Argumentative Essay Topic: Genetically modified food should be strictly controlled due to its various detrimental effects on the environment as well as human health. Every time we go to supermarkets or any grocery stores, we would not know whether the vegetables, fruits or even meats being sold are genetically modified. To make this situation worse, most consumers do not pay much attention to what they are eating, when they are actually devouring genetically engineered food.
Despite of this ignorance, more and more people, including researchers, are becoming aware of the impacts of genetically modified food, and debate over the issue of whether genetic engineering should be stopped from modifying organisms has never ceased. According to a statistic from Institute for Responsible Technology (2007), 91% of soy, 85% of corn, and 80% of canola sold in the U. S. are genetically modified. In fact, analysts estimate that 60% to 75% of processed food commonly found in supermarkets and restaurants are genetically engineered.
Although genetic engineering technology in agriculture can help increase crops production, reduce environment pollution, increase the amount of nutrients in food, create pharmaceutical products, and slow down ripening process of plants, genetically modified food should be strictly controlled because it would create herbicide-resistant superweeds, cause genetic pollution, induce allergic responses, post risks to human’s health and have negative impact on other wild species. What exactly is genetically modified or engineered food?
In molecular biology, genetic engineering is defined as “the direct manipulation of genes for practical purposes” (Campbell ;amp; Reece, 2005, p. 384). In other words, genetically modified organisms have specific changes in their own genome, mainly by the process of introducing foreign genes or DNA into the cells. Organisms that have been genetically engineered are scientifically called as “transgenic organisms”, which are more commonly known as “genetically modified organisms” (Karp, 2008, p. 770).
Advocates of genetically modified food claim that genetic engineering could decrease the rate of environmental pollution by reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides (Cookson, 2008). However, there is no reliable evidence proving that the rate of pollution has actually decreased since the introduction of genetically modified crops. Instead, it is shown that they have the potential to instigate pollution of the environment. For example, the introduction of genetically engineered crops that tolerate herbicides such as Roundup-Ready soybeans produced by Monsanto would actually increase pollution (Halford, 2003).
This is due to the fact that farmers would spray larger amounts of herbicides and pesticides to kill weeds and pests, since they know that their crops would not be harmed by the chemical substances. As a result, genetic engineering in agriculture does not actually help reduce environmental pollution as my opponents claim; instead, it helps to increase pollution of the environment. According to my advocates of genetic engineering, crops can be genetically modified to carry various important vitamins or nutrients which are beneficial to human health, solving the issue of nutrient deficiency in poor countries.
They claim that, for instance, Golden Rice, which is a type of genetically modified rice containing Vitamin A, could solve shortage of this important dietary vitamin in various poor countries. However, Halford’s (2003) study shows that an adult would have to devour at least 700g of dry rice, which is two times the normal intake of 300g, to get the daily optimum amount of Vitamin A. This means that poor people would have to consume as twice the amount of rice as much a normal person would, and this is ambiguous and ironic since they would not have the ability to acquire large amount of rice.
Hence, genetically modified food like Golden Rice does not really solve the issue of nutrient deficiency in poor countries. Most researchers propose that genetically modified crops could solve the problem of food shortage and hunger due to the increased number of human population. Although genetic engineering might have the potential to reduce the cost involved, the production scale of the crops does not increase significantly; instead, the yield might be reduced. For example, the main genetically modified variety – Roundup-ready soy bean, yields 6%-11% less than that of wild varieties (Meziani & Warwick, 2002).
In fact, hunger in the world is not caused by lack of food supply and involves not just science, but politic and diplomacy. Hunger is in fact a result of poverty, and poverty in turn, is a result of dominance of developed countries over third-world countries, and I do not think that genetic engineering can solve this issue. Even if biotechnology can help increase food production, the power of dominant companies such as Monsanto will restraint the technology to reach other poor countries. Most of us would think that genetically modified food is under the safe testing and regulation of government agencies.
Even though regulatory procedures like drug tests would be carried out through research to ensure the safety of a product, genetically modified food’s safety is not adequately tested or regulated due to some reasons. First and foremost, those kinds of tests require strict guidelines, procedures and duration for safety assessment of the products. The real problem lies not as much in the scientific procedure of research and testing, but rather in the submission procedure. Thus, there are tens of thousands of analysis being submitted annually to government agencies – such as the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U. S.
Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency – for approval to be sold to consumers (Chrispeels ;amp; Sadava, 2003). With this seemingly endless research information submitted, basically what would happen is that the agencies would just roughly go through the papers and endorse the license for a particular product, without detailed scrutinizing, examination, and studies. Practically, the net result is that GM companies such as Monsanto Corporation would keep submitting their research and data, while the government, on the other hand, would keep approving the products, and this process in fact does not take long.
Another problem with the safety regulation system is that most companies’ employees and government regulatory agencies’ employees are surprisingly the same people. For example, Michael A. Friedman, M. D, former acting commissioner of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Department of Health and Human Services, is senior vice-president for clinical affairs at G. D. Searle ;amp; Co – a pharmaceutical division of Monsanto Corporation; and Linda J. Fisher, former Assistant Administrator of the U. S.
Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, was Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation before year 2001, and is now the Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (Koons & Butler, 2004). Hence, the safety of genetically modified food is in fact not adequately regulated, despite their possible negative impacts on human health as well as environment. Next, genetically modified food could cause allergic responses in certain people due to some alien compounds it contains.
These allergic reactions usually occur when human immune system interprets those compounds as invasive and offensive, thus react accordingly. Even though it does not happen frequently, allergy might be dangerous, or even fatal, to some people. Several studies have shown that genetically modified food does provoke immunological reactions. Rats fed with Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn, for example, have a significant increase in the amount of blood cells involved in immune system, which means that their immune system has been abnormally activated (Smith, 2005).
In addition to this experiment, it has been scientifically has proved that genetically modified soy has new or more allergens as compared to wild species. Trypsin inhibitor, a type of soy allergen, is as much as seven times higher in genetically engineered soy (Padgette, 1996). The problem becomes severe when people do not know their allergic responses are actually caused by genetically modified food they have eaten, and it is not an easy task for doctors or physicians to diagnose the actual cause since the allergens are subtle to detect in genetically engineered food.
Aside from human health, genetically modified organisms have serious negative impacts on the environment. One of those is the effect on pollinators. Most of the earth’s plants depend on insects for pollination and it is vitally crucial that agricultural activities do not disrupt this natural ecosystem. However, genetically modified crops do not fulfill this fundamental requirement. In 1999, for example, a study conducted by John Losey and team at Cornell University found out that caterpillars of monarch butterfly consuming pollen from genetically engineered insect-resistant maize has higher mortality rates (Halford, 2003).
Another important pollinator that is under the danger of genetic engineering is honeybee. Transgenic Bt genes from a well-known bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), have been used for decades to be transplanted into crops such as cabbage and broccoli. The purpose of this DNA modification is to control pollinators that damage farm crop. John McDonald, a beekeeper from Pennsylvania, found out that the unnaturally mass disappearing of honeybees, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, might be linked to the Bt variants crops (2007).
This disruption to the pollination system would cause austere effects on biological chain if research and study are not adequately done to ensure safety of pollinators under the influence of genetically engineered crops. Even though genetically modified crops are more resistant to pests and viruses, and could survive even under the harshest conditions, modified genes from genetically engineered crops can be transferred into other wild species, causing various unwanted outcomes. Transgenic gene from genetically modified crops can be transferred in various ways to different species, including plants, insects, bacteria and viruses.
Firstly, a process called cross-fertilization could transfer the transgenic gene into other wild plants, creating hybrid plants such as herbicide-resistant superweeds that might cause serious problems to farmers. For instance, farmers in Canada and Argentina have reported problem with herbicide-resistant superweeds in their genetically modified soy beans farm (Brown, 2005). Another issue with genetic engineering is the use of antibiotic resistance marker gene to manipulate genes for plant transformation.
This type of gene is meant to be integrated into the crops genome, and there is a certain risk of horizontal gene transfer from plant genomes to soil bacteria under certain conditions (Halford, 2003). As a result, antibiotic-resistance bacteria could thrive out of natural selection, which poses a really serious problem for the environment as well as human health. In fact, genetically modified crops that are resistant to a certain viral disease, might be more vulnerable to other types of lethal infections. They are not “versatile” in being immune to all kinds of diseases.
