Genetically Modified Food
12th grade, School of Government and Public Administration at Eastside High School
[2nd Place, 11th and 12th Grade Contest]
Are you an educated consumer about the quality and safety of the food you ingest? In the last few decades there have been significant alterations to the food system. Nowadays we have a so advanced technology that allows farmers to grow crops through genetically engineering. Genetically engineering occurs when the DNA from a plant, animal or organism is inserted into another in order to improve, generate or negate specific traits. Although this invention supposedly provides numerous benefits for consumers and there are no reports of illnesses due to genetically modified foods, there has been no adequate testing to guarantee complete safety of this new technology. In fact, GM crops enclose environmental, health and economic side effects that have been hardly discussed. Furthermore, the government hasn’t passed a law requiring industries to label GM crops before they are released into the market. The big question here is if genetically engineered products do not have a negative outcome, why doesn’t scientific research is done to prove the safety of it? Why aren’t GM products label? Is it really so hard to perform, or is just that the government hasn’t pay enough attention to this matter? We as consumers should educate ourselves about genetically modified foods and demand the government to fully test and label GM groceries.
Farmers who process genetically engineered foods claim that it requires fewer environmental resources such as water and pesticides. However, experts articulate that GM crops reduce the use of some pesticides while increase the use of others. For example, “USDA (The United States Department of Agriculture) data shows that the adoption of glyphosate-resistant soybeans has lead to a reduction in the number of herbicide acre-treatment, but an increase in the overall amount of herbicides applied to soybeans”. Also, according to The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops, genetically engineering presents six kinds of possible risks. They fear that GM harvest could become weeds or serve as conducts for them, facilitate the creation of violent viruses, present risks to other organisms, and affect our ecosystem in manners that are complicated to foretell. As of today, there have been no catastrophes about GM crops, but it doesn’t mean that there haven’t been minor changes on animal and plant populations. Maybe we can’t see it now, but if don’t take hands on this matter we’ll see huge environmental loses in the future.
There is also the concern that pollen from genetically modified corn could kill the larvae of monarch butterflies. In fact, “the widespread planting of Bt corn could threaten an estimated 50% of the butterfly population.” In 2000, the U.S. media published several articles about GM crops affecting the population of monarch butterflies. As a result, the government was forced to conduct further research on this. The results turned to be that only one of various Bt crops is lethal to the larvae of monarch butterfly. Although this kind of corn is not widely planted, little by little it could cause the destruction of monarch butterflies. Additionally, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) studies illustrate that “after eating Bt corn, butterflies might suffer deleterious effects such as delayed development, impaired reproduction, and altered migration.” Therefore, GM corn does represent a risk for monarch butterfly. And what’s so upsetting is that government didn’t ratify strict regulations so that companies are obligated to test their products before producing them.
When talking about the benefits of genetically engineered foods on human health, it is said that GM groceries are more nutritious than organic foods. Nonetheless, experts argue there is not enough scientific information to prove that genetically modified food is more nutritious than organic food. In fact, Rebecca Goldberg, a senior scientist at the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, said that “the food industry has confused consumers by exegetically promoting the benefits of bioengineering for a decade and, now that products are reaching the supermarkets, they tell shoppers that bioengineered food are not different from other foods. Moreover, there is an alarm that genetically modified products could cause allergies to consumers. For example, people allergic to peanuts could have an allergic reaction to potatoes that have genes from peanuts. In the same way, do you think it is safe, healthy and fair for vegetarians to eat potatoes that contain DAN from chickens? Is the potato still suitable for vegetarians? The answers are not clear, and perhaps there haven’t been any protests about GM foods because consumers don’t even know what they are buying at the supermarket. Thus, the government has to conduct further research to clarify if GM products could cause allergic reactions and if they are suitable for vegetarians. But more importantly, engineered food need to be label so that we can make our own choices.
Genetically food proponents claim that we need this technology to feed 9 billion people expected by 2050. However, The United Nation’s bodies do not support GM food as a method to feed the hungry world. In fact, some consumer groups worry that the price of seeds can be highly raised that farmers won’t be able to afford the production of genetically engineered crops. If so, third world countries won’t have the opportunity to produce GM foods and only wealthy nations would benefit. Therefore, if developing and poor nations can’t afford the production of genetically modified crops, then it is useless to argue that genetically engineering would be helpful to feed 9 billion people. Probably, for this reason “The United Nation’s bodies propose more sustainable agriculture methods and a greater emphasis on small-scale farming and social equity in developing nations.”
Genetically engineering is a global issue, but in order to solve it we must start working locally. As a high student, I propose to raise awareness of GM food in our Social Studies class. For instance, we could do deeply research and watch documentaries about genetically modified products. As a result, we would become more informed consumers and we could transmit this information to other people. Moreover, teachers could require their students to participate in the Science Fair with a genetically engineering project. In this way, more students would analyze and realize the positive and negative consequences of genetically modified food. As more individuals educate themselves about genetically engineered organisms, then it’ll be their choice to decide whether or not they want to consume these products. If we become informed consumers, our ignorance won’t allow big companies to benefit themselves while we suffer the consequences.
Genetically engineered food is a new technology that promotes injustice in many aspects. It damages innocent creatures such as our precious and colorful monarch butterflies. In addition, it’s claimed that genetically engineering will help us feed 9 billion people by 2050, but if third world countries can’t afford this technology, then where is social justice? Those individual would be dying of hunger while wealthy countries would be beneficiated. But even worse, the government and technological companies have violated our freedom of choice. When we go to the supermarket, we don’t really know what we are getting. We don’t know where the food we buy come from because the government hasn’t approved a law that requires industries to label genetically engineered food. We have to demand the government to perform further research on genetically modified organisms and make sure they are not harmful for our health, environment and economic. Maybe we couldn’t prevent the invention of this technology, but we could prevent its negative impact on the planet. It’s time to take hands on this matter and don’t allow big corporations to damage the living things on earth, since the only beneficiated are them.
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