Citrus greening is a bacterial disease originating from China that was brought to the Americas in 2004 (Byrne et al. 506). Ever since, it has affected orange trees across South America, eventually reaching the southeastern shores of the USA. This disease influences the trees from the roots, slowing down metabolism, and causing oranges to fade and become sour, completely removing them from food production.
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The disease is transferred by Asian citrus psyllid, which is a foreign and invasive group of insects. Citrus greening has been causing millions of dollars in damage and threatens the stability of citrus prices around the world. There are three popular approaches to solving the dilemma, which include the use of pesticides, natural predators of the Asian citrus psyllid, and genetic modification of citruses. Although each of these solutions has its strengths and weaknesses, genetic modification is the safest option available.
Genetic modification of fruits can be done to make them resistant to the citrus greening disease. This type of procedure involves combining the plant’s DNA with fragments of DNA of other plants and even animals to make them stronger. Despite the lack of complete scientific consensus over the past 20 years since the first use of GMO crops, overwhelming evidence demonstrates that they are safe for human and animal consumption (Lombard 10).
There are several opposing views to GMO, however. Hilbeck et al. claim that the main criticism of GMO foods is the lack of complete control and understanding behind GMO processes in relation to human consumption and long-term effects on human DNA (4). They describe the process of integration of new DNA into the existing plant as chaotic, with DNA cannons being used to bombard the surface area with foreign genetic material, until it sticks (Hilbeck et al. 5).
The method is prone to error and failure, as it often results in damaging of the structure and rising levels of toxicity. However, that argument does not endure competition with how standard selective breeding works. With that procedure, the recipient plant receives more than a single gene, some of which may be undesired (Fagan et al. 72). Humanity implemented this method for thousands of years, not only in agriculture and horticulture, but in animal husbandry as well.
The GMO creation method, on the other hand, introduces a single desired gene while leaving the rest of the plant unaffected. Therefore, it is infinitely more controlled when compared to selective breeding, and much faster as well.
As for the long-term effects of the procedure, the potential dangers of such are significantly reduced by the present safety requirements to all GMO seeds being produced. Each new strain requires up to 13 years of testing before being released into production (Lombard 11). This is the reason why GMO products are very rare to find, as the amount of legalistic and safety control requirements represents the biased and perverse view of the practice. Thirteen years is enough time to spot any pathologies associated with the altered genetic structure of the plant or a fruit. Therefore, the argument against GMO safety is largely invalid.
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Based on the evaluation of the scientific evidence cited above, conclusions can be made that GMO products are the optimal choice in terms of economic viability, safety, and long-term agriculture. Whereas pesticides have numerous dangerous side effects and the potential for pollution, while foreign predators could destroy the entire local eco-system, GMO products have no such side effects. Their threats to long-term healthcare are based on suppositions and the potential lack of knowledge, rather than hard evidence.
Byrne, Frank J., et al. “Evaluation of Systemic Neonicotinoid Insecticides for the Management of the Asian Citrus Psyllid Diaphorina Citri on Containerized Citrus.” Pest Management Science, vol. 73, no. 3, 2017, pp. 506-514.
Fagan, John, et al. GMO Myths and Truths. Earth Open Source, 2015.
Hilbeck, Angelika, et al. “No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety.” Environmental Sciences Europe, vol. 27, no. 4, 2015, pp. 1-6.
Lombard, Hans. “GM Foods Are Truly Safe.” Oilseeds Focus, vol. 2, no. 2, 2016, pp. 10-11.