A research team led by Andrew Stephenson at Pennsylvania State University has found out that genetically engineered squash plants that are resistant to three of the most important viral diseases has higher susceptibility to fatal bacterial infection, as compared to wild plants (“Modified crops”, 2009). Dr. John S. Hagelin, a professor at Maharishi University of Management has once said: When genetic engineers disregard the reproductive boundaries set in place by natural law, they run the risk of destroying our genetic encyclopedia, compromising the richness of our natural biodiversity and creating ‘genetic soup. What this means for the future of our ecosystem, no one knows. (What do scientists say, 2001) What Dr. Hagelin meant by “genetic soup” is in fact a phenomenon called genetic pollution, which has much higher risks to our earth than the well-known environmental pollutions. What exactly is genetic pollution and how does it happen? From what I have learned in my Molecular Biology course, genetic pollution is the dispersal of altered genes from genetically modified organisms to natural organisms hrough various mechanisms, which pollutes or disrupts the original genome in the wild species. Unlike environmental pollution, genetic pollution can never be overturned. The reason is that, when a certain gene is lost in wild species due to gene transfer, the lost gene can never be recovered nor created. The net result is a serious pollution to the natural gene pool, which exterminates biodiversity in our world. A reported case in the U. S. has proven the fact that genetic pollution is on its way to destroy our Mother Nature.
Felix Ballarin, a yellow-corn farmer, discovered that yellow kernels were mixed in with the red ones; further DNA test showed that the kernels had been polluted by genetically modified strains (Miller ;amp; Kilman, 2005). From my own online survey conducted with people from all over the world (see appendix), 74% of the respondents said that they would not support genetically modified food if given a choice, 87% said that they prefer organic food over genetically modified food, and 65% do not consider genetically modified food to be safe.
From this result, we can conclude that most people would not choose to buy genetically modified food due to various reasons: it is not natural, has potential risks to human health, disrupts our natural ecosystem, etc. In spite of various benefits of genetically modified crops, regulation of genetic engineering in agriculture should be strictly controlled so that it would not create unwanted impacts on the environment and human health. Earth does not need us, but we need the earth; if its natural system is destroyed because of our own negligence, regret is the only thing that we could do Essay on Genetically Modifying Crops
For over two decades, genetically modified (GM) crops have been the subjects of numerous debates. Many arguments have been presented in support of and against the GM crops. In my opinion, the groups that support genetically engineering food have presented better arguments and have swayed me to their side. Using the web site “Harvest of Fear” as my only information and research regarding this subject, I have come to the conclusion that I do indeed feel that we should genetically modify crops. Our Service Can Write a Custom Essay on GM Crops for You! Genetically modifying crops can improve the science of farming in several ifferent ways. One way we would benefit is that by implanting a certain bug-repelling gene into crops, farmers are able to use fewer pesticides than with regular non-GM crops. With non-GM crops farmers have to spray pesticides five or six times before it becomes fully effective. This is a very time and money consuming process. With the GM crops, only one or two applications of pesticide are needed. This allows farmers to have more time to do other things and also saves money. Another benefit of using fewer pesticides is that there is less of a chance for the pesticides to contaminate near-by water supplies and irrigation systems.
Third World countries would also benefit from certain genetically modified crops. Crops can be inserted with a particular gene that facilitates plant growth in nutrient poor soil. Because the GM plants are able to grow in the harsh conditions, farmers would save money on irrigation systems and now unnecessary fertilizers. The GM crops also are more productive, enabling the farmers to produce more crops at approximately the same price. This helps their economy because they are able to feed more people while taking up the same amount of land. I consider genetically modified crops to be beneficial to our economy and environment.
It enables farmers to spend less time and money while producing more crops. It helps our environment by allowing farmers to use fewer pesticides. Our nation and others would defiantly benefit from the use of genetically modified crops. Genetically modified crops From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search Genetically modified crops (GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques, which are then used in agriculture. Plants are also transgenically modified in scientific research; see genetically modified organism for discussion.
Genetic engineering techniques are much more precise than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change. Other techniques by which humans modify food organisms include selective breeding; plant breeding, and animal breeding, and somaclonal variation. In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in this species. Examples include resistance to certain pests, diseases or environmental conditions, or the production of a certain nutrient or pharmaceutical agent.
Critics have objected to GM crops per se on several grounds, including ecological concerns, and economic concerns raised by the fact these organisms are subject to intellectual property law. GM crops also are involved in controversies over GM food with respect to whether food produced from GM crops is safe and whether GM crops are needed to address the world’s food needs. See the genetically modified food controversies article for discussion of issues about GM crops and GM food. This article covers GM crops and their use in agriculture. There are separate articles on other aspects of genetic engineering.
The genetic engineering article focuses on history and methods of genetic engineering, and on applications of genetic engineering and of GMOs. The article on GMOs focuses on what organisms have been genetically engineered and for what purposes. The two articles cover much of the same ground but with different organizations (sorted by application in the genetic engineering article; sorted by organism in the GMO article). There are separate articles on genetically modified food itself, regulation, and controversies. Contents [hide] * 1 Gene flow in plants * 2 History * 3 Methods * 3. Flavr Savr tomato * 3. 2 Glyphosate resistance * 3. 3 Types of genetic engineering * 3. 4 Business of GM Crops * 3. 5 Uses, actual and proposed * 3. 5. 1 Improved shelf life * 3. 5. 2 Improved nutrition * 3. 5. 3 Stress resistance * 3. 5. 4 Herbicide resistance * 3. 5. 5 Pathogen resistance – insects or viruses * 3. 5. 6 Production of biofuels * 3. 5. 7 Production of useful by-products * 3. 5. 7. 1 Drugs * 3. 5. 7. 2 Materials * 3. 5. 8 Bioremediation * 3. 6 Extent of worldwide use of GM crops * 3. Examples of genetically modified crops * 3. 8 Effects on farming practices * 3. 8. 1 Managing emergence of resistance * 3. 9 Regulation * 3. 10 Controversy|  Gene flow in plants Scientists first discovered that DNA naturally transfers between organisms in 1946.  It is now known that there are several natural mechanisms for flow of genes, or (horizontal gene transfer), and that these occur in nature on a large scale – for example, it is a major mechanism for antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria, and it occurs between plant species. 3] This is facilitated by transposons, retrotransposons, proviruses and other mobile genetic elements that naturally translocate to new sites in a genome.  They often move to new species over an evolutionary time scale and play a major role in dynamic changes to chromosomes during evolution.  The introduction of foreign germplasm into crops has been achieved by traditional crop breeders by artificially overcoming fertility barriers. A hybrid cereal was created in 1875, by crossing wheat and rye. 9] Since then important traits have been introduced into wheat, including dwarfing genes and rust resistance.  Plant tissue culture and the induction of mutations have also enabled humans to artificially alter the makeup of plant genomes.   History Main article: History of genetic engineering The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1982, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant.  The first field trials of genetically engineered plants occurred in France and the USA in 1986, when tobacco plants were engineered to be resistant to herbicides. 14] In 1987, Plant Genetic Systems (Ghent, Belgium), founded by Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell, was the first company to develop genetically engineered (tobacco) plants with insect tolerance by expressing genes encoding for insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).  The People’s Republic of China was the first country to allow commercialized transgenic plants, introducing a virus-resistant tobacco in 1992.  The first genetically modified crop approved for sale in the U. S. , in 1994, was the FlavrSavr tomato, which had a longer shelf life. 17] In 1994, the European Union approved tobacco engineered to be resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, making it the first commercially genetically engineered crop marketed in Europe.  In 1995, Bt Potato was approved safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, making it the first pesticide producing crop to be approved in the USA.  The following transgenic crops also received marketing approval in the US in 1995: canola with modified oil composition (Calgene), Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn/maize (Ciba-Geigy), cotton esistant to the herbicide bromoxynil (Calgene), Bt cotton (Monsanto), soybeans resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (Monsanto), virus-resistant squash (Asgrow), and additional delayed ripening tomatoes (DNAP, Zeneca/Peto, and Monsanto).  As of mid-1996, a total of 35 approvals had been granted to commercially grow 8 transgenic crops and one flower crop of carnations, with 8 different traits in 6 countries plus the EU.  In 2000, with the production of golden rice, scientists genetically modified food to increase its nutrient value for the first time.  Methods Main article: Genetic engineering#Process
Plants (Solanum chacoense) being transformed using agrobacterium A genetically engineered plants is generated in a laboratory by altering its genetic makeup. This is usually done by adding one or more genes to a plant’s genome using genetic engineering techniques. Most genetically modified plants are generated by the biolistic method (particle gun) or by Agrobacterium tumefaciens mediated transformation. Plant scientists, backed by results of modern comprehensive profiling of crop composition, point out that crops modified using GM techniques are less likely to have unintended changes than are conventionally bred crops. 20] In research tobacco and Arabidopsis thaliana are the most genetically modified plants, due to well developed transformation methods, easy propagation and well studied genomes.  They serve as model organisms for other plant species. In the biolistic method, DNA is bound to tiny particles of gold or tungsten which are subsequently shot into plant tissue or single plant cells under high pressure. The accelerated particles penetrate both the cell wall and membranes. The DNA separates from the metal and is integrated into plant genome inside the nucleus.
