, chips, cookies, ice cream, salad dressing, corn syrup, and baking powder—contain ingredients from engineered soybeans, corn, or canola.(Ackerman) However, there has been no substantial finds that GMO foods have increased the overall food production. Many researchers believe that the use of better land management and farming practices seem to be the mainstay reason of the increased crop production. In the brave new world of genetic engineering, Dean DellaPenna envisions this cornucopia: tomatoes and broccoli bursting with cancer-fighting chemicals and vitamin-enhanced crops of rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava to help nourish the poor. He sees wheat, soy, and peanuts free of allergens; bananas that deliver vaccines; and vegetable oils so loaded with therapeutic ingredients that doctors "prescribe" them for patients at risk for cancer and heart disease. A plant biochemist at Michigan State University, DellaPenna believes that genetically engineered foods are the key to the next wave of advances in agriculture and health. (Ackerman) Corn damaged by insects often contains high levels of fumonisins, toxins made by fungi that are carried on the backs of insects and that grow in the wounds of the damaged corn. Lab tests have linked fumonisins with cancer in animals, and they may be potentially cancer-causing to humans. Among people who consume a lot of corn—in certain parts of South Africa, China, and Italy, for instance there are high rates of esophageal cancer, which scientists associate with fumonisins. Studies show that most GMO Bt corn has lower levels of fumonisins than conventional corn damaged by insects.( Ackerman) "Eight hundred million people on this planet are malnourished," says Channapatna Prakash, a native of India and an agricultural scientist at the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, "and the number continues to grow." Genetic engineering can help address the urgent problems of food shortage and hunger, say Prakash and many other scientists. It can increase crop yields, offer crop varieties that resist pests and disease, and provide ways to grow crops on land that would otherwise not support farming because of drought conditions, depleted soils, or soils plagued by excess salt or high levels of aluminum and iron. "This technology is extremely versatile," Prakash explains, "and it's easy for farmers to use because it's built into the seed. The farmers just plant the seeds, and the seeds bring new features in the plants."( Ackerman) "Biotechnology is no panacea for world hunger," says Prakash, "but it's a vital tool in a toolbox, one that includes soil and water conservation, pest management, and other methods of sustainable agriculture, as well as new technologies." Biotechnology in developing countries is very important because of the small farm situation and the population increases. "White rice," explains Dean DellaPenna, "is low in protein. It has very little iron and virtually no vitamin A." However, in 1999 a team of scientists led by Ingo Potrykus, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and Peter Beyer, of the University of Freiburg, Germany, announced a new breakthrough: They had introduced into rice plants two daffodil genes and one bacterial gene that enable the rice to produce in its grains beta-carotene, a building block of vitamin A. (Potrykus) According to the World Health Organization, between 100 million and 140 million children in the world suffer from vitamin A deficiency, some 500,000 go blind every year because of that deficiency, and half of those children die within a year of losing their sight. "Golden rice," so named for the yellow color furnished by the beta-carotene, was hailed by some as a potential solution to the suffering and illness caused by vitamin A deficiency.(Potrykus) Potrykus and Beyer are now developing new versions of the rice that may be more effective in delivering beta-carotene for the body to convert to vitamin A. (Potrykus) Their plan is to put the improved rices free of charge into the hands of poor farmers. It seems that golden rice is still at least four years away from distribution and it could take much longer if opposing groups delay plans for field trials and safety studies.(Potrykus) The one problem many see with GMO crops being the answer to many of the third world countries’ ability to feed their own is the cost of the seeds. “It’s not realistic,” says Maro, “How could they afford the seeds when they can’t even afford fertilizer?” How likely is it, she asks, in a country where few farmers ever see a government agricultural adviser, or are even aware of the diseases threatening their crops, that they’ll get the support they need to grow genetically modified crops properly?