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The Safety Of GM Foods For Human Consumption

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Introduction

Genetically modified (GM) foods have been proven to be a reliable option in an ever expanding world in helping to alleviate world food shortages. Genetically modified foods first appeared in the 1930s and with the advancement of technology, they have proven consistently to be superior to non-genetically modified foods. By being able to provide more nutritionally valued foods, requiring less management and less time compared to natural foods. They have the potential to ease the pandemic of world hunger. In the midst of all this, there are also some complications that need to be considered. Some argue that genetically modified foods can be harmful and dangerous to the general public by being linked to cancer, antibiotic resistance diseases and food allergy.

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This essay will demonstrate that, despite these concerns, the case supporting genetically modified foods far outweighs the negative impacts. It will also argue that strategies and research should be expanded to limit the environmental damage and ensure that these GM foods are safe for human consumption. Genetically modified foods are able to more efficient and sustainable than non-modified foods whilst requiring less management and attention thus allowing more to be generated for both the farmers and the consumers. It is a method that began in the 1930s by exposing the seeds to chemicals or radiation to generate new enhanced traits but the modern modification comes from a range of organisms, including bacteria, plant or animal species (Diehl, 2018). Since then the improvement of both knowledge and technology have significantly increased the genetically modifying engineers capabilities to cross breed different plants to create plants that are offered by mother-nature.

One of the advantages offered is that GM foods can be engineered to grow bigger and faster than traditional breeding by using gene technology according to an article by Biotechnology Australia (Colbert, 2018). This allows for a faster production, more sales for the farmers and more nutritional value for the same price as traditional foods. This positively impacts both the customers, who on average pay less and the farmers who get to sell more product. Genetically modified foods also offers plants that are tolerable to herbicides and resistance to insects. According to a case study “ GM crops saved more than US$98 billion and saved an estimated 473 million kilograms of pesticides from being sprayed (on traditionally grown foods)” (Natasha, 2013) and there for way of proving that the positive impact from GM foods and how positively it is impacting them than the traditional foods (Gilbert, 2013).

The negative of traditionally grown foods is that they dry out and die far too quickly and easily. This is true especially for farmers in Australia as the majority of them are located in the centre of Australia with the “ 54 per cent of the Central West region of New South Wales” (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, 2018) which is coincidently one of the driest parts of Australia. Genetically modified foods can be engineered to tolerate extreme weather including heat, cold or drought (Colbert, n.,d). This will allow a steady flow of foods and income for both the customers and the famers and will lead to both being satisfied. Depending upon genetically modified foods as the food main source can be risky and dangerous since it is still relatively new and might have side effects. Since the method of altering the genetic modification only began less than a century ago, not enough scientific research has been done on the long-term effects on people but there are theories which suggest there is cause for concern. There has been animal research done according to the Journal Food and Chemical Toxicology which retracted a paper that linked the herbicide Roundup and Roundup-tolerant GM corn to cancer and premature death in rats (Xu, 2015).

Due to concerns about the paper, the journal’s editor reviewed the researchers’ raw data and the peer-review process. They found the researchers had used too few rats, the specific strain of rats was prone to cancer, and the results were inconclusive. This shows that there is much more unknown with GM foods. For example, studies show that food allergies in children under the age of eighteen have increased; from 3.4% between 1997 and 1999 to 5.1% between 2009 and 2011. Also In the mid-1990s, researchers examined a strain of GM soybean that was engineered to contain protein from Brazil nuts. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017) The soybeans triggered allergic reactions in people with Brazil nut allergy. Those soybeans never entered the market and aren’t sold to consumers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). The evidence is not definite that GM foods are to blame, with other variables to consider such as global warming or the ‘technology era’ leading to people to spend more time indoors, making their bodies less adaptable to their environment.

Theorists such as Egon Peter Koster from Utrecht University and Jos Mojet from Wageningen University & Research state that,” consumer research techniques are based on the implicit assumption that DNA from food joined together is safe truth is it’s just not, not yet”. (Kim,2009) This suggests that there might be side effects to the genetically modified foods and can cause long-term negative impacts and at this point in time. GM foods have the capability to help alleviate some of the world’s and help change the world for the better. One of the major issues negatively impacting the world, is world hunger and according to The Hunger Project there are over 795 million people who undernourished with Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin American and India this pandemic is estimated to take 36 million people lives. (Africa Hunger, 2018) Although the lives taken by world hunger are reducing each decade due to faster transport and better communication, GM foods can help reduce the number of people affected by it. One of the ways it could positively impact the world hunger problem is that it can be could allow foods to last longer. For example, the average non-genetically modified tomatoes on the counter last up to a week before getting spoiled whereas GM tomatoes can last close to 45 days before turning mushy (Lynch, 1997).

