Genetically Modified Food Productions
The use of conventional methods in production of food has led researchers and agriculturalists to suggest, support and rely on genetically modified foods. This is because they are capable of increasing productivity. More so, they provide enhanced nutrient values while adapting to harsh climatic and environmental conditions. Genetically Modified Foods can therefore be defined as crops and plants that have been changed by farmers and breeders to improve their characteristics with regards to size, taste, and resistance to diseases. The genetically modified products grow well, record higher yields, and taste better. The widely used technique in developing new varieties of genetically modified crops and plants is however limited by natural barriers that stop different species from breeding with each other. Thus, the technology allows genes to be taken from one product to the other while ensuring scientists regulate the changes and characteristics of the new crop or plant as it grows and develops. For example, the genes, referring to parts of DNA, of a maize plant can be divided into small sections to enable scientists to move them around in attempts to improve their qualities and quantities (Keogh, 2012).
This has led to the genetically modified debate seeking to discover any developments. The debate strives to determine how genetically modified products can be applied to address and resolve issues linked to world hunger. Supporters of genetically modified productions assert that, apply technological techniques to modify and increase food production can ensure problems and concerns linked to global hunger are prevented and eliminated. They therefore encourage extensive research to be conducted in order to address the ethical issues surrounding the production and use of genetically modified foods (Bachas- Daunert & Deo, 2008).
Developing countries including Asia, Africa, and South America have been embracing biotechnological methods boosting food production and food quality through use of minimum resources. Genetically Modified Foods have been essential for nations experiencing low food productions as they are highly vulnerable hence likely to experience hunger, diseases, and increased death rates. More so, droughts and wars causing frequent food shortages can be prevented through use of genetically modified products. Vulnerable nations can also import food products at cheaper prices and increase crop yields locally by growing genetically modified crops that resist droughts, diseases and pests. Ultimately, genetically modified products should therefore be supported as they enable developed and developing countries to combat famine, minimize environmental degradation, and prevent global hunger (Nathaniel & Jennifer, 2009).
Perspectives in Support of Genetically Modified Productions
Several countries including United Kingdom and United States have embraced technologies supporting production of genetically modified foods as they believe they offer solutions to hunger. The figure below indicates number of hectares used to produce genetically modified foods to solve world hunger between 1995 and 2004.
Source: (Nathaniel & Jennifer, 2009).
In United States, and now soybeans, corn and canola are some of the genetically modified products that continue to be produced in large scale. The agricultural policymakers and professionals in the country assert that, they believe genetic engineering should be embraced as it helps in fighting hunger by preserving the environment while increasing productivity. Conversely, genetically modified products in United Kingdom include maize, sugar beet, and oilseed rape among others. Thus, genetic modification of plants and crops enhances food productivity without increasing labor, machinery and farmland. This has also led to some genetically modified crop and plants to thrive in land that is unsuitable for conventional crops. Consequently, infertile lands have been reclaimed a measure that has played a major role in boosting production of foods (Bachas- Daunert & Deo, 2008).
Diverse genetically modified products across the world have been gaining commercial approval encouraging farmers to continue growing them. Farmers have therefore been engineering tolerant herbicide plants by modifying their genes to ensure they survive by producing bacterial toxins killing pests that normally feed on the crops. Some food products have also been modified in order to ripen more slowly while remaining resistant to diseases. Scientists and agriculturalists are therefore keen and hopeful that genetic modifications will improve industrial products. The industries include cosmetic and pharmaceutical sections which are keen in acquiring products with altered nutritional values at larger quantities regularly.
The most common reason that has led genetically modified foods to be embraced is due to the fact that the world population has been increasing and growing at a rapid rate. This has greatly attributed to spread of world hunger leading children to die every two seconds from starvation. Several children as well as adults also die from undernourishment. The use of genetic modification technologies has therefore been embraced in order for farmers to increase food production. The farmers support the genetic modifications as they are able to plant crops that are resistant to pests, weeds, and diseases. More so, they are guaranteed the products quantities will be improved as reproduction is enhanced. Lastly, farmers appreciate that their genetically modified food products record better textures, nutritional values, and flavors as well as longer shelf lives for easier shipping purposes. These factors create an essential sustainable way of feeding the world reducing and preventing health concerns associated with global hunger (Bachas- Daunert & Deo, 2008).
Genetically modified crops were initially introduced in 1996. The percentage of global land that supported production of genetically modified foods was relatively small. This however has been changing as genetically altered crops are now being grown on lands accounting for more than fifty percent. For example, more than fifty million hectares in United States are used to grow genetically modified plants. Other nations that have been increasing the amount of land used in growing genetically modified plants include Canada, Spain, Romania, China, India, Colombia, Mexico, Germany, and Australia as shown below.
Source: (Nathaniel & Jennifer, 2009).