This method has been applied successfully for many cultivated crops, especially monocots like wheat or maize, for which transformation using Agrobacterium tumefaciens has been less successful.  The major disadvantage of this procedure is that serious damage can be done to the cellular tissue. Agrobacteria are natural plant parasites, and their natural ability to transfer genes provides another method for the development of genetically engineered plants. To create a suitable environment for themselves, these Agrobacteria insert their genes into plant osts, resulting in a proliferation of plant cells near the soil level (crown gall). The genetic information for tumour growth is encoded on a mobile, circular DNA fragment (plasmid). When Agrobacterium infects a plant, it transfers this T-DNA to a random site in the plant genome. When used in genetic engineering the bacterial T-DNA is removed from the bacterial plasmid and replaced with the desired foreign gene. The bacterium is a vector, enabling transportation of foreign genes into plants. This method works especially well for dicotyledonous plants like potatoes, tomatoes, and tobacco.
Agrobacteria infection is less successful in crops like wheat and maize. Introducing new genes into plants requires a promoter specific to the area where the gene is to be expressed. For instance, if we want the gene to be expressed only in rice grains and not in leaves, then an endosperm-specific promoter would be used. The codons of the gene must also be optimized for the organism due to codon usage bias. The transgenic gene products should also be able to be denatured by heat so that they are destroyed during cooking.  Flavr Savr tomato
The first commercialised genetically modified plants (Flavr Savr tomatoes) used RNAi technology, where the inserted DNA matched an endogenous gene already in the plant. When the inserted gene is expressed it can repress the translation of the endogenous protein. Host delivered RNAi systems are being developed, where the plant will express RNA that will interfere with insects, nematodes and other parasites protein synthesis.  This may provide a novel way of protecting plants from pests.  Glyphosate resistance One of the most famous kinds of GM crops are “Roundup Ready”, or glyphosate-resistant.
Glyphosate, (the active ingredient in Roundup) kills plants by interfering with the shikimate pathway in plants, which is essential for the synthesis of the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. More specifically, glyphosate inhibits the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS). The shikimate pathway is not present in animals, which instead obtain aromatic amino acids from their diet. Some micro-organisms have a version of EPSPS that is resistant to glyphosate inhibition. One of these was isolated from an Agrobacterium strain CP4 (CP4 EPSPS) that was resistant to glyphosate. 25] This CP4 EPSPS gene was cloned and transfected into soybeans. The CP4 EPSPS gene was engineered for plant expression by fusing the 5′ end of the gene to a chloroplast transit peptide derived from the petunia EPSPS. This transit peptide was used because it had shown previously an ability to deliver bacterial EPSPS to the chloroplasts of other plants. The plasmid used to move the gene into soybeans was PV-GMGTO4. It contained three bacterial genes, two CP4 EPSPS genes, and a gene encoding beta-glucuronidase (GUS) from Escherichia coli as a marker. The DNA was injected into the soybeans using the particle acceleration method.
Soybean cultivar A54O3 was used for the transformation. The expression of the GUS gene was used as the initial evidence of transformation. GUS expression was detected by a staining method in which the GUS enzyme converts a substrate into a blue precipitate. Those plants that showed GUS expression were then taken and sprayed with glyphosate, and their tolerance was tested over many generations.  Types of genetic engineering Transgenic maize containing a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis Transgenic plants have genes inserted into them that are derived from another species.
The inserted genes can come from species within the same kingdom (plant to plant) or between kingdoms (bacteria to plant). In many cases the inserted DNA has to be modified slightly in order to correctly and efficiently express in the host organism. Transgenic plants are used to express proteins like the cry toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis, herbicide resistant genes and antigens for vaccinations Transgenic carrots have been used to produce the drug Taliglucerase alfa which is used to treat Gaucher’s disease. 28] In the laboratory, transgenic plants have been modified to increase their photosynthesis (currently about 2% at most plants to the theoretic potential of 9-10%.  This is possible by changing the rubisco enzyme (i. e. changing C3 plants into C4 plants), by placing the rubisco in a carboxysome, by adding CO2 pumps in the cell wall, by changing the leaf form/size.  Still other transgenic plants have been modified to fixate ambient nitrogen in the plant.  Cisgenic plants are made using genes found within the same species or a closely related one, where conventional plant breeding can occur.
Some breeders and scientists argue that cisgenic modification is useful for plants that are difficult to crossbreed by conventional means (such as potatoes), and that plants in the cisgenic category should not require the same level of legal regulation as other genetically modified organisms.   Business of GM Crops The global value of biotech seed alone was US$13. 2 billion in 2011, with the end product of commercial grain from biotech maize, soybean grain and cotton valued at ~US$160 billion or more per year. 39] GM crops are not just created to be resistant to negative factors; they are also created to be non-reproducing. That is, many GM foods are altered so that the plants cannot produce seeds, and new seeds must be planted for each growth. As a result, farmers who use such GM seeds are forced to purchase new seeds continually. When seeds are patented by a company like Monsanto, farmers can only buy such seeds from Monsanto. Therefore, GM crops are helping to create seed monopolies whereby Monsanto is the only owner of seeds that farmers must continually purchase at whatever prices Monsanto decides to sell by.
It’s already in practice that farms that have been found to contain patented seeds (when the farmer did not purchase the seeds, and the seeds naturally strayed via wind and bees to the farms) are legally stolen by Monsanto from the farmer for patent infringement. The next plausible outcome of such abusive legal practices would be the forced spraying of pesticides over all U. S. land, creating a situation whereby all non-GM crops die, and farmers are forced to purchase the GM seeds whether they want to or not.
Players in agriculture business markets include seed companies, agrochemical companies, distributors, farmers, grain elevators, and universities that develop new crops and whose agricultural extensions advise farmers on best practices. The largest share of the GMO crops planted globally are from seed created by the United States firm Monsanto.  In 2007, Monsanto’s trait technologies were planted on 246 million acres (1,000,000 km2) throughout the world, a growth of 13 percent from 2006. However, patents on the first Monsanto products to enter the marketplace will begin to expire in 2014, democratizing Monsanto products.
Syngenta, Dupont (especially via its Pioneer Hi-Bred subsidiary, and Bayer CropScience are also major players in the US and Europe. In addition, a 2007 report from the European Joint Research Commission predicts that by 2015, more than 40 per cent of new GM plants entering the global marketplace will have been developed in Asia.  In the corn market, Monsanto’s triple-stack corn—which combines Roundup Ready 2-weed control technology with YieldGard (Bt) Corn Borer and YieldGard Rootworm insect control—is the market leader in the United States.
U. S. corn farmers planted more than 32 million acres (130,000 km2) of triple-stack corn in 2008, and it is estimated the product could be planted on 56 million acres (230,000 km2) in 2014–2015. In the cotton market, Bollgard II with Roundup Ready Flex was planted on approximately 5 million acres (20,000 km2) of U. S. cotton in 2008.  According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), in 2010 approximately 15 million farmers grew biotech crops in 29 countries.