By increasing the lifespan of foods there exists the chance to transform countries for the better such as India that loses almost 40 percent of its annual produce of fruits and vegetables to spoilage to transportation (Tamjit, 2015). It has already positively impacted both 1st and 3rd world countries by reducing the overall price for foods by 10% and according to an article by Forbes by to increasing productivity by generating, “the equivalent of an extra 122 million tons of soybeans, 237 million tons of corn, 18 million tons of cotton lint and 6.6 million tons of canola between 1996 and 2012” (Tamjit, 2015). By doing so, it has increased the amount of the product and limited cost of the product. This proves how genetically modified foods have already positively impacted the world and has the potential to do more. Drought stress is also a major cause of reduction in crop yield in the world. In fact in the past 10 years, global food insecurity has been aggravated by the increase of human population, environmental deterioration, and climate change. (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, 2015) Places facing around the world that frequently experience drought throughout the year, such as such as Sub-Saharan Africa GM foods might be the best means of survival for the people.

GM engineers have been successfully been able to cross-breed a cactus’ gene which allows the roots to go even deeper to attract more water and linked it with tomatoes and still taste virtually the same as a non-GM tomato. (Lynch, 1997, pp. 61) with these innovations stricken places can be reduced the number of wasted foods from drought in places that struggle. This not only benefits the people in drought but helps agriculturally related greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosions by holding the soil and nutrients together than washing away in rain. (Colbert, n.,d) Changing the balance of mother-nature like with genetically modified foods can have a negative response to the community and cause new bred diseases. The theory of GM plants are cross breeding one or more genes into another to make a ‘super’ plant. For example, a corn plant with the genes of cotton that makes it resistant to bacterial wilt. The same principal is starting to show in diseases where some diseases that were prone to anti-biotics join genetically with diseases which are not, thus making them resistant. They have been, “well-established threat to human health” (Midvedt, 2014) and according the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, “at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections (2013) This conveys to the public that GM foods are dangerous and a threat to humanity with the amount of lives its taking.

Genetically modified foods can be uncertain and dangerous as the technique only began in the 1930s but is necessary to sustain the ever growing population on earth. There needs to be precaution and safety strategies that need to be implemented into communities to prevent side effects. According to an article by Royal Society although ‘GM foods have been proved to be safe for people short term, the public should not have it as they are main source of food until it’s been proven long term as well’. (World Health Organization, 2014)

Different strategies could be implemented by the government such as limiting the number of farmers that can grow GM foods in an area and to keep the balance non GM farmers, the GM farmers would be taxed more than them. This would prevent GM farmers to gain a significant advantage over traditional farmers and keep both members satisfied and benefiting both the government and farmers because there will be more of an economic flow in the community. Another strategy that could be introduced into communities is labelling GM foods with the gene that has been joined with. For example, labelling a genetically modified tomato, the manufacture gives a brief description telling the customer that the tomato has been combined with the lifespan gene of a potato. This will make GM foods less unknown to the public that may not have the knowledge on them and gives the customer more say on what they put in their body. With all these precautions, genetically modified foods might the most reliable and efficient way to feed the expanding population growing “at a rate of around 1.09% per year” and reduce the chances of global war and making sure less people to fall hungry each year.

In conclusion, genetically modified foods have proven to have some complications that has suggested to be harmful and dangerous to the public by being linked to cancer, antibiotic resistant diseases and increasing the amount of people with food allergy. After being introduced so recently, there is a lot of unknown that needs to be researched. It has also been shown to be able to give foods that have more nutritional value, less management compared to non-GM foods and already reducing the overall price for food and allows more economic flow throughout communities. With strategy, like informing the public better and restrictions introduced into a communities genetically modified food can be made safe and with the growing population it might have to be the most efficient way to reduce world hunger.

11 February 2020

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