The farmers ensuring these lands continue producing nutritional yields in large amounts assert that, they embrace genetically modified foods due to diverse reasons. For example, the International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) asserted in 2004 that farmers were increasingly growing genetically modified plants as they were increasing their earnings. This is because American farmers earned between five and seven million dollars from growing and supplying genetically modified plants. This led scientists to research plants that can be genetically modified. They identified cucumbers, melons, maize, musk melons, wheat, tomatoes, and potatoes among others as some of the crops that can be genetically modified. They also identified measures to undertake to commercialize the crops. For example, they listed maize, rice, potatoes, and cotton as crops that are resistant to infestation from pests, weeds, and diseases.
Farmers in Africa selling genetically modified rice
Farmers also acknowledged that, scientists were isolating genes responsible for production of bacteria and toxins adversely affecting soil. Coupled by the fact that scientists were genetically modifying the crops in order to reduce the use of chemicals, farmers have continued to embrace genetically altered plants and harvests (Nathaniel & Jennifer, 2009).
According to Nathaniel Makoni and Jennifer Mohamed-Katerere (2009), the technology that supports genetically modified productions has always remained under corporate control. This ensures it is protected by patents and diverse forms of IPR which has hindered farmers to exchange seeds. The nature of agri-business however, has been changing impacting poor people and food securities. Hunger has always been associated with poverty, poor distribution of food, and inaccessibility to lands. The bio-technology has therefore been exacerbating the underlying inequalities in order to resolve causes of hunger and poverty. More so, genetically modifying companies have been rigorously enforcing contractual agreements to allow the use, storage, and sale of their seeds and products to farmers. This has led farmers to increase production of genetically modified products in order to stabilize and sustain foods feeding world populations. The populations on the other hand can confirm the foods have increased flavors and nutritional values besides being resistant to diseases and insects due to the altered genes.
The authors also assert that, genetically modified food products have led to positive environmental impacts. The soil salinities have been a major issue across diverse agricultural sections leading plants and crops either less able or unable to grow. Researchers in support of genetically modified products assert that, the altered genes in a plant or crop enables them to tolerate climatic and agricultural conditions hence, increasing qualities and quantities. For example, Avicennia marina was genetically modified and implanted into tobacco plants. This enabled it to tolerate high salt levels hence, able to survive in high ionic conditions. Genetic modifications can be undertaken in plants for food and non-food sources. For example, edible vaccinations have been genetically engineered in plants with the potential of providing edible plant vaccines applied in immunizations against various diseases such as AIDS and cholera. More so, the transgenic potato plant has therefore been produced, tested, and genetically modified in order to deliver pharmaceutical immunizations against diarrhea. Ultimately, genetically modified products should be embraced as they create sustainability (Nathaniel & Jennifer, 2009).
Perspectives Opposing Genetically Modified Productions
Opponents of genetically modified products assert that, crops with altered genes are neither safe nor healthy. For example, some opponents claim that genetically modified maize plants are not safe human consumption as they can cause cancer. According to Keogh (2012), they believe genetic modifications and alterations have caused cancer in rats during development processes. Thus, human beings should neither be encouraged nor advised to consume genetically modified foods as they can cause health problems. Some of the food products also cause allergic reactions. Bachas- Daunert and Deo (2008) however assert that, the allergic reactions indicate positive improvements in safety testing of genetically modified products. Thus, the risks should alarm scientists in order to conduct further research and ensure future genetic alterations on food products identify undiscovered health risks and implement appropriate preventive measures.
The authors also claim that, evidence affirming the allergic and negative reactions are neither sufficient nor consistent. Thus, nations including France, Germany and other European countries should play the major role of ensuring genetically modified foods are labeled. This will guarantee consumers differentiate them hence, able to avid genetically modified foods in order to prevent associated health risks. More so, consumers’ fears of consuming genetically modified foods will be addressed hence, ensuring supporters continue to access their choices of genetically altered products (Bachas-Daunert & Deo, 2008).
Scientists forming part of the anti-genetically modified foods camps continue to argue that studies are being conducted to ensure safety procedures are neither shallow nor inconclusive. They are striving to ensure the scientific procedures capture simple and complex as well as short and long term effects of consuming genetically modified foods. They believe this will prompt other global nations to support production of genetically modified products as they will be deemed safe and healthy. Thus, opponents of genetically modified foods should acknowledge minimum regulations are implemented to avoid scientists producing the genetically products from being lenient and careless. They should also put a stop on claims seeking to describe genetically modified productions as unique foods with similar physical characteristics to foods produced conventionally hence, unnecessary (Bachas- Daunert & Deo, 2008).
Genetically modified productions are mainly opposed due to the safety concerns they pose to consumers. This has also led environmentalists to raise their concerns against genetically altered products. They claim that large scale production of genetically modified products resisting pesticides and herbicides boost chemical uses in order to deal with the weeds resisting drugs controlling pests and diseases. According to Solihu and Ambali (2009), they also claim genetically modified foods are designed in order to produce pesticides encouraging spread of drug-resistant pests, diseases, and weeds. This has led the agro-chemical industries to produce new and stronger herbicides and pesticides capable of killing resistant pests and weeds. Consequently, agriculturists are frequently changing chemicals by embracing the recently genetically modified crops replacing the older plants deemed no longer effective against pests, diseases, and weeds. Thus, opponents believe this has attributed to massive usage of chemicals in ensuring the genetically modified crops and plants thrive and grow. Consequently, they contaminate the environment in diverse ways leading to increased pollution rates. For example, water resources are greatly populated especially after rainy seasons as the chemicals flow to the water posing danger to human beings consuming it.
