Genetically modified organisms are organisms that are created after combining DNA from a different species into an organism to come up with a transgenic organism (McDonagh 8). The controversy surrounding the development and consumption of GMOs has been ongoing for years now. The development of genetically engineered organisms brings about a lot of benefits related to improved food production and food security in the globe. Nevertheless, there are fears about the safety of the technology given that it involves making organisms that have foreign genes.
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GMOs hold the solution to the increasing problem of food insecurity in the globe by creating high yielding, highly nutritious, and drought and pesticide resistant foods. Nevertheless, a critical look into GMOs reveals that they are a threat to the natural way of producing foods because the genetic engineering technology involves introducing novel genes into an organism, thereby altering the natural ecosystem by creating “super weeds” and introducing new allergens that make the use of GMOs unsafe to humans and the environment.
Research has proven that food production increases immensely by adopting the growth of GMOs because the genetically engineered organisms are able to withstand harsh weather conditions and resist pests and diseases that reduce yields. Crops such as Bt cotton and soybeans have been genetically modified to resist pests (Coghlan 10). Genetically engineered plants that can grow in poor soil conditions have been developed, thus increasing the amount of arable land and farm yields. Scientists are able to use genetic engineering to improve the nutritional value of crops and animal products.
This is a significant step in solving the problem of malnutrition. Moreover, scientists in the field of genetic engineering have seen the possibility of producing veterinary vaccines from transgenic alfalfa plants (Dus Santos and Wigdorovitz 230). Farmers can now store their produce longer without spoilage because scientists have developed crops that are withstanding spoilage longer. It is interesting to know that most GMOs have been found to be safe for human consumption (Coghlan 10). This forms the basis for encouraging the use of GMOs to tackle the long-standing food insecurity issue.
As much as GMOs seem to be the ultimate solution to the food shortage in the globe, the risks that come with the technology are enough to discourage the use of GMOs. The transfer of genes across species that happens in the process of producing GMOs can create new allergens, “super weeds”, and alter the fertility of soil. Some GM plants like canola have crossbred with their close “wild” species to create “super weeds” that have proven resistant to herbicides (Rubin 48).
Moreover, studies have proven that GMOs introduce novel allergens to the natural foods. A perfect example is the case of GM soybeans that almost killed people who were allergic to nut protein in Brazil (Chetty and Viljoen 269). Herbicide resistant weeds have also cropped up as a result of engineering plants genetically. The bentgrass is an example of a “super weed” that has grown wild and resistant to herbicides in the US. Safety of consuming GMOs is also not guaranteed given that substantial tests have not been done to prove their safety.
The progress made by scientists in the field of genetic engineering of plants and animals in the search for a solution to food insecurity cannot be underestimated. It is no doubt that GMOs have increased food production and enhanced nutrition through the production of fortified foods. Nevertheless, risks and uncertainties about the safety of GMOs on the environment and humans cannot be ignored. The fact that substantial tests have not been conducted to guarantee the safety of GMOs is worrying enough to call for caution when developing and using GMOs. Scientists and governments should go beyond labelling GMO foods to conducting further research to ascertain the safety of GMOs and develop foods that are risk-free to the environment and the consumers.
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Chetty, Lukeshni, and Denis C. Viljoen. “GM Biotechnology: Friend and Foe?” South African Journal of Science, 103.7/8 (2007): 269-270. Print.
Coghlan, Andy. “Genetic Engineering: A Decade Of Disagreement.” New Scientist 189.2535 (2006): 10-10. Print.
Dus Santos, María José, and Andrés Wigdorovitz. “Transgenic Plants For The Production Of Veterinary Vaccines.” Immunology & Cell Biology 83.3 (2005): 229-238. Print.
McDonagh, Sean. “Genetic Engineering Is Not The Answer.” America 192.15 (2005): 8-10. Print.
Rubin, Karen Wilk. “Genetic Modification And: Food Biotechnology.” Foodservice Director 16.3 (2003): 48-48. Print.