(Folger) GMO crops are expensive and create a vicious financial loop for the farmer and a lucrative financial loop for companies making GMO products. The main point is that these genetically modified seeds provide a key piece of the puzzle in meeting future food demand, but these alone will not eliminate or even problematically solve the world’s food demand problems. I think that the old fashioned hybrid seed can be just as effective as a genetically modified one. The cost of regular hybrid seed is much less than the patented GMO seeds. In the developing nations’ farmers cannot afford these expensive seeds. Genetically modified crops will help but it is not the saving grace. Some people say that the solution to hunger and malnutrition lies in redistributing existing food supplies. Prakash agrees that there's enough food in the world now but in 30 to 50 years who knows. "But redistribution is just not going to happen," he says.(Ackerman) There is a lot of waste at food storage facilities and if that could be corrected the extra amount grain would feed millions more. I believe that every country needs to embrace a “green revolution” and right now the one country that needs it the most is the one dragging their feet. Africa needs to improve their abilities to feed their people without relying heavily on imports or Aid. GMO seeds for use in Africa will not be the same as those for Asia and people must realize that. An unfortunate piece to Africa’s not getting on the bandwagon with this movement is that the United States has pulled most of its funding from the country because they are not willing to change their mindset. I guess maybe the terminology of not willing needs to be changed to not able and the reason why is because there is an isolation problem and lack of government agricultural agents to get around. The true information on genetically modified food has been very slow getting around to all of the farmers. The government has not been a supporting factor in this movement. Another factor in Africa is the increasing insect problem. The climate change is increasing insects in areas that have never had a problem with the insects. The crops are being infected with a total loss in some fields. Modified crops may be the answer for this problem. Another solution would be for the farmers to start planting a different cereal crop that the insects in that area do not damage. The impact of genetically modified organisms on the world’s food supply is still questionable. Yes, GMO will help curb the short comings if farmers can afford the seeds in the beginning. However, I have to agree that our problem does not lie in the fact that we as a world are not producing enough food but I think we have problems in what we are using our grains for and also how we store it. We are currently using a lot of crops for the biofuels industry. In fact the amount of crops grown by U.S. farmers in one year for the biofuel industry could have feed 330 million people. So my outlook on this is if the U.S. had to pick between cars or food the cars would win. Let me give an example if I drove a SUV and gassed it up with a biofuel; the amount of fuel it took for that one tank could feed a person for an entire year! I also think biofuels are a double edge sword. Since we live in a rural community and farming is the basis of our economy growing crops for biofuels can help with the economy of our community because we get higher prices for the crops. However, the people in the city or poor people now have increased prices in the grocery stores which is not good for them. In developing countries they already pay three quarters of their income to buy food. I think that iIn order to feed the world we will need to find an alternative to the biofuels trend. This trend has taken out food crops very suddenly in the last two or three years. As the need for fuel continues to grow, unless we can find some other source, our food supply will decrease whether we are using genetically modified crops or not. Another area that takes a lot of our cereal grains out of the mouths of the human population is feeding livestock. The 7 billion livestock animals in the United States consume five times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million." Or, if those grains were exported, it would boost the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year.(Pimentel) As I have pointed out we can currently feed the world. The question we really need to be asking is can we feed the world in another 50 years? The answer to this question is hard to answer because of the various needs for grans. It is very clear that genetically modified food will be able to help but alone I don’t think that is the answer. We will need to incorporate changes in how we handle grain storage, biofuels, and livestock feeding in order to keep up with world population food demands over the next decades.

Works Cited:
Ackerman, Jennifer. “Food How Altered?”.National Geographic, Dennis. “Here's Why We Haven't Quite Figured Out How to Feed Billions More People”.National Geographic News. 10/3/2014 viewed 10/24/2014. borlaug-food-farming-green-revolution/“GMO Defined”. viewed 10/24/2014., Tim.“The Next Green Revolution”. National Geographic. Viewed 10/10/2014., David “U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists”. Chronical.08/07/2007. Viewed 10/24/2014., Ingo.” The "Golden Rice" Tale”.Agbioworld.Web viewed 10/24/2014.

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