Onepart about my high school career that I will always remember fondly is watchingthe movie Gattaca, written and directed in 1997 by Andrew Niccol, in mygenetics class. At the very beginning of the movie, a quote by Willard Gaylinwas shown on the screen, and it has stuck with me even today.
“I not only thinkthat we will tamper with Mother Nature, I think Mother wants us to.”Bythe end of the century, more than 9 billion humans are expected to be living onthis planet, 2 billion more than today. According to the sociobiologist EdwardO.
Wilson in his book titled The Futureof Life, published in 2002, based on our current available food resources,the Earth’s maximum capacity falls between 9 and 10 billion people. Hunger hasbeen an ever-present problem, but as of now, more than 870 million peopleacross the globe are suffering from malnutrition. With the growing population,that number is expected to rise even more. Our children, grandchildren, andgreat-grandchildren will be suffering from this issue in the future. That is,without the help of biotechnology.
Biotechnology promotes the geneticmodification of crops to address malnutrition needs. Asof yet, the purpose of genetically modifying crops has been restricted toresisting pests and tolerating herbicides. Genetically modified organisms, GMO’sfor short, have not had their chance to increase yields, due in part to thedemonization of them.
Genetically modified organisms have become aserious controversy, especially among practicing scientists and policy makers.California’s Proposition 37, a state statute that would’ve required allproducts containing genetically modified materials to be labeled as such,sparked major