Over 90% of the farmers were resource-poor in developing countries.  6. 5 million farmers in China and 6. 3 million small farmers in India grew biotech crops (mostly Bacillus thuringiensis cotton). The Philippines, South Africa (biotech cotton, maize, and soybeans often grown by subsistence women farmers) and another twelve developing countries also grew biotech crops in 2009.  10 million more small and resource-poor farmers may have been secondary beneficiaries of Bt cotton in China.  Uses, actual and proposed
GM crops grown today, or under experimental development, have been modified with traits intended to provide benefit to farmers, consumers, or industry. These traits include improved shelf life, disease resistance, stress resistance, herbicide resistance, pest resistance, production of useful goods such as biofuel or drugs, and ability to absorb toxins, for use in bioremediation of pollution. Due to high regulatory and research costs, the majority of genetically modified crops in agriculture consist of commodity crops, such as soybean, maize, cotton and rapeseed. 46] Recently, some research and development has been targeted to enhancement of crops that are locally important in developing countries, such as insect-resistant cowpea for Africa and insect-resistant brinjal (eggplant) for India.   Improved shelf life The first genetically modified crop approved for sale in the U. S. was the FlavrSavr tomato, which had a longer shelf life.  It is no longer on the market.  Improved nutrition The GM oilseed crops on the market today offer improved oil profiles for processing or healthier edible oils. 50] The GM crops in development offer a wider array of environmental and consumer benefits such as nutritional enhancement and drought and stress tolerance. GM plants are being developed by both private companies and public research institutions such as CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.  Other examples include a genetically modified cassava with lower cyanogen glucosides and enhanced with protein and other nutrients, while golden rice, developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has been discussed as a possible cure for Vitamin A deficiency. 53] An international group of academics has generated a vitamin-enriched corn derived from South African white corn variety M37W with 169x increase in beta carotene, 6x the vitamin C and 2x folate – it is not in production anywhere, but proves that this can be done.   Stress resistance Plants engineered to tolerate non-biological stresses like drought, frost and nitrogen starvation or with increased nutritional value (e. g. Golden rice) were in development in 2011.  Herbicide resistance Tobacco plants have been engineered to be resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil. 18] And many crops have created that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. As weeds have grown resistant to glyphosate and other herbicides used in concert with resistant GM crops, companies are developing crops engineered to become resistant to multiple herbicides to allow farmers to use a mixed group of two, three, or four different chemicals.   Pathogen resistance – insects or viruses Tobacco, and may other crops, have been generated that express genes encoding for insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). 19] Papaya, potatoes, and squash have been engineered to resist viral pathogens, such as cucumber mosaic virus which despite its name infects a wide variety of plants.  Production of biofuels Algae, both hybrid and GM, is under development by several companies for the production of biofuels.  Jatropha has also been modified to improve its qualities for fuel product. Swiss-based Syngenta has received USDA approval to market a maize seed trademarked Enogen, which has been genetically modified to convert its own starch to sugar to speed the process of making ethanol for biofuel. 65]  Production of useful by-products  Drugs Bananas have been developed, but are not in production, that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B.  Tobacco plants have been developed and studied, but are not in production, that can produce therapeutic antibodies.   Materials Several companies and labs are working on engineering plants that can be used to make bioplastics.  Potatoes that produce more industrially useful starches have been developed as well.   Bioremediation
Scientists at the University of York developed a weed (Arabidopsis thaliana) that contains genes from bacteria that can clean up TNT and RDX-explosive contaminants from the soil: It was hoped that this weed would eliminate this pollution.  16 million hectares in the USA (1. 5% of the total surface) are estimated to be contaminated with TNT and RDX. However the weed Arabidopsis thaliana was not tough enough to withstand the environment on military test grounds and research is continuing with the University of Washington to develop a tougher native grass. 71] Genetically modified plants have also been used for bioremediation of contaminated soils. Mercury, selenium and organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), TNT and RDX explosive contaminants have been removed from soils by transgenic plants containing genes for bacterial enzymes.   Extent of worldwide use of GM crops Country| 2010- planted area (million hectares)| 2009 – Agriculture area (million hectares) | Percentage of agriculture area with GM crops| Biotech crops| USA| 66. 8| 403| 16. 56%| Soybean, Maize, Cotton, Canola, Squash, Papaya, Alfalfa, Sugarbeet| Brazil| 25. | 265| 9. 60%| Soybean, Maize, Cotton| Argentina| 22. 9| 141| 16. 30%| Soybean, Maize, Cotton| India| 9. 4| 180| 5. 22%| Cotton| Canada| 8. 8| 68| 13. 02%| Maize, Soybean, Canola, Sugarbeet| Rest of the world| 14. 7| 3,883| 0. 38%| —-| In the United States, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports on the total area of GMO varieties planted.  According to National Agricultural Statistics Service, the states published in these tables represent 81–86 percent of all corn planted area, 88–90 percent of all soybean planted area, and 81–93 percent of all upland cotton planted area (depending on the year).
USDA does not collect data for global area. Estimates are produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and can be found in the report, “Global Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2007”.  Farmers have widely adopted GM technology (see figure). Between 1996 and 2011, the total surface area of land cultivated with GM crops had increased by a factor of 94, from 17,000 square kilometers (4,200,000 acres) to 1,600,000 km2 (395 million acres). 39] 10% of the world’s crop lands were planted with GM crops in 2010.  As of 2011, 11 different transgenic crops were grown commercially on 395 million acres (160 million hectares) in 29 countries such as the USA, Brazil, Argentina, India, Canada, China, Paraguay, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay, Bolivia, Australia, Philippines, Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Mexico and Spain.  One of the key reasons for this widespread adoption is the perceived economic benefit the technology brings to farmers.
For example, the system of planting glyphosate-resistant seed and then applying glyphosate once plants emerged provided farmers with the opportunity to dramatically increase the yield from a given plot of land, since this allowed them to plant rows closer together.  Without it, farmers had to plant rows far enough apart to control post-emergent weeds with mechanical tillage.  Likewise, using Bt seeds means that farmers do not have to purchase insecticides, and then invest time, fuel, and equipment in applying them. However critics have disputed whether yields are higher and whether chemical use is less, with GM crops.
See Genetically modified food controversies article for information. Land area used for genetically modified crops by country (1996-2009), in millions of hectares. In 2011, the land area used was 160 million hectares, or 1. 6 million square kilometers.  In the US, by 2009/10, 93% of the planted area of soybeans, 93% of cotton, 86% of corn and 95% of the sugar beet were genetically modified varieties.  Genetically modified soybeans carried herbicide-tolerant traits only, but maize and cotton carried both herbicide tolerance and insect protection traits (the latter largely the Bacillus thuringiensis Bt insecticidal protein). 82] These constitute “input-traits” which are aimed to financially benefit the producers, but may have indirect environmental benefits and marginal cost benefits to consumers. The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimated in 2003 that 70-75% of all processed foods in the U. S. contained a GM ingredient.  Europe has relatively few genetically engineered crops with the exception of Spain where one fifth of maize grown is genetically engineered, and smaller amounts in five other countries.  The EU had a ‘de facto’ ban on the approval of new GM crops, from 1999 until 2004; in a controversial move. 88] GM crops are now regulated by the EU.  Developing countries grew 50 percent of genetically engineered crops in 2011.  In recent years there has been rapid growth in the area sown in developing countries. A total of 29 countries worldwide grew GM crops in 2011 by approximately 16. 7 million farmers and 50% of GM crops grown worldwide were grown in developing countries. For example, the largest increase in crop area planted to GM crops in 2011 was in Brazil (303,000 km2 versus 254,000 km2 in 2010).
There has also been rapid and continuing expansion of GM cotton varieties in India since 2002 with 106,000 km2 of GM cotton harvested in India in 2011.  However the use of GM crops in India has been controversial, as discussed in detail in the GM controversies article. According to the 2011 ISAAA brief: “While 29 countries planted commercialized biotech crops in 2010, an additional 31 countries, totaling 60 have granted regulatory approvals for biotech crops for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment since 1996….
A total of 1,045 approvals have been granted for 196 events (NB: an “event” is a specific genetic modification in a specific species) for 25 crops. Thus, biotech crops are accepted for import for food and feed use and for release into the environment in 60 countries, including major food importing countries like Japan, which do not plant biotech crops. Of the 60 countries that have granted approvals for biotech crops, USA tops the list followed by Japan, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, the European Union, and Taiwan.
