GMOs Advancing the Market
Genetically Modified Organisms, more commonly known as GMO’s, are new technology that some people run from and others stand firmly behind. GMOs refer to plants or animals and other microorganisms in which their genes are altered for purposes like increased growth, improved nutritional value, or increased resistance to insects among others. “The common method used in modifying or altering the genes of a particular organism is called recombinant DNA technology” (qwhatis). In crops like corn, bacterial genes are introduced to enhance growth and make the plant grow bigger. Genetic modification is also intended to make the corn resistant to certain insects, pests, and herbicides. This will help farmers increase yield and less corn will be wasted. “B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer” (csa). GMOs are complicated but they can make a huge difference in being able to feed our growing population. GMOs did not just appear recently, they have been developing for a long period of time, and the first genetic modifications to plants were being made over a century ago. While genetic manipulation of foods can be traced throughout history, the modern marvels of GMOs and transgenic plants have come to light in just the last few decades (globalchange). The 1980’s marked the scientific discovery that specific pieces of DNA could be transferred from one organism to another (Cramer, 2001), creating the basis of the genetic modification process. In 1983, the first transgenic plant, a tobacco plant resistant to anti-biotics was created (Cramer, 2001). Then, genetically engineered cotton was successfully field tested in 1990. Five years later, Monsanto the United States leading biotech company, introduced herbicide-immune soybeans otherwise known as “Round-Up-Ready” (Cramer, 2001). The promise of genetic modification was enhanced even further in 2000, when scientist discovered that the modification process could be used to introduce nutrients and vitamins to enrich foods (Cramer, 2001). As of 2004, genetically modified crops were being grown by 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries (James, 2004). There are four GMO crops that dominate global agriculture, soybeans, maize (corn), cotton and canola. The United States utilized 47.6 million hectares for biotech agriculture as of 2004 (James, 2004). GMOs made a quiet entry into the food industry, but now that it is more widely know people are protesting these modifications. Mixed feelings in regard to genetically modified foods is largely due to the rampant debate surrounding this technology. Most people that are standing up against GMOs are not educated about them. What they can’t see is that the prospect of higher yields, more adaptability, less reliance on chemicals, and greater nutritional value addresses the various problems of food security in the an ever-growing global population. The laundry list of unknowns is troubling to many who want the process sidelined until the safety of GMOs can be concluded through research and studies. In terms of controversies, one of the greatest concerns is the long-term health effects that genetically modified foods will have on human health. There are many concerns about GMOs; the first concern of consumers is if GMOS would cause allergic reactions in the short term for individuals with food sensitivities. Another is the prospect of “superweeds” that would be immune to our current arsenal of herbicides. Ethics also plays a role in the concerns. Some believe that society does not have the authority to tamper with nature. The final concern is in regard to the commercial aspect of biotechnology. In terms of control and licensees of property rights on the technology, the power truly lies in...
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