The Known Benefits and Consequences of Genetically Modified Food
Around the world, there has been a difference of opinions on the idea of modified foods. Since modified foods have only been recently introduced, people are skeptical about modified foods being beneficial to one’s health long term wise or not. Throughout the world, there are people that have doubts about whether modified foods should be within the markets or not. They are concerned about modified foods as they do not believe for it to be safe for people to consume. Genetically modified food is food that has been produced from plants or animals, whose DNA have been altered. This process is done through engineering. Genetic engineering is where the genes from plants or animals are directly altered. This is where the transferring of genes from one organism to another happens. The main goal for genetically modified food is to help organisms achieve improved features that are favorable which they were unable to have on their own. Genetically modified food has both benefits and risks. Overall modified foods are seen to be a good idea because of all the benefits it brings towards society such as, nutritional and medical benefits from GMO crops, food production being increased and more consistent, and GMO foods being able to be resistant to adverse weather conditions and there are fewer uses of herbicides and pesticides being involved. Opposed to the benefits, there are also risks that are applied to genetically modified foods.
There are both medical and nutritional benefits from the usage of genetically modified food in society. With the ability of genetic engineering, food can be altered to have a higher nutritional value. Proteins, minerals and vitamin levels in their structure can all be increased allowing people to have a healthier and balanced diet “Genetically modified crops with an increased vitamin and mineral content have a large potential to improve public health” (Ghent University). With the ability to create more nutritional food through genetically modified foods, there are also diseases that can be prevented, “Other development focuses on enhancing the fatty acid profile so that crops produce higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, which play a role in protecting against heart disease. Biotech companies are also developing crops that have higher vitamins and minerals, as well as enhanced antioxidant content, which may help prevent chronic diseases” (Renee). Aside from genetic engineering altering the nutritional values of food, edible vaccines can also be produced with genetically modified food. Through a process known as “pharming” there is a possibility that vaccines along with other pharmaceutical goods can be produced with genetically modified foods, “An edible vaccine is an antigenic protein that is produced in the consumable parts of the plant (e.g., fruit) and absorbed into the bloodstream when the parts are eaten” (Diaz, Fridavich). With these types of vaccines this will help society in a variety of ways, “Such vaccines could offer a safe, inexpensive, and painless way to provide vaccines, particularly in less-developed regions of the world, where the limited availability of refrigeration and sterile needles has been problematic for some traditional vaccines” (Diaz, Fridavich).
With the further development of genetically modified food, this helps people medically and nutritionally, especially to third world countries who are unable to pay for high nutritional food and medicinal treatments. Aside from this genetically modified food are the most checked food to assure there are no risks and to assure that the foods have proper nutritional values, “Transgenic products go through more testing than any other foods we eat. We screen for potential toxins and allergens. We monitor the levels of nutrients, proteins and other components to see that the transgenic plants are subsequently equivalent to traditional plants” (Sachs). This extreme testing of the modified food excludes any chances of toxins and allergens being present in food. This assures that these type of food are safe and healthy to be consumed by the public. This provides beneficial nutrients for people and allows there to be a spread of good nutritious food. Overall, one of the benefits that are seen to be applied with modified foods is that fact that they provide many health benefits, nutritionally and medically.
Genetically modified food also allows an increase in food production and also consistency. With genetically modified food being used, it can possibly end world hunger as it is resistant to many environmental factors. Genetically modified food survives in more extreme climates such as when it is very hot. It is also able to resist insects destroying an entire crop. With these abilities, modified food is shown to be able to aid with world hunger issues, “In 2011, 160 million hectares of biotech crops were grown – that’s 10% of Earth’s arable land, and it was an 8% increase than the previous year” (Diehl). Statistics as stated, are showing that biotech crops were able to be grown more allowing more food to be provided to the world. This proves that modified food is on its way to help alleviate world hunger as it can withstand many environmental factors. These types of food as well also help to allow the economy to prosper. With genetic engineering being involved, this provides the economy with products for a cheaper price, “It’s clear genetically engineered traits that make plants and animals more resistant to disease, stay ripe longer, and grown more robustly in a variety of conditions are effective in reducing costs and providing economic benefits to food producers” (Diehl). With food being able to be sold at a cheaper price, more people are able to buy the products. With the increase of sales for these products, farmers are also able to benefit from the food production as they get more money. This helps the economy in both ways as the consumers are able to afford more food and farmers gain money from producing these goods. This allows there to be an increase in food production and consistency. There have been various studies that have shown how genetically modified food has created a huge impact on the increase of production on different types of crops of food. With herbicide-tolerant seeds being produced as well as insect resistant seeds being produced this helped with the average crop yield, “There is no doubt that average yields for corn, soybeans and other popular GMO crops have improved since that introduction. Among those studies is a 2018 analysis of more than 6000 peer-reviewed studies that showed a 25 percent increase in corn yields” (GMO FAQ). Overall, with the ability of GMO to increase the production of food at a consistent rate and at a cheaper price, this helps with the economy and third world countries that are in need of food. Genetically modified food is seen to be a potential lead in helping to end world hunger.