Maize has the most events approved (65) followed by cotton (39), canola (15), potato and soybean (14 each). The event that has received regulatory approval in most countries is herbicide tolerant soybean event GTS-40-3-2 with 25 approvals (EU=27 counted as 1 approval only), followed by insect resistant maize MON810 with 23 approvals, herbicide tolerant maize NK603 with 22 approvals each, and insect resistant cotton (MON1445) with 14 approvals worldwide.   Examples of genetically modified crops Currently, there are a number of food species for which a genetically modified version is being commercially grown (percent modified in the table below are mostly 2009/2010 data).  Crop| Properties of the genetically modified variety| Modification[specify]| Percent modified in US| Percent modified in world| Alfalfa| Resistance to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides| New genes added/transferred into plant genome. Planted in the US from 2005–2007; 2007-2010 banned; 2011 deregulated| | Canola/ Rapeseed| Resistance to herbicides (glyphosate or glufosinate), high laurate canola, Oleic acid canola| New genes added/transferred into plant genome| 87% (2005 data)| 21%| Corn, field (Maize)| Resistance to glyphosate or glufosinate herbicides. Insect resistance via producing Bt proteins, some previously used as pesticides in organic crop production. Added enzyme, alpha amylase, that converts starch into sugar to facilitate ethanol production. 96]| New genes, some from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, added/transferred into plant genome. | 86%| 26%| Cotton (cottonseed oil)| Kills susceptible insect pests| gene for one or more Bt crystal proteins transferred into plant genome| 93%| 49%| Papaya (Hawaiian)| Resistance to the papaya ringspot virus. | New gene added/transferred into plant genome| 80%| | Potato| NewLeaf: Bt resistance against Colorado beetle and resistance against 2 viruses (removed from market in 2001); Amflora: resistance ene against an antibiotic, used for selection, in combination with modifications for better starch production| New Leaf: gene for one or more Bt crystal proteins transferred into plant genome; Amflora – antibiotic resistance gene from bacteria; modifications to endogenous starch-producing enzymes| unknown| unknown| Rice| Golden Rice: genetically modified to contain beta-carotene (a source of vitamin A)| Current version of Golden Rice under development contains genes from maize and a common soil microorganism. 99] Previous prototype version contained three new genes: two from daffodils and the third from a bacterium| Forecast to be on the market in 2013| | Soybeans| Resistance to glyphosate (see Roundup Ready soybean) or glufosinate herbicides; make less saturated fats; Kills susceptible insect pests| Herbicide resistant gene taken from bacteria inserted into soybean; knocked out native genes that catalyze saturation; gene for one or more Bt crystal proteins transferred into plant genome| 93%| 77%| Squash (Zucchini/Courgette)| Resistance to watermelon, cucumber and zucchini/courgette yellow mosaic viruses| Contains coat protein genes of viruses. | 13% (figure is from 2005)| | Sugar beet| Resistance to glyphosate, glufosinate herbicides| New genes added/transferred into plant genome| 95% (2010); planting in 2011 under controlled conditions; 2012 deregulated| 9%| Sugarcane| Resistance to certain pesticides, high sucrose content. | New genes added/transferred into plant genome| | | Sweet peppers| Resistance to cucumber mosaic virus| Contains coat protein genes of the virus. | | Small quantities grown in China| Tomatoes| Suppression of the enzyme polygalacturonase (PG), retarding fruit softening after harvesting. 105]| A reverse copy (an antisense gene) of the gene responsible for the production of PG enzyme added into plant genome| Taken off the market due to commercial failure. | Small quantities grown in China| Wheat| Resistance to glyphosate herbicide| New genes added/transferred into plant genome| unknown| unknown|  Effects on farming practices | This section requires expansion with: examples and additional citations of how farmers’s use of GM crops changes their practices. (September 2012)|  Managing emergence of resistance Constant exposure to a toxin creates evolutionary pressure for pests resistant to that toxin. One method of reducing resistance is the creation of non-Bt crop refuges to allow some nonresistant insects to survive and maintain a susceptible population.
To reduce the chance an insect would become resistant to a Bt crop, the commercialization of transgenic cotton and maize in 1996 was accompanied with a management strategy to prevent insects from becoming resistant to Bt crops, and insect resistance management plans are mandatory for Bt crops planted in the USA and other countries. The aim is to encourage a large population of pests so that any resistance genes that are recessive are greatly diluted within the population.  This means that with sufficiently high levels of transgene expression, nearly all of the heterozygotes (S/s), i. e. , the largest segment of the pest population carrying a resistance allele, will be killed before they reach maturity, thus preventing transmission of the resistance gene to their progeny. 107] The planting of refuges (i. e. , fields of nontransgenic plants) adjacent to fields of transgenic plants increases the likelihood that homozygous resistant (s/s) individuals and any surviving heterozygotes will mate with susceptible (S/S) individuals from the refuge, instead of with other individuals carrying the resistance allele. As a result, the resistance gene frequency in the population would remain low. Nevertheless, limitations can affect the success of the high-dose/refuge strategy. For example, expression of the Bt gene can vary. For instance, if the temperature is not ideal, this stress can lower the toxin production and make the plant more susceptible.
More importantly, reduced late-season expression of toxin has been documented, possibly resulting from DNA methylation of the promoter.  So, while the high-dose/refuge strategy has been successful at prolonging the durability of Bt crops, this success has also had much to do with key factors independent of management strategy, including low initial resistance allele frequencies, fitness costs associated with resistance, and the abundance of non-Bt host plants that have supplemented the refuges planted as part of the resistance management strategy.  Companies that produce Bt seed are addressing this as well, by introducing plants with multiple Bt proteins. Monsanto did this with Bt cotton in India, where the product was rapidly adopted.   Regulation
Main article: Regulation of the release of genetic modified organisms The regulation of genetic engineering concerns the approaches taken by governments to assess and manage the risks associated with the development and release of genetically modified crops. There are differences in the regulation of GM crops between countries, with some of the most marked differences occurring between the USA and Europe. Regulation varies in a given country depending on the intended use of the products of the genetic engineering. For example, a crop not intended for food use is generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety. Overview| | Printable Version (PDF)| | | Tell a Friend | Genetically-modified foods (GM foods) have made a big splash in the news lately.
European environmental organizations and public interest groups have been actively protesting against GM foods for months, and recent controversial studies about the effects of genetically-modified corn pollen on monarch butterfly caterpillars1, 2 have brought the issue of genetic engineering to the forefront of the public consciousness in the U. S. In response to the upswelling of public concern, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held three open meetings in Chicago, Washington, D. C. , and Oakland, California to solicit public opinions and begin the process of establishing a new regulatory procedure for government approval of GM foods3. I attended the FDA meeting held in November 1999 in Washington, D. C. and here I will attempt to summarize the issues involved and explain the U. S. government’s present role in regulating GM food. What are genetically-modified foods? The term GM foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate.
Genetic engineering, on the other hand, can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used. The best known example of this is the use of B. t. genes in corn and other crops. B. t. , or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are lethal to insect larvae. B. t. rystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the European corn borer. For two informative overviews of some of the techniques involved in creating GM foods, visit Biotech Basics (sponsored by Monsanto) http://www. biotechknowledge. monsanto. com/biotech/bbasics. nsf/index or Techniques of Plant Biotechnology from the National Center for Biotechnology Education http://www. ncbe. reading. ac. uk/NCBE/GMFOOD/techniques. What are some of the advantages of GM foods? The world population has topped 6 billion people and is predicted to double in the next 50 years. Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come.
GM foods promise to meet this need in a number of ways: ? Pest resistance Crop losses from insect pests can be staggering, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards, and run-off of agricultural wastes from excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers can poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. Growing GM foods such as B. t. corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market4, 5. Herbicide tolerance For some crops, it is not cost-effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides (weed-killer) to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process, that requires care so that the herbicide doesn’t harm the crop plant or the environment. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. For example, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup ®6. A farmer grows these soybeans which then only require one application of weed-killer instead of multiple applications, reducing production cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run-off7. ? Disease resistance There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases.
Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases8, 9. ? Cold tolerance Unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings10. (Note: I have not been able to find any journal articles or patents that involve fish antifreeze proteins in strawberries, although I have seen such reports in newspapers. I can only conclude that nothing on this application has yet been published or patented. ) ?
Drought tolerance/salinity tolerance As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places11, 12. ? Nutrition Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition.
If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated. For example, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in third world countries. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences have created a strain of “golden” rice containing an unusually high content of beta-carotene (vitamin A)13. Since this rice was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation14, a non-profit organization, the Institute hopes to offer the golden rice seed free to any third world country that requests it. Plans were underway to develop a golden rice that also has increased iron content.
