Genetically Modified Food as a Solution to World Hunger

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There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to genetically modified foods (GMFs). Often times when people hear the term, they get confused about what it really is. In short, genetically modified foods are foods created through unique organisms placed into the genes of a crop or seed. These GMFs can give plenty of benefits like a better taste or longer shelf life, and most people have probably used some of these foods without even realizing they were made with GMOs in the first place. Many of these GMOs have been able to create better, greater foods, and with that comes the thought of world hunger. GMOs seem like the perfect solution to such an enormous problem, but contrary to what you may believe, these GMFs could potentially make the world hunger dilemma even worse. GMOs are new in the science world, and there are plenty of possible problems that they could produce. These problems could be anything from food shortage to another causing cancer. Genetically modified foods are still in early research, and more often than not their cons outweigh their pros, especially when trying to do something as significant as feeding the hungry.

Genetically modified foods were only first introduced about twenty years ago, so one of the largest issues for starving countries is being able to get these “magic” foods. It can be impossible for these countries to obtain them legally despite the different ways to access them through buying, growing, and gifting. The reason is usually that of their overall cost and general location. Even if the farmers in these struggling areas are able to get these GMFs, they’re usually only for a certain animal breed to eat, or a crop for specific conditions. If a farmer is located somewhere where they don't have the right livestock or soil, then these “revolutionary” GMOs won’t be any help to them or their problems. Even if the area is compatible with the GMOs, competition is something very common in the farming industry. If there is an area of competing farmers where these GMOs would benefit their supply, it would be a competition for everyone in the area to get them first, This would create the same supply shortage issue for the rest of the farmers, which ends up leaving everyone back where they started before the GMOs were introduced. With GMOs being such a new product, there are many times where there are other, better options for the same job that these GMOs are doing. “Look at the claim that GM crops increase resistance to various kinds of diseases and pests by putting into the crop a specific resistance gene. This is untrue. You could just as easily produce pest-resistant crops by non-GM ordinary techniques as you can with GM technology.” (Journal of International Affairs, Tudge 136). Instead of spending so much of their time researching and supporting GM technology, scientists could be researching other, more natural ways to protect crops for a large audience. This change in research alone could do more help than GMOs are promised to do.

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With the theme of world hunger, many people argue that GMOs are a big step in solving the problem, but what they don’t understand are all the other factors that go against that very claim. The biggest problem has to be expenses. In a country where people are constantly struggling to get a meal to eat, it’s very obvious to assume that they don’t have a lot of money, well as Moseley puts it, “...this technology is sufficiently expensive” and “ is inaccessible to the poorest of the poor for whom food insecure is great issue.” (578) Being able to get these GMOs to these people sadly isn’t going to be done for free, and these people aren’t going to be able to pay for the technologies needed to help fix their problems. Moseley also brings up the point of getting a loan to pay for the technology. He states that “...given the nature of the technology, new seeds must also be repurchased every one to three years, making this a recurring expense. Most poor farming households don’t have the funds to buy these seeds, or are not seen as credit worthy enough to receive agricultural loans to buy them…Do they seek to use these seeds to improve production, while taking on the financial risk of a loan for an inherently risky economic activity such as farming?” (581).

Taking out such an expensive loan for something so experimental is a risk that no one in that struggling situation would want to take. If the GMOs fail for the farmer, it would not only mark the end of their career, but would leave them in an unimaginably worse situation than before. Another key point in solving world hunger is understanding the issue. As a whole, the planet doesn’t need more food. “As Hans Herren, president of the Millennium Institute, points out, the world already produces enough food and energy to sustain 14 billion people, a number which is twice the present world population...” (Journal of International Affairs, Tudge 138) The reason why world hunger is even a problem is because of where this food is located. In areas of the world where people are constantly eating the needed (if not more than needed) amount of food for their bodies, leftovers are being thrown away and spoiled. Stores will oversupply at times to ensure that they have enough of a popular item, and restaurants will buy more than they need just in case they get a few more big orders than they usually do. The hungry people in the world could gain much more from us if we focused on changing the way people use and waste food. In a perfect world, a more proportional balance in the distribution of food could allow plenty of starving countries to eat just as much as the rest of us.

As a whole, using GMOs as a solution to world hunger just leaves us in the same slump that we have been in for the past decades.Even when we aren’t talking about starving countries, genetically modified foods can cause a lot more problems than solutions. While it is nearly impossible to eat an entirely GMO-free diet, many people make the choice to personally avoid them. With such a short existence time, GMOs could cause a large number of health problems in the future. One of the largest problems have already shown results: allergies. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies in children under 18 years of age have increased; from 3.4 percent between 1997 and 1999 to 5.1 percent between 2009 and 2011.” (Healthline) In the past, different materials have been used in GMOs that have caused severe allergic reactions. In Brazil, a GMO containing nuts was engineered into soybeans which caused an allergic reaction to many of the people in the area. With nut allergies being common (especially here in the United States) it’s important that we monitor what is being put into these foods. “Others raise concerns about the transfer of specific proteins from one plant to another in genetic engineering. Proteins found in a relatively small number of foods cause most allergic reactions.” (Healthline)

Another alarming problem is antibiotic resistance. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), antibiotic-resistant germs infect two million people each year. Those infections kill at least 23,000 people per year. Scientists have been known to put these bacteria in genetically modified seeds which are later grown into crops. This could potentially cause humans to become resistant to antibiotics needed to help fight off illness, which could harm our population as a whole. One of the bigger threats though has to be cancer. “In 2013, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted a paper that linked the herbicide Roundup and Roundup-tolerant GM corn to cancer and premature death in rats.” (Healthline) The American Cancer Society along with many other researchers believe there hasn’t been enough research done to see if this could affect humans, which is unnerving to think about. While it’s impossible to prove for sure that our results will match a single study of rats, it's important to understand the potential risks. Even if GMOs haven’t given anyone cancer yet, there’s nothing proving that it can’t in the future. There isn’t an easy cure for cancer, and there are already too many common causes. Risking your life to experimental GMOs isn’t worth the risk until it’s proven to be safe.

All in all, genetically modified foods are not a simple solution to all of the world’s issues. World hunger is a much more complicated problem than it may sound, and GMFs sadly won’t be able to fix it. World hunger is already started to get more attention than it did in the past, but as we already know, there is still a long way until it’s over. While genetically modified foods won’t be a good solution for this epidemic, there are other forms of technology that could prove to be helpful. The amount of flaws in genetically modified foods can often seem like they’re causing more harm than gain, and in some cases, it’s true. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid them in entirety, it’s important to be mindful of them. Whether it’s world hunger or just a preferred choice, it’s important to understand all of the flaws in a seemingly “perfect” idea.

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