When there are crops of genetically modified food, there is also less usage of herbicides and pesticides. Herbicides and pesticides can cause harm to the environment as well as to people who eat the food that is being sprayed with harmful pesticides and herbicides. With genetically modified food, there is less exposure to these chemicals which help benefit the environment and people in many ways, “Farmers growing genetically modified foods do not need to use these products as often as farmers using traditional growing methods, allowing the soil to recover its nutrient base over time” (Ayres). This allows the environment to be less harmed with the usage of chemicals. The soil is able to regenerate the nutrients it has lost and is able to provide the plants that are being grown with more nutrients. Also, with the less usage of pesticides, this helps to prevent people from consuming these harmful chemicals, “Many people depend on groundwater for their drinking supply, yet, if that water has pesticides in it, it is unsanitary and harmful for the people to drink” (Jakuboski).
With the less usage of pesticides and herbicides in the environment, this prevents these harmful substances from getting into the groundwater. Unlike, traditional farmers that have to use pesticides and herbicides to prevent insects from ruining their crops, genetically modified foods are able to prevent this from happening in a way that does not need pesticides and herbicides. Pesticides and herbicides can also be hazardous to a person’s health as well, “After countless studies, pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, and even birth defects. Pesticides also have the potential to harm to the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system” (Jakuboski). The number of diseases that can arise from the exposure of pesticides and herbicides prove that they can be extremely critical to one’s health. With the genetically modified food being able to not use the pesticides and herbicides, this allows there to be a better and healthy environment when it comes to people consuming foods from the market.
Opposed to the fact that genetically modified food has numerous benefits that help the environment, society and the economy there are some disadvantages that arise with the usage of these types of foods. Critics have brought it into view that genetically modified food should not be exposed to the public as they are some risks with consuming these types of food. One of the risks that can be caused by GMO crops is antibiotic resistance, “Iowa State University research shows that when crops are modified to include antibiotics and other items that kill germs and pests, it reduces the effectiveness of an antibiotic or other medication when it is needed in the traditional sense” (Ayres). When humans consume these types of GMO crops, they begin to build an immunity to these types of antibiotics. This can make it difficult for people to get rid of illnesses because they have become immune to certain antibiotics that should be capable enough to help them. Another risk that comes along with GMO foods are, is that consuming these foods may increase the risks of allergies or food intolerance. After doing a study on animals when consuming these types of foods, they discovered that these foods may cause allergies, “In humans, there may be an increased trend of food allergies and digestive intolerance because of genetic modification” (Ayres). This causes some doubts because, with the consumption of these foods, there is a possibility that you may get allergies which do not happen with organic food. Also, GMO is harming the environment and endangering animals too. Animals are being harmed due to the crops of genetically modified food, “Bees are hugely important in the pollination of many food crops, but are unfortunately endangered by modern agricultural techniques, such as GM crops” (Glass). This is just one example of how genetically modified food begins to harm biodiversity. The technology of genetically modified food has also caused many insects to be killed which are beneficial towards the environment. Overall, with the benefits of genetically modified food, there are also risks that are in place.
In conclusion, genetically modified food had both benefits and consequences. It benefits the world as it allows more food to become more consistent and productive, it provides medical benefits and it also reduces the usage of herbicides and pesticides. The risks of GMO include, development of allergies, harm to one’s health and also causing biodiversity to become endangered. Overall, due to the number of benefits it brings and since there has been no evidence of long term effects GMO has on people, it is seen to be a good idea and is used around the world.
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