However, the grant that funded the creation of these two rice strains was not renewed, perhaps because of the vigorous anti-GM food protesting in Europe, and so this nutritionally-enhanced rice may not come to market at all15. ? Pharmaceuticals Medicines and vaccines often are costly to produce and sometimes require special storage conditions not readily available in third world countries. Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes16, 17. These vaccines will be much easier to ship, store and administer than traditional injectable vaccines. ? Phytoremediation Not all GM plants are grown as crops. Soil and groundwater pollution continues to be a problem in all parts of the world. Plants such as poplar trees have been genetically engineered to clean up heavy metal pollution from contaminated soil18. How prevalent are GM crops?
What plants are involved? According to the FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are over 40 plant varieties that have completed all of the federal requirements for commercialization (http://vm. cfsan. fda. gov/%7Elrd/biocon). Some examples of these plants include tomatoes and cantalopes that have modified ripening characteristics, soybeans and sugarbeets that are resistant to herbicides, and corn and cotton plants with increased resistance to insect pests. Not all these products are available in supermarkets yet; however, the prevalence of GM foods in U. S. grocery stores is more widespread than is commonly thought.
While there are very, very few genetically-modified whole fruits and vegetables available on produce stands, highly processed foods, such as vegetable oils or breakfast cereals, most likely contain some tiny percentage of genetically-modified ingredients because the raw ingredients have been pooled into one processing stream from many different sources. Also, the ubiquity of soybean derivatives as food additives in the modern American diet virtually ensures that all U. S. consumers have been exposed to GM food products. The U. S. statistics that follow are derived from data presented on the USDA web site at http://www. ers. usda. gov/briefing/biotechnology/. The global statistics are derived from a brief published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) at http://www. isaaa. org/publications/briefs/Brief_21. tm and from the Biotechnology Industry Organization at http://www. bio. org/food;amp;ag/1999Acreage. Thirteen countries grew genetically-engineered crops commercially in 2000, and of these, the U. S. produced the majority. In 2000, 68% of all GM crops were grown by U. S. farmers. In comparison, Argentina, Canada and China produced only 23%, 7% and 1%, respectively. Other countries that grew commercial GM crops in 2000 are Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, Spain, and Uruguay. Soybeans and corn are the top two most widely grown crops (82% of all GM crops harvested in 2000), with cotton, rapeseed (or canola) and potatoes trailing behind. 4% of these GM crops were modified for herbicide tolerance, 19% were modified for insect pest resistance, and 7% were modified for both herbicide tolerance and pest tolerance. Globally, acreage of GM crops has increased 25-fold in just 5 years, from approximately 4. 3 million acres in 1996 to 109 million acres in 2000 – almost twice the area of the United Kingdom. Approximately 99 million acres were devoted to GM crops in the U. S. and Argentina alone. In the U. S. , approximately 54% of all soybeans cultivated in 2000 were genetically-modified, up from 42% in 1998 and only 7% in 1996. In 2000, genetically-modified cotton varieties accounted for 61% of the total cotton crop, up from 42% in 1998, and 15% in 1996. GM corn and also experienced a similar but less dramatic increase.
Corn production increased to 25% of all corn grown in 2000, about the same as 1998 (26%), but up from 1. 5% in 1996. As anticipated, pesticide and herbicide use on these GM varieties was slashed and, for the most part, yields were increased (for details, see the UDSA publication at http://www. ers. usda. gov/publications/aer786/). What are some of the criticisms against GM foods? Environmental activists, religious organizations, public interest groups, professional associations and other scientists and government officials have all raised concerns about GM foods, and criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards, and the government for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight.
It seems that everyone has a strong opinion about GM foods. Even the Vatican19 and the Prince of Wales20 have expressed their opinions. Most concerns about GM foods fall into three categories: environmental hazards, human health risks, and economic concerns. Environmental hazards ? Unintended harm to other organisms Last year a laboratory study was published in Nature21 showing that pollen from B. t. corn caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Monarch caterpillars consume milkweed plants, not corn, but the fear is that if pollen from B. t. corn is blown by the wind onto milkweed plants in neighboring fields, the caterpillars could eat the pollen and perish.
Although the Nature study was not conducted under natural field conditions, the results seemed to support this viewpoint. Unfortunately, B. t. toxins kill many species of insect larvae indiscriminately; it is not possible to design a B. t. toxin that would only kill crop-damaging pests and remain harmless to all other insects. This study is being reexamined by the USDA, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other non-government research groups, and preliminary data from new studies suggests that the original study may have been flawed22, 23. This topic is the subject of acrimonious debate, and both sides of the argument are defending their data vigorously.
Currently, there is no agreement about the results of these studies, and the potential risk of harm to non-target organisms will need to be evaluated further. ? Reduced effectiveness of pesticides Just as some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned pesticide DDT, many people are concerned that insects will become resistant to B. t. or other crops that have been genetically-modified to produce their own pesticides. ? Gene transfer to non-target species Another concern is that crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These “superweeds” would then be herbicide tolerant as well.
Other introduced genes may cross over into non-modified crops planted next to GM crops. The possibility of interbreeding is shown by the defense of farmers against lawsuits filed by Monsanto. The company has filed patent infringement lawsuits against farmers who may have harvested GM crops. Monsanto claims that the farmers obtained Monsanto-licensed GM seeds from an unknown source and did not pay royalties to Monsanto. The farmers claim that their unmodified crops were cross-pollinated from someone else’s GM crops planted a field or two away. More investigation is needed to resolve this issue. There are several possible solutions to the three problems mentioned above. Genes are exchanged between plants via pollen.
Two ways to ensure that non-target species will not receive introduced genes from GM plants are to create GM plants that are male sterile (do not produce pollen) or to modify the GM plant so that the pollen does not contain the introduced gene24, 25, 26. Cross-pollination would not occur, and if harmless insects such as monarch caterpillars were to eat pollen from GM plants, the caterpillars would survive. Another possible solution is to create buffer zones around fields of GM crops27, 28, 29. For example, non-GM corn would be planted to surround a field of B. t. GM corn, and the non-GM corn would not be harvested. Beneficial or harmless insects would have a refuge in the non-GM corn, and insect pests could be allowed to destroy the non-GM corn and would not develop resistance to B. t. pesticides.
Gene transfer to weeds and other crops would not occur because the wind-blown pollen would not travel beyond the buffer zone. Estimates of the necessary width of buffer zones range from 6 meters to 30 meters or more30. This planting method may not be feasible if too much acreage is required for the buffer zones. Human health risks ? Allergenicity Many children in the US and Europe have developed life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. A proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions31.
Extensive testing of GM foods may be required to avoid the possibility of harm to consumers with food allergies. Labeling of GM foods and food products will acquire new importance, which I shall discuss later. ? Unknown effects on human health There is a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health. A recent article published in Lancet examined the effects of GM potatoes on the digestive tract in rats32, 33. This study claimed that there were appreciable differences in the intestines of rats fed GM potatoes and rats fed unmodified potatoes. Yet critics say that this paper, like the monarch butterfly data, is flawed and does not hold up to scientific scrutiny34.
Moreover, the gene introduced into the potatoes was a snowdrop flower lectin, a substance known to be toxic to mammals. The scientists who created this variety of potato chose to use the lectin gene simply to test the methodology, and these potatoes were never intended for human or animal consumption. On the whole, with the exception of possible allergenicity, scientists believe that GM foods do not present a risk to human health. Economic concerns Bringing a GM food to market is a lengthy and costly process, and of course agri-biotech companies wish to ensure a profitable return on their investment. Many new plant genetic engineering technologies and GM plants have been patented, and patent infringement is a big concern of agribusiness.
Yet consumer advocates are worried that patenting these new plant varieties will raise the price of seeds so high that small farmers and third world countries will not be able to afford seeds for GM crops, thus widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It is hoped that in a humanitarian gesture, more companies and non-profits will follow the lead of the Rockefeller Foundation and offer their products at reduced cost to impoverished nations. Patent enforcement may also be difficult, as the contention of the farmers that they involuntarily grew Monsanto-engineered strains when their crops were cross-pollinated shows. One way to combat possible patent infringement is to introduce a “suicide gene” into GM plants.
These plants would be viable for only one growing season and would produce sterile seeds that do not germinate. Farmers would need to buy a fresh supply of seeds each year. However, this would be financially disastrous for farmers in third world countries who cannot afford to buy seed each year and traditionally set aside a portion of their harvest to plant in the next growing season. In an open letter to the public, Monsanto has pledged to abandon all research using this suicide gene technology35. How are GM foods regulated and what is the government’s role in this process? Governments around the world are hard at work to establish a regulatory process to monitor the effects of and approve new varieties of GM plants.