Environmentalists also claim that the chemicals kill soil organisms. Thus, they have played a major role of adversely interfering with food chains. They therefore believe causes of world hunger originate from embracing genetically modified crops and plants as they interfere with the natural environmental factors facilitating production of sufficient food products to feed the world. They should however acknowledge that, conventional production of food products also requires use of chemicals in order to control pests, weeds, and diseases. More so, conventional methods of producing foods face resistance on soil grounds which lead agriculturalists to record high costs of production. Thus, environmentalists should embrace and appreciate genetically modified foods as they are easy to produce. More so, their costs of production are affordable with a guarantee that the quality and quantities will exceed that of conventionally produced foods (Solihu & Ambali, 2011).
Genetically modified productions were invented in order to help feed the world’s population that continues to increase and expand. Thus, they were identified in order to increase agricultural yields while fighting crop diseases, weeds, and pests that were resistant to drugs. Although some world populations continue to suffer from malnutrition and hunger, it should be acknowledged that absence of genetically modified foods would be more detrimental. This is because a large portion of the world population cannot afford to buy food. This is due to complex economic, social, and political conditions adversely affecting peoples’ abilities to access money, land, and resources crucial in production of food. These conditions also determine who, how, and when world populations can access, afford, and receive food products. Thus, proponents and opponents of genetically modified productions should acknowledge that there are other issues to address besides concerns associated with increasing world population. This is because if the world population can share equally and fairly, the current food productions can feed everyone. This explains why rich developed nations such as United Kingdom continue to report deaths arising from hunger and malnourishment. Thus, the best method to apply in feeding the people should embrace genetically modified foods as they can be grown in developing and developed nations. More so, they are herbicide tolerant hence, affordable to agriculturalists from diverse socioeconomic classes as the costs of production are low. Genetically modified foods are also designed to use intensive farming systems especially among farmers in developing countries relying on small scale food production for survival.
In order to address the health and environmental concerns discussed by opponents, the following facts should be considered. Foremost, countries should invest in bio-safety regulations. Feeding genetically modified products to children, persons, and animals relying on diets of immune-compromised populations should be regulated. For example, farmers can be advised to ensure the crops and plants they rely on do not use chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. Alternatively, the amount of the chemicals can be reduced as some diseases, pests, and weeds need to be controlled. This will prompt farmers to identify farming methods that are safe in producing wholesome foods protecting consumers’ health, the environment, and landscapes. Thus, farmers should be supported and encouraged by giving them fair deals safeguarding their future. This will encourage them to ensure they produce genetically modified foods that are safe with higher nutritional values at increased quantities. Thus, the debate relating to genetically modified foods can be settled by addressing the moral and ethical dilemmas presented. This will ensure genetically modified foods safe for consumption are produced in large amounts to feed increasing world population without posing health and environmental dangers to people.
Religious leaders, agriculturalists, scientists, and scholars as well as other interested groups are still sharing their views about genetically modified food production. Although they appreciate the fact that technologies supporting genetic alternations play a major role of ensuring world populations do not die of hunger and malnourishment, they are keen to ensure human health is preserved. They are also keen to ensure the environments and landscapes are not destroyed and polluted. They should therefore acknowledge that, genetic engineering has the potential of solving significant issues associated with world hunger. This is because it boosts production of foods while increasing reclamation of productive agricultural land. Although everyone cannot embrace genetically modified food production methods, everyone should pay attention to the fact that this procedure is more beneficial than dangerous. For example, it ensures world populations access food reducing the number of death rates associated to malnourishment and hunger. Those concerned with the health risks genetically modified foods pose should acknowledge the risks are not fatal. More so, they can be regulated and prevented by ensuring the nutritional values continue to improve. Ultimately, people should rely on scientific evidence rather than raise their concerns and fearful arguments that are subjective in order to understand, embrace, and appreciate the positive roles played through production of genetically modified foods
Bachas-Daunert, S. & Deo, S. K. (2008). Should genetically modified foods be abandoned on the basis of allergenicity? Analytical & Bio-analytical Chemistry, 392(3), 341-346.
Keogh, B. (2012). Biotech crops’ seal of safety does not convince skeptics. JNCI: Journal of The National Cancer Institute, 104(7), 498-501.
Nathaniel, M. & Jennifer, M. (2009). Genetically modified crops: Africa environment outlook, our environment, our wealth. Institute of Development Studies Bulleting.
Solihu, A. & Ambali, A. (2011). Dissolving the engineering moral dilemmas within the Islamic ethico-legal praxes. Science & Engineering Ethics, 17(1), 133-147.