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When assigned this writing assignment I had no idea what “food biotechnology” was. I started by looking up the meaning for biotechnology and found that it means the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products. It was discovered in the 70s and has been used ever since. Food biotechnology is when these uses are applied to food. It has been used to create and improve new food and beverages. The microorganisms involved with this process include bacteria, yeast, and algae. It is used on both crops and animals. The most commonly used biotech crops include soy, cotton, and corn.
There are many advantages as well as disadvantages when dealing with food biotechnology. Some advantages include, fewer pesticide use, economic increase for farmers, and more affordable crops for consumers. Some disadvantages include allergic reactions and fear of the unknown.
One advantage when using food biotechnology is being able to use fewer pesticides. From 2003-2004 in the U.S. alone they were able to cut back on 62 million pounds of pesticides from the use of 11 biotech crops. This saves not only money for the farmers, but also helps the environment. The food is safer to eat for us, and will not harm animals. It also saves the soil and allows it be used more often. Biotech crops have also allowed farmers to reduce the use of tractors for tilling and weeding the soil. This cuts back on gas emissions and saves the environment from more greenhouse gases. Not only has pesticide use and gas emission use been cut down, land use is also being conserved. By using food biotechnology crops we can reduce deforestation. Biotech crops do not need perfect growing conditions and can tolerate more extreme ones allowing for soil to be reused instead of cutting down more trees for farms and crop use.
Better crop performance also leads to an economic increase for farmers. The net income for farmers using biotech crops has increased more than 27 billion dollars globally from 1996-2004.
When genetically altering a crop certain vitamins and minerals can be added to them making them more beneficial when consumed. This may seem like a small contribution but in the long run it will help reduce diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. Scientists have also been able to save crops that were being harmed by certain animals or environmental issues. They can genetically alter them to make them resistant to diseases and viruses. For example the papaya industry in Hawaii; the ringspot virus was affecting them until scientists were able to alter the papayas and make them genetically resistant to the virus.
Biotechnology has allowed crops to be produced that are genetically altered. This has made them more disease resistant, drought resistant, and their yield has significantly increased. Since more crops are being grown at a faster rate this has allowed for the cost of them to be decreased. This will help our population by allowing the price of produce to be dropped; which will lead to healthier eating, and can ultimately help lower the obesity rate and make for a healthier population overall.
When dealing with food biotechnology the fear is that genes can be transferred from other crops unintentionally. This can lead to unknown problems when consumed, one of them being allergic reactions. There is also the fear that in the future unknown complications may arise. Since biotech crops have not been around for a substantial amount of time it’s hard to know what the long term affects on humans and animals are since testing has not been done.
Another disadvantage when growing food biotech is that it may be harmful to the insects. One example found is from biotech corn, they have found that its pollen increases the mortality of Monarch butterfly larvae. This is only one of many possible insects that they can be affecting. There is also the fear of “super weeds”. These are weeds that develop a resistant against herbicides. These are all risks that are taken when growing biotech crops.
In conclusion I think that the benefits of food biotechnology outweigh the disadvantages. Living on a planet where the population is only increasing and the means of use are decreasing I feel like we need to take everything we have to our advantage. Good soil and proper growing fields wont be around forever. The growing seasons are shortening and the weather patterns are changing. We need to be able to adjust our needs to what is happening around us and if that means using food biotechnology then so be it.