Yet depending on the political, social and economic climate within a region or country, different governments are responding in different ways. In Japan, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced that health testing of GM foods will be mandatory as of April 200136, 37. Currently, testing of GM foods is voluntary. Japanese supermarkets are offering both GM foods and unmodified foods, and customers are beginning to show a strong preference for unmodified fruits and vegetables. India’s government has not yet announced a policy on GM foods because no GM crops are grown in India and no products are commercially available in supermarkets yet38. India is, however, very supportive of transgenic plant research.
It is highly likely that India will decide that the benefits of GM foods outweigh the risks because Indian agriculture will need to adopt drastic new measures to counteract the country’s endemic poverty and feed its exploding population. Some states in Brazil have banned GM crops entirely, and the Brazilian Institute for the Defense of Consumers, in collaboration with Greenpeace, has filed suit to prevent the importation of GM crops39,. Brazilian farmers, however, have resorted to smuggling GM soybean seeds into the country because they fear economic harm if they are unable to compete in the global marketplace with other grain-exporting countries. In Europe, anti-GM food protestors have been especially active.
In the last few years Europe has experienced two major foods scares: bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in Great Britain and dioxin-tainted foods originating from Belgium. These food scares have undermined consumer confidence about the European food supply, and citizens are disinclined to trust government information about GM foods. In response to the public outcry, Europe now requires mandatory food labeling of GM foods in stores, and the European Commission (EC) has established a 1% threshold for contamination of unmodified foods with GM food products40. In the United States, the regulatory process is confused because there are three different government agencies that have jurisdiction over GM foods.
To put it very simply, the EPA evaluates GM plants for environmental safety, the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow, and the FDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to eat. The EPA is responsible for regulating substances such as pesticides or toxins that may cause harm to the environment. GM crops such as B. t. pesticide-laced corn or herbicide-tolerant crops but not foods modified for their nutritional value fall under the purview of the EPA. The USDA is responsible for GM crops that do not fall under the umbrella of the EPA such as drought-tolerant or disease-tolerant crops, crops grown for animal feeds, or whole fruits, vegetables and grains for human consumption.
The FDA historically has been concerned with pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food products and additives, not whole foods. Under current guidelines, a genetically-modified ear of corn sold at a produce stand is not regulated by the FDA because it is a whole food, but a box of cornflakes is regulated because it is a food product. The FDA’s stance is that GM foods are substantially equivalent to unmodified, “natural” foods, and therefore not subject to FDA regulation. The EPA conducts risk assessment studies on pesticides that could potentially cause harm to human health and the environment, and establishes tolerance and residue levels for pesticides.
There are strict limits on the amount of pesticides that may be applied to crops during growth and production, as well as the amount that remains in the food after processing. Growers using pesticides must have a license for each pesticide and must follow the directions on the label to accord with the EPA’s safety standards. Government inspectors may periodically visit farms and conduct investigations to ensure compliance. Violation of government regulations may result in steep fines, loss of license and even jail sentences. As an example the EPA regulatory approach, consider B. t. corn. The EPA has not established limits on residue levels in B. corn because the B. t. in the corn is not sprayed as a chemical pesticide but is a gene that is integrated into the genetic material of the corn itself. Growers must have a license from the EPA for B. t corn, and the EPA has issued a letter for the 2000 growing season requiring farmers to plant 20% unmodified corn, and up to 50% unmodified corn in regions where cotton is also cultivated41. This planting strategy may help prevent insects from developing resistance to the B. t. pesticides as well as provide a refuge for non-target insects such as Monarch butterflies. The USDA has many internal divisions that share responsibility for assessing GM foods.
Among these divisions are APHIS, the Animal Health and Plant Inspection Service, which conducts field tests and issues permits to grow GM crops, the Agricultural Research Service which performs in-house GM food research, and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service which oversees the USDA risk assessment program. The USDA is concerned with potential hazards of the plant itself. Does it harbor insect pests? Is it a noxious weed? Will it cause harm to indigenous species if it escapes from farmer’s fields? The USDA has the power to impose quarantines on problem regions to prevent movement of suspected plants, restrict import or export of suspected plants, and can even destroy plants cultivated in violation of USDA regulations. Many GM plants do not require USDA permits from APHIS.
A GM plant does not require a permit if it meets these 6 criteria: 1) the plant is not a noxious weed; 2) the genetic material introduced into the GM plant is stably integrated into the plant’s own genome; 3) the function of the introduced gene is known and does not cause plant disease; 4) the GM plant is not toxic to non-target organisms; 5) the introduced gene will not cause the creation of new plant viruses; and 6) the GM plant cannot contain genetic material from animal or human pathogens (see http://www. aphis. usda. gov:80/bbep/bp/7cfr340 ). The current FDA policy was developed in 1992 (Federal Register Docket No. 92N-0139) and states that agri-biotech companies may voluntarily ask the FDA for a consultation. Companies working to create new GM foods are not required to consult the FDA, nor are they required to follow the FDA’s recommendations after the consultation.
Consumer interest groups wish this process to be mandatory, so that all GM food products, whole foods or otherwise, must be approved by the FDA before being released for commercialization. The FDA counters that the agency currently does not have the time, money, or resources to carry out exhaustive health and safety studies of every proposed GM food product. Moreover, the FDA policy as it exists today does not allow for this type of intervention. How are GM foods labeled? Labeling of GM foods and food products is also a contentious issue. On the whole, agribusiness industries believe that labeling should be voluntary and influenced by the demands of the free market.
If consumers show preference for labeled foods over non-labeled foods, then industry will have the incentive to regulate itself or risk alienating the customer. Consumer interest groups, on the other hand, are demanding mandatory labeling. People have the right to know what they are eating, argue the interest groups, and historically industry has proven itself to be unreliable at self-compliance with existing safety regulations. The FDA’s current position on food labeling is governed by the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act which is only concerned with food additives, not whole foods or food products that are considered “GRAS” – generally recognized as safe. The FDA contends that GM foods are substantially equivalent to non-GM foods, and therefore not subject to more stringent labeling.
If all GM foods and food products are to be labeled, Congress must enact sweeping changes in the existing food labeling policy. There are many questions that must be answered if labeling of GM foods becomes mandatory. First, are consumers willing to absorb the cost of such an initiative? If the food production industry is required to label GM foods, factories will need to construct two separate processing streams and monitor the production lines accordingly. Farmers must be able to keep GM crops and non-GM crops from mixing during planting, harvesting and shipping. It is almost assured that industry will pass along these additional costs to consumers in the form of higher prices. Secondly, what are the acceptable limits of GM contamination in non-GM products?
The EC has determined that 1% is an acceptable limit of cross-contamination, yet many consumer interest groups argue that only 0% is acceptable. Some companies such as Gerber baby foods42 and Frito-Lay43 have pledged to avoid use of GM foods in any of their products. But who is going to monitor these companies for compliance and what is the penalty if they fail? Once again, the FDA does not have the resources to carry out testing to ensure compliance. What is the level of detectability of GM food cross-contamination? Scientists agree that current technology is unable to detect minute quantities of contamination, so ensuring 0% contamination using existing methodologies is not guaranteed.
Yet researchers disagree on what level of contamination really is detectable, especially in highly processed food products such as vegetable oils or breakfast cereals where the vegetables used to make these products have been pooled from many different sources. A 1% threshold may already be below current levels of detectability. Finally, who is to be responsible for educating the public about GM food labels and how costly will that education be? Food labels must be designed to clearly convey accurate information about the product in simple language that everyone can understand. This may be the greatest challenge faced be a new food labeling policy: how to educate and inform the public without damaging the public trust and causing alarm or fear of GM food products. In January 2000, an international trade agreement for labeling GM foods was established44, 45.
More than 130 countries, including the US, the world’s largest producer of GM foods, signed the agreement. The policy states that exporters must be required to label all GM foods and that importing countries have the right to judge for themselves the potential risks and reject GM foods, if they so choose. This new agreement may spur the U. S. government to resolve the domestic food labeling dilemma more rapidly. Conclusion Genetically-modified foods have the potential to solve many of the world’s hunger and malnutrition problems, and to help protect and preserve the environment by increasing yield and reducing reliance upon chemical pesticides and herbicides.
