The GM food debate - Sample Essay

The use of technology in agriculture has become the order of the day. Genetic engineering, an area of agro-technology is the most controversial way of growing crops. There are both advantages and disadvantages in producing GM foods. Genetic engineering techniques now allow scientists to insert specific genes into a plant or animal. Genetic engineering is therefore extremely rapid. The main objective of producing GM food is to meet the demand of consumers quickly and at the same time produce more to sell. (Reference: Textbook)

The appearance of genetically modified foods in markets has resulted in many public debates, scientific discussion, and media coverage. The main concern over the GM food issue is that genetic modification techniques raises the possibility of human health, environmental, and economic problems, including allergies to certain substances in foods, the spread of pest resistance and wild plants’ resistance against herbicides, kill wildlife, and increasing control of agriculture by biotechnology companies and organisations. However, there are still companies that continue with this practice.

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(Reference: SCOPE Research Group) There are, of course, organisations that support GM foods, as well as organisations that do not support GM foods. One organisation that is against GM food is the ‘Civil Society Organisation”. (Reference: Lim Li Lin, Institute of Science in Society) Together with other organisations, they wrote a letter the Government of the United States of America, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, requesting policies about GM to be changes.

In their letter, they asked that the World Food Programme withdraw its position of pressuring food-receiving countries to accept GM food and that they should return stocks of GM food to the donor countries and instead urge them to substitute non-GM food for the GM food already given. Secondly, they wanted the World Food Programme not to label GM as ‘safe’ but ‘neutral’. Another organisation is the ‘Union of Concerned Scientists’. Organisations like the National Farmers Union (Reference: NFU) and United States Department of Agriculture (Reference: USDA) the support GM foods.

Most groups seen on the internet are against GM foods and a number of reasons are given. Firstly, the problem is that GM foods cause problems to human health. Evidence showed that many children had developed life-threatening allergies after eating food in which a new gene had been introduced. (Reference: Study by Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) However, on the whole, with the exception of possible allergies, scientists believe that GM foods do not present a risk to human health. One scientist admitted that knowledge of the effects was still very little and more studies had to be done.

(Reference: David King, the government’s chief scientific adviser and chair of 25-strong panel) The next concern is environmental hazard. Some GM foods can possess new substances that require greater study than organisms produced by traditional techniques since long-term ecological impacts of GM is extremely difficult to predict or study, it was recommended that the authorities be careful with the release of GM to the environment. (Reference: Ecological of America) A study was done a few years back and showed that GM foods caused problems to human health.

(Reference: Nature, Vol 399, No 6733, p 214, May 1999) However, several groups have suggested that the experiment is flawed and studies are still being done. (Reference: Cambridge Scientific Abstracts) According to netscientist. com, there is no toxic effect In GM. (Reference: Shaoni Bhattacharya, From New Scientist Online News 16:01 21 July 03) The last reason against GM is that bringing a GM food to market is a long and expensive process, and of course agri-biotech companies wish to ensure a profitable return on their investment.

Yet people are worried that the price of seeds would be so high that small farmers and third world countries will not be able to afford seeds for GM crops, thus widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor. (Reference: Textbook) There are many reasons for GM. Firstly, the world population is growing so rapidly that we need to ensure that we have an adequate food supply for this booming population. GM foods will help us cope with the food supply. Next, GM foods are pest resistance and herbicide tolerance. Pests have caused farmers to lose a lot of money.

When pesticides are used, consumers may not want to eat their produce anymore, so the farmer loses more money. At the same time, the chemicals will flow into rivers and cause pollution. With GM, the plants would not need pesticides. The same concept is also in the case of herbicides. (Reference: Cambridge Scientific Abstracts [CSA]) Thirdly, there are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.

(Reference: CSA) Then, GM foods are also cold tolerant. When there is frost, the anti-freeze gene will help the crop to survive in temperatures where normal crops cannot. Drought is also a problem in many places and with a special gene, farmers can create plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil. Places that have be unsuitable for cultivation can now be used. (Reference: CSA) Fourthly, Medicines and Vaccines can be inserted in tomatoes and potatoes, which can be easily stored and be eaten.

Food could also have added nutrition like vitamins and minerals (Reference: Kurt Kleiner, From New Scientist Online News 18:42 10 July 03) According to newscientist. com, GM peanuts, tested on mice, could protect humans from allergies. In conclusion, I think that GM food, although attractive for its purposes, is still not safe for consumption. The long term effect is still not known and this could prove deadly for consumers of GM if an outbreak of a disease of some sort occurs. The environment could also be greatly affected due to the harmful substances that GM may contain. Until all information about GM is verified and is certified to be safe, I do not think GM should be used.

Some Sources: http://www. i-sis. org. uk/GMfoodaid. php http://www. ucsusa. org/index. cfm http://www. newscientist. com/hottopics/gm/ http://www. nfu. org. uk/intradoc-cgi/idc_cgi_isapi. dll? IdcService=GET_DOC_PAGE&Action=GetTemplatePage&Page=NFU_HOME_PAGE http://www. usda. gov/Newsroom/0033. 04. html Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Variation and Inheritance section.



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