Analysis of Genetically Altered Food
“Biotechnology involves any technique that uses living organisms or parts there of to make or modify products, to improve plants or animals or to develop micro organisms for specific uses”
In the past century humans have been lucky enough to stumble upon one of the basic building blocks of organisms, DNA. In recent years scientists have been able to develop ways in which they can manipulate, alter, and transfer DNA in forms that can help improve our lives. One way in which DNA research has been used to improve our lifestyle, is by engineering the deoxyribonucleic acid into ways which can alter food supplies to make them bigger, taste better, resistant to pests and even make them have a greater concentration of nutrients. Of course this is great news to the human population, but there are still a few disadvantages. With all the good news these altered crops provide for humans, concerns are still among people. These concerns include; whether or not these alterations will affect humans in a negative way, and what impact they will have on the environment. Although no one can know for sure., the effects of these genetically engineered crops are probably overstated. Bioengineered crops could play a significant role in increasing crop production which will allow the world to feed more people and do it using less land.
A recent study on bioengineered crops concluded that these crops are safe and can improve production dramatically. Those opposing the genetically altered crops state that “when altered DNA molecules are introduced into a living organism in the filed, the full range of their effects cannot be predicted or known before commercialization (over)."
In the near future, shoppers will be able to find foods that last longer, taste better and are more nutritious than the foods currently eaten. And an even greater variety of foods all year round. These products will be made possible through biotechnology, and some of them are already available. For centuries, farmers grew plants to produce special foods with unique characteristics: better taste, higher yield or greater resistance to drought or frosts. “History shows that five thousand years ago in Peru, potatoes were grown selectively. Plants, which produced potatoes with desirable characteristics, such as higher yields, were used to produce future plants. And more than two thousand years ago, tree grafting was used by the Greeks to obtain a more abundant supply of fruit in orchards (Scientific). “ Allowing farmers to find specific traits for their crops by constant breeding was quite time consuming.
Fortunately food biotechnology was discovered and now offers a faster and more reliable method of establishing new traits in plants to provide foods that are better tasting, more nutritious or more numerous in amounts.
Although all of this may seem futuristic, such crops do exist in the present. Not only have such crops been in laboratories for decades, but they have been in the market for years. Humans have only just begun to realize the benefits of these genetically altered foods. Genetically altered foods allow a wide selection of traits to improve upon. Some altered traits already exists in our fruits and vegetables, these include: pest, disease and herbicide. . By using biotechnology, plants that resist disease, pests or insects can be developed. This means that less chemicals are used, such as pesticides, are required. In the near future scientists will be able to make crops drought resistant (Society). Weather resistance Plants could and can be developed to better withstand extreme weather conditions such as drought or frosts. Bioengineered foods make crops easier to maintain and lower the cost in maintenance. One benefit of altered foods which is often forgotten is the Improved processing characteristics of these foods, leading to reduced waste and lower food costs to the consumer (Society). Foods are being developed to contain more vitamins, minerals, protein and less saturated fat. For example, fruits and vegetables with higher levels of antioxidant vitamins can be produced to help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. The world population is expected to double to more than 10 billion people by the year 2050. Food biotechnology can help meet the increasing demand for food. “By increasing a crop’s ability to withstand environmental factors, growers will be able to farm in parts of the world currently unsuitable for crop production (Scientic).” Along with additional food, this could also provide economies of developing nations with much-needed jobs and greater productivity.
With all that said, genetically engineered foods seem to have solved all the problems farmers and growers have had for years. Unfortunately all the positive effects of altered foods seem to mask the reality behind these perfect crops. Some of the disadvantages of altered crops include the possibility of mutations. Genetic engineering changes the nature of the food eaten. It can cause unexpected mutations in an organism, which can create new and higher levels of toxins in foods (Society). Genetic engineering can produce unknown allergens in foods. One awful thought is that altered foods may mislead consumers with unreal freshness. A luscious-looking, tomato could be several weeks old and of no nutritional worth (Society). Some foods may be implanted with the ability to produce antibiotics. Although this may help the plant, if these plants are infected with bacteria, new emerging strands of bacteria may become resistant to the most advanced antibiotics. Although the creation of herbicide-resistant crops would seem to have only positive effects, weeds would seen evolve to also become herbicide resistant. The spread of diseases across specific species may also become a factor because of a loss of bio-diversity in crops. When crops are altered for specific traits, they are then mass produced and are the only type of species grown in field of thousands of seeds. Because of this, the species will only be able to pass on to all generations the same DNA. Once released, they can never be recalled or contained. The consequences of this are incalculable.
Unfortunately the biggest problem raised from new modified foods is the fact that the public is unaware of how it works and the results behind the genetically modified food. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the genetic code in living organisms. About twenty five years ago, scientists began to understand how DNA worked and identified ways to speed up traditional breeding methods. Agricultural scientists today can identify the genes that carry specific traits they want such as disease resistance or better nutrient content and transfer those genes to a plant. Genes are the blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic engineering is the process of artificially modifying these blueprints. By cutting and splicing DNA engineers can transfer genes specific to one type of organism into any other organism on earth. Some of the products already on the world market that have been enhanced through biotechnology include:
- Corn, soybeans and potatoes that require fewer applications of pesticidesherbicides.
- Tomatoes that soften more slowly and remain on the vine longer, resulting in more flavour and colour.
- Soybeans that are lower in saturated fats, higher in oleic acid and offer better frying stability without further processing.
- Virus-resistant papayas that make the crop more dependable.
- Virus resistant squash
- Insect Protected Potato
- Capsicums that are tastier and remain firmer after harvest.
Genetically altered modified bioengineered food seems to have already changed the world today. China itself is expected to have half of all its fields growing altered foods within five years (China). Scientists have gained a vast knowledge of bioengineering and are now able to turn the Impossible into the possible. Genetically engineered food has brought a lot of commercial benefits; increased crops quality, harvesting quantity, pest resistance, herbicide resistance, nutrient supplementation and more. Not only have the crops improved, but more crops are produced in less space, perhaps even solving the world overpopulation problem. Although the benefits of bioengineering seem fantastic, like Pandora’s Box it might seem beautiful on the outside, but deadly on the inside. Genetic engineering might cause serious consequences to our future life as well next generations to come. Regulations more testing and labeling of products may be what will is needed for the new technology to truly be impressive.
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