Yet there are many challenges ahead for governments, especially in the areas of safety testing, regulation, international policy and food labeling. Many people feel that genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the future and that we cannot afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous potential benefits. However, we must proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment as a result of our enthusiasm for this powerful technology ————————————————- Genetically Modified Food Essay Published by admin at 5:34 am under Example Essays What does a tomato, soybean, and McDonald’s French fry have in common? They are all some of the most commonly genetically modified foods sold on the market today.
By using the genetic information from one organism, and inserting or modifying it into another organism, scientists can make food crops stay fresher, grow bigger, and have the crops create their own pesticides. Nevertheless, the technology to modify genes has surpassed its practicality. Genetically modified foods need to be removed from everyday agriculture because of the threat they pose to human health, the environment, and the impact on global economy. Genetically modified (GM) foods could produce new toxic substances, and/or allergens. A gene from the Brazil nut was inserted into the DNA of a soybean plant to increase the nutritional value of the soybean.
However, this particular gene in the GM soybean also produced an allergen (a substance that causes allergic reactions in people). Fortunately, the plant was not put into production (McHughen 119). Another example is of a GM tomato called “FLAVR SAVR”. The tomato is larger, tastier, and stays fresher longer than commercial tomatoes on the market. Combining conventional tomato genes with the genes of an arctic trout produces the “FLAVR SAVR”. Nevertheless, questions such as “Will people with sea food allergies be able to consume the tomato? ” and “Will the trout genes in the tomato enable new bacteria growth, and thereby make the tomato hazardous to eat? ” have still not been answered.
This causes the “FLAVR SAVR” to be a potential hazard to human health (McHughen 14, 112). Since technology is new with regards to genetics, there is no real way of knowing whether genetically modified foods would take a negative impact on the body. An incident that occurred in 1989 concerning the nutritional supplement L- Tryptophan is one way of testing the long-term effects of a GM food (Background on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy L-tryptophan and the eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, U. S. Food and Drug Administration). The manufacturer had apparently altered its manufacturing process to speed up production, and had not realized the toxic side effects.
However, it caused a potentially fatal illness called Eosinophilia Myolgia Syndrome in which 37 people died and 1500 more were permanently disabled (Background on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy L-tryptophan and the eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, U. S. Food and Drug Administration). Therefore, it was taken off the market shortly after the reports of widespread illness among consumers of the supplement. Another two examples of diseases that have been created by GM crops are glufosinate (Hart 21), which causes birth defects in mammals, and glyphosate (Hart 88), which is now linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Therefore, it is evident that the general public is the guinea pig for GM food, and today’s drugs may not be able to combat the diseases that may arise from eating the food.
Superbugs are created when genes transfer from one species to another, and if an antibiotic-resistant or pesticide-resistant gene were to transfer from an organism into a disease creating bacteria, then an antibiotic-resistant or pesticide-resistant bug would be created (Miller 83). This applies to bacteria and viruses that are symbiotically related. Gene modification is indirectly making life resistant to diseases, and these bacteria and viruses will adapt to the new form of life and create new disorders. Furthermore, GM crops may make the “normal” biological pest spray obsolete. This is because pests will soon develop resistance to the spray because of the widespread planting of GM crops. Nevertheless, superbug pesticides have not yet been manufactured, nor have superbug antibiotics been created (Miller 92).
Consequently, the health risks for humans through superbug infections or by eating GM food is very serious, and the consequences that may come about have the potential to be life threatening. Genetic engineering of food crops has the potential to affect the biodiversity of a region in effectively two ways. First, wild populations of weed may be replaced by GM crop/weed, due to the GM crop spreading outside the crop field and interacting with natural weed and slowly becoming GM weed. Since GM crops are produced to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides, there is the possibility that they could invade wild grasslands and other places and prosper because of these special characteristics.
If this happened, the native grasses would be unable to compete and biodiversity would be lost in these regions. Also, many genetically engineered crops contain anti-viral genes and there is the potential that these genes could combine to form new and dangerous strains of viruses, which could destroy specific crops. Although, to date, there is no direct evidence of these occurring naturally, the potential is clearly increasing (UK Agricultural Biodiversity Coalition. What is happening to Agricultural Biodiversity? ). The second way in which the biodiversity of a region is potentially affected is by the decreasing crop varieties that are being planted.
This is a problem already existing in agriculture today, and results in a loss of genetic variety within crop cultures. Farmers being forced to use only patented seeds are an example of a potential decrease in biodiversity. If traditional seed varieties are used, farmers will be at a financial disadvantage due to better tasting, better looking crops produced by farmers using GM seeds. In the U. S. , and some other countries, laws have been passed and are currently in effect stating that the use of non-patented seeds is prohibited. This will restrict the crops to a few species, leaving them more at risk to new pests that may form (UK Agricultural Biodiversity Coalition. What are the underlying causes of the Losses of Agricultural Biodiversity? ).
The European community is by far the most anti-GM, so to speak, when it comes to the retail of GM food in their supermarkets (Tackling Food Safety Concerns over GMO’s, Consumer attitudes and decision-making with regard to genetically modified food products). Regulations are being imposed on the European Parliament, individual European nations, and some stores themselves have all imposed restrictions on GM foods. Manufacturers must label all foods that might have genetically altered ingredients. This includes food with genetically manufactured organisms, food with an intentionally modified molecular structure, and food that has been isolated for microorganisms, fungi, and algae.
Furthermore, the genetically altered food must not mislead the consumer, present any danger to the consumer, or differ from the food that it is intended to replace so that the altered food is a nutritional disadvantage to the consumer (Tackling Food Safety Concerns over GMO’s, Development of methods to identify foods produced by means of genetic engineering). This legislation has now created trade barriers for food coming into Europe – some imported food is genetically modified and creates a risk to the people’s health and safety. Nevertheless, because some supermarkets in Europe have decided to be non-GM only, this has created a competitive disadvantage for the “half”-GM supermarkets.
This response to consumer pressure is also having an effect on some companies or countries that cannot meet the legislative needs, and are obliged to lose markets and/or market shares (Tackling Food Safety Concerns over GMO’s, European network safety assessment of genetically modified food crops). If the world finally agrees to the consumption of GM food, European countries will be the last to “give-in” to the more lenient regulations. If one is to ask a North American if the product he or she is eating contains GM food, he or she will most likely show a blank stare. This is because regulation of GM food in North America is relatively relaxed when compared to Europe (Borger, second paragraph). Since the manufacturer is not required to label their products, the consumer is oblivious to buying GM food at the supermarket. Agriculture and technology are both being heavily invested in the United States.
Profit is an important driving force for the developed world, and agricultural exports make up a large portion of exports from the United States (Borger, third paragraph). Since the demand for food is always increasing, the demand to produce more food at a faster rate requires the need for better biotechnology to be put into practice. And because of the lax laws in effect for the United States, and Canada, North Americans are “in the dark” with regards to what they are eating during their meals. North Americans are not educated about the risks of GM food, nor are they aware of where to find information regarding how much GM food is in their groceries (Borger, 12th paragraph).
This poses a serious threat to the potential health of North Americans, as they are nothing but “lab rats” waiting for their first abnormal “twitch”. Human health can be seen as the greatest factor when considering the manufacturing of GM food. This is because of the few diseases and viruses that have been discovered which formed through the use of GM food. Also, the potential for new diseases and/or viruses through the use of GM food is increasing, and people are not aware of the risks. Antibiotics or pesticides have not yet been created to combat the superbug, and this is a concern for humans, as it will infect people, and crops altogether.
There is a potential for the biodiversity to decrease because of gene transfers from one species to another, creating more powerful crops, which may take over the natural populations of weeds and grasslands. An additional way for the biodiversity to decrease is by farmers planting only a single variety of crop, thus wiping out the varied species needed to keep the diversity within crop fields. Europeans are the most aware of GM food, and are taking the necessary precautions and legislative actions to protect themselves against the use of GM food. However, North Americans are the least aware of GM food, and their government has not yet educated their citizens on the risks of GM food.
There are too many risks involved in the use of GM food, and its removal from the agricultural and biotechnological industries will benefit human health, the environment, and global economy. You can order a custom essay, term paper, research paper, thesis or dissertation on Genetically Modified Food topics from our professional custom writing service which provides students with high-quality custom written papers. Tags: genetically modified food essays, genetically modified food papers, genetically modified food research paper, genetically modified food term paper, nutrition essays ————————————————- No responses yet