Gmo can Help Feed the World, Help the Environment, and Provide More Efficient Nutrition
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“The world’s population is growing by 1.10 percent per year, or approximately an additional 83 million people annually” (DESA). As the world’s population grows at an unprecedented rate. We need to find viable solutions in order to feed every human. Genetically Modified Organisms may be are only chance of doing so. The use of GMOs is a controversial subject with many, but the benefits outweigh the harm. They can be used to combat insects, weeds, and weather. However, that is just the start. Scientists are constantly working on ways to genetically modify our agriculture by enhancing nutritional properties. Consumers benefit from having cheaper food costs and nutritional benefits. Farmers are able to grow food more often and at a greater rate per acre. GMOs are an important tool that can be used to help feed the world, save the environment, and create healthier foods.
Before diving into why we should use GMOs it is important to familiarize ourselves with what they are. Science Daily’s definition of a GMO is, “an organism whose genetic material has been altered using techniques in genetics generally known as recombinant DNA technology”. Scientist normally aim towards implementing a new trait that in would never occur naturally. These traits can vary from making a plant resistant to insects, diseases, and droughts. To making plants taste better, grow faster, and be more nutritious. According to Harvard’s SITN the process of creating a GMO starts with scientists identifying the trait of interest. They then focus on that genetic trait and isolate it. They then use a gene gun or bacteria to insert the isolated genetic trait into a new genome. After that the organism must grow and replicate with the new genetic trait.
Ever since agricultural times farmers have been using GMOs by only using the most optimal plants and seeds. The difference between the prehistoric farmers and now is that we are manipulating the placement of genes in new plants. Giant corporations such as Monsanto are optimizing this process. However, Monsanto may be known as one of the most hated and evil companies in history. Many people have protested and boycotted Monsanto related products. This is because of many incidents were small farm businesses got squashed by this big corporation. Along with Monsanto destroying small farmers there is a common belief that GMOs are detrimental to our health. Along with that many believe GMOs can be harmful to our ecosystem and the environment. The sides of this argument are split fairly equal and research is still being done to uncover long term affects.
As world population grows at an astonishing rate we have to combat many issues. One essential issue for our survival is food. Right now, we are working on supplying third world countries with GMOs, so they can be more efficient in the way they grow plants and farm agriculture. In the world, “840 million people are chronically undernourished, surviving on fewer than 8000 kJ/day (2000 Kcal/day). Approximately 1.3 billion people are living on less than US$1/day and do not have secure access to food. Many of these are also rural farmers in developing countries, depending entirely on small-scale agriculture for their own subsistence and to make their living”
(JRSM). This is a major issue that must be brought to our attention. If we start supplying these farmers with the right science and materials many lives could be saved. This is not an issue that should be pushed aside for the future. Much faster than we think “In addition, the world’s population is predicted to double over the next 40 years, with over 95% of individuals being born in developing countries” (JRSM). At that rate without GMOs the amount of land and labor force needed would be unprecedent.
Along with just being starving many people are malnourished and are not receiving the right nutrients. With GMOs we are able to have success against these issues. Even though it isn’t a perfect strategy it is something, “GMOs with health benefits are not a panacea for eliminating malnutrition, they offer a complementary and cost-effective alternative when other strategies are less successful or feasible” (Science Daily). Along with providing third world countries with food, GMOs will also help them economically. Costs will be cut and farming will be much more efficient. Most of these countries will also be affected by climate change in the years to come. Many GMOs help combat droughts. Plants become less reliant on water and can grow in more strenuous conditions. Along with that, GMOs protect many plants from insects. Because of this less money will be spent on pesticides. This is both beneficial to someone’s budget and their health.
