Genetically modified crops; what are they? Crops that have been scientifically altered, to create a better species. Though crops can sometimes breed through cross-breeding, with genetically modified crops this is not the case. These crops have had pieces of DNA inserted into them to create a superior race. The reason we produce these superior species of crops are because they are often stronger, resistant to herbicides, quicker growing, and therefore cheaper to produce. That way, the community as well as the farmers benefit from the genetically modified crops.
The way these GM crops are created is through the fusing of a plasmid and a new gene. This is done through extracting cells or bacteria from an already strong plant, placing them in a solution that weakens the cell wall, and removing the gene from the cell. Then, the plasmid and the new gene are warmed up, causing them to fuse. Though GM crops are a way of ‘fixing’ previous issues that were in the crops, there is a lot of opposition to them. In the EU, they are currently illegal, but there have been discussions towards allowing them in the EU, but many people see the crops as hazards to our health.
So what are the pros and cons of genetically modified crops? The use of genetically modified crops can cut down the costs of producing immensely. The crops can be modified to be resistant towards certain pests, leading to the use of pesticides being cut down. The pests and weeds may be able to adapt themselves, however, and make themselves completely immune to pesticides and herbicides. This can lead to the pests and weeds being so strong, that they can cause extreme issues in the food production (ex. crops being destroyed by these powerful pests/weeds).
This is a long-term effect, and would not happen over a short time, as the genes of the pests and weeds would need time to evolve into these more powerful kinds. This consequence of genetically modified crops is extremely hazardous, as if we do end up with a powerful weed or pest, we might not be able to stop it. This will lead to the pests and weeds being able to destroy entire crops, and we would not be able to stop it. However, if this method of production succeeds, the amount of food available to us will increase drastically, and food may also become cheaper due to the money saved on herbicides and pesticides.
This would be an extremely good chance to make sure that the food crisis (predicted for 2013) doesn’t have a big impact. These modified crops not only have an effect on the weeds and pests around them, they also may have an effect on the organisms that eat them. There have been many studies around this kind of statement; and many theses about how dangerous these crops actually could be. One of the most famous studies about this subject is the study done by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini, who studied the way that the GM crops may affect people and animals that eat them.
Professor Seralini is the professor of molecular biology at Caen University, France, and performed a study, feeding lab rats genetically modified corn (Monsanto’s Roundup-tolerant Maize NK603) for two years. Though he came out with some extremely shocking results (there were reports of tumors, higher risk of cancer and a higher death rate), his study was waved off by the French national academies of sciences, technology, medicine, pharmacy, veterinary studies and agriculture. These academies not only spoke of his study being meaningless, but also scolded him for spreading fear and panic about the genetically modified crops. Given the numerous gaps in methods and interpretation, the data presented in this article cannot challenge previous studies which have concluded that NK603 corn is harmless from the health point of view, as are, more generally, genetically modified plants that have been authorized for consumption by animals and humans,” –excerpt from the statement that came from the academy, justifying their choice to disregard Gilles’ study. However, when looking at images from the study, the publics fear is justified as the images are truly gruesome (see fig. 2).
However awful the study done by Gilles may seem, genetically modified crops are not only altered to stop pests or create a bigger crop. There are many genetically modified plants in third world countries being modified to add nutritional value, and many of them are also being used to stop illnesses from spreading. Since 2000 there have been people working to be able to put vaccines for certain illnesses in foods such as potatoes, tomatoes and rice. These vaccines would be easier to transport, store and hand out than the shots that are usually given.
This means that there would be more people protected against illnesses than there are now, and stopping these diseases from spreading and killing. Another way that genetically modified crops would be able to help the third world countries is through making it easier to grow crops. As mentioned in paragraph 2, there are pest and weed resistant crops, making it cheaper to produce. This could prove to be an immense advantage for the third world countries, giving them the option to produce their own food, sell it, and support themselves and their families.
This would be an overall pro, as the country would have more money, meaning it could spend it on education, healthcare and other benefits. But how will these crops solve a problem? Will they really make sure that there is no food shortage? And along with that take away the diseases in third world countries? That would be a high hope for these crops. Though they do their job very well, they of course cannot guarantee 100% satisfaction. The amount of food that can be produced with genetically modified crops is very high, but it may not be all it is made out to be.
Though that is, of course, a disappointment, there is not much to do about it, and the fact of the matter is that the crops do increase the agricultural output. As for the situation in third world countries, the fact that transport, storage and the spread of the vaccines show that the genetically modified crops are, in fact, solving a problem. In general, I would dare to say that the genetically modified crops are an extremely effective way to solve the problems that they were designed to solve. Though these crops have pros and cons, there are different ways to look at how they may affect society and other aspects of everyday life.
There are an immense spread of moral, ethical, social, economical, political and environmental ways to look at these crops. So how do these crops affect these areas? When looking at the moral aspects of these crops, we can also look at the similarities of other issues; we use coal and gas to light our fires, yet it causes pollution. We use light atoms to make our light bulbs work, but also to make weapons of mass destruction. Moral aspects of modern technology are difficult to judge, simply because there are so many different sides to the story.
In this case, one of the moral cons of genetically modified foods would be for vegetarians; the fact that they choose not to eat meat or parts of animals is their decision. But if we start to produce genetically modified crops, modified using parts of animals genes, how will these vegetarians be able to stick to what they wanted to? However, genetically modified crops may also be seen as a moral plus, as they are in fact modified to reduce diseases, decrease the use of pesticides and add nutritional value, with that helping many people in difficult situations have a better life.
Economically speaking, the genetically modified crops are an extreme plus. Since being introduced in 1995, the economical status of developing countries has risen immensely, and that of industrialized countries has also risen (see fig. 3). This is due to the amount of food the countries are able to produce and sell having risen. As the economy seems to be benefitting from these genetically modified crops, when we look at it from that angle, these crops are definitely a pro. As I draw my personal conclusion from this research, I see the benefits of the genetically modified crops go above the hazards.
The pests and weeds that may develop, though they cause a hazard, will most likely be able to be stopped in the future, due to the advances in technology. The study done by Gilles was waved off due to the gaps and issues within the study, making it an unreliable source of information. When I look at the benefits of the genetically modified crops, I see that there is a lot of potential and there are many options that could be fulfilled, helping people throughout the world. In conclusion, I feel that genetically modified crops have a very good chance at being exactly what the world needs.