Genetically Modified Food
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Genetically Modified Food
This is without a doubt, the singular most important issue of our time, for it has the potential, more than any other, to so radically alter our world and could have such earth shattering effects on our future we are only now begining to glimpse the possibilities.
Food is, of course, one of the most important resources to any living being, second to only air and water. The quality, quantity, and diversity of our food sources are of the utmost importance to our health and wellbeing. This is true not only on the level of the individual but also of civilization itself; history has shown that the quality and productiveness of the food sources of a nation or civilization is the key factor in its development and success on the world stage. For whoever can support the larger population will have the larger production capacity, military, and economic ability and thus become more powerful and more highly developed.
Since the time our ancestors left their hunter-gather tribes and took up the plow, farmers from every civilization have been trying to breed the best crops and animals slowly guiding their development for thousands of years. This was a slow iterative process which would only result in noticeable improvement after countless generations; I say was, because this is no longer the case.
With the advent of genetic engineering we, as a species, gained the ability to shape the very foundation of life into anything we could possibly imagine. No longer do we have to selectively breed for generations to achieve the plant or animal we want, with a bit of work in a lab genetic engineers have already been able make salmon that grow at thirty times the normal rate, cereal crops that produce their own pesticides, fruits that contain edible vaccines and even pigs that glow in the dark!
However, as we witness the fantastic expressions of our new found ability there are those who fear we have opened a PandoraвЂ™s Box, for life being as overwhelmingly complex as it is, we really have no idea what the repercussion of our meddling might be. As I said, we can bend life into anything we can dream of, but though our dreams may be beautiful they can turn into nightmares.
So here is my question: are the potential befits of genetically engineering our food so great that they outweigh the prospective dangers? To answer this I must first go into further detail regarding the pros and cons of this subject.
On the forefront of this debate is the matter of human health. This is an understandably passionate subject for many, after all who doesnвЂ™t want to be sure that their food is safe to eat?
Many worry that tampering with the genetics of plants and animals could have unexpected side effects, this concern was given a great deal of support when the agro-corporation called Monsanto announced that it had found вЂњunexpected gene fragmentsвЂќ in its вЂњRoundup ReadyвЂќ soy beans, these gene fragments gave rise to proteins that had been unintentionally modified and no longer resembled any known before, the resulting health effects of consuming these proteins is completely unknown.
However, when engineered correctly GM food has shown the potential to out way the health benefit of natural foods, the shining example of this is golden rice. Golden Rice was developed in 2000 to be a source of beta-carotene and vitamin A for the third world, specifically to cure child blindness, which results from a lack of these nutrients. Its successor came along in 2005, known as Golden Rice 2 it has 23 times the nutrients as it predecessor. Despite the obvious benefits of these crops, they have been met with strong resistance from anti-globalizations and environmental activists and are currently unavailable for use or human consumption.
Numerous concerns have been raised by environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, regarding the impact that genetically modified organisms might have on the biosphere.
The development of herbicide resistant crops was seen by farmers as a triumph, no longer would they have to worry about damaging their crops in their attempts to stamp out weeds. However, with their crops safe from herbicides farmers have been using more and more of these poisons which has created strong environmental concerns, as the amount of chemical runoff has greatly increased, as well as health concerns, caused by the increased residue on the crops when they reach market. An even more grave danger has been suggested, the spread of modified genetic material from gm crops to natural or wild plants to which they are somewhat related has been recorded on numerous occasions, many weeds are related to the gm crops and if the gene for herbicide resistance, for example, was to be passed to them