Along with the benefits of GMOs there are also many concerns. It is important to address these. It is a controversial subject because, “Many scientific data indicate that animals fed by GM crops have been harmed or even died. Rats exposed to transgenic potatoes or soya had abnormal young sperm; cows, goats, buffalo, pigs and other livestock grazing on Bt-maize, GM cottonseed and certain biotech corn showed complications including early deliveries, abortions, infertility and also many died (26-30). However, this is a controversial subject as studies conducted by company producing the biotech crops did not show any negative effects of GM crops on mice” (AJMB). The research being done is still fairly recent so many discoveries contrast with one another. Most research being done does not see any direct effects on health from consuming GMOs. All health issues have been brought up by correlation.
One thing to keep in mind as we go down the GMO path, is who is in charge of all this. Monsanto one of the biggest companies controls the majority of this sector. On multiple occasions they have been accused of suing small farmers when their GMO seeds fly onto their property. Monsanto then tests their seeds and demands royalties. The issue with GMOs is that, “GM seeds are living organisms that can replicate and spread with or without human intervention once they are out in the world. Even though government regulations demand buffer zones to prevent the unauthorized spread of GM seeds, these regulations vary from country to country and do not guarantee that seeds will not spread. All in all, the use of biotechnology in seeds turns out to be problematic because the institutional mechanisms of regulation, risk management, and ownership of GM seeds are changing the face of agriculture” (Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics). The use of GMOs creates interesting problems in the world of business and legality. When seeds can spread so easily and adapt it is hard to know the true owner. Proper laws need to be put in place to protect the owners, but also protect others from accidently growing a seed they never intentionally planted.
Helping aid world hunger is not the only use for GMOs. They are also a keystone in environmental prosperity. Most people think of cars and factories when pollution is talked about. It is not often understood that one of the world’s biggest methane polluters are cows. Farming takes a toll on the environment with pesticides. When population limits the space, we have. Actions will be taken to cut down trees and plow land to make more space for farming. But just like our health many people believe GMOs could actually have a negative effect on the environment. Some people think, “You simply cannot predict the safety of foreign gene inserts unless you do testing. Most GM food studies have been generated by industry and it is the industry itself with sole access to so much data. There is little funding of independent studies on the effect of GM foods, and those few scientists who have engaged in such studies and reported concerns are discounted” (Jeremy Gruber). It is important that we understand the effects. I agree that more private research should be done. It is a path that is hard to reverse so we should be sure once we go down it.
A case we an economy was saved by a GMO was in Hawaii. With the modification of a gene, “in the early 1990s the Hawaii’s papaya industry was facing disaster because of the deadly papaya ring spot virus. Its single-handed savior was a breed engineered to be resistant to the virus. Without it, the state’s papaya industry would have collapsed. Today 80 % of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, and till now no conventional or organic method is available to control ring spot virus” (A. S. Bawa). This is just one case out of many where an entire industry would have been lost if it wasn’t for GMOs. Jobs would have been lost and Hawaii’s statewide output would have shrunk tremendously. By targeting a specific gene and altering it researchers are able to make it immune to diseases and prevent attacks from insects.
A common belief with GMOs is that they are a cheap shortcut to making food. Contrary to this belief GM food can be used to help countries whose population lacks proper nutrients. GMOs recently have been studied and, “UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam, examined nearly 30 years of livestock-feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals” (Genetic Engineering). I do think it is important to keep studying for safety concerns over time. However, the evidence seems to be clear that GM food is safe to consume. In fact, it’s not only safe, but also may be healthier with food that has already, “been genetically modified with macronutrient and micronutrient traits that may provide benefits to consumers and domestic animals” (PMC). Scientists are able to target the most nutritional part of the plant and increase its supplements. This is not only done with crops. Livestock has been and is currently being modified to become better for our health and more efficient.
New achievements for mankind are always exciting. However, it is crucial that we are cautious in our journey with GMOs. If used right we can help feed the world, help the environment, and provide more efficient nutrition. Cross breeding and biodiversity have been a part of agricultural since the prehistoric times. By continuing doing so we can fight against changes in the enviorment and our population. With a crowded planet efficiency will be vital in our future. It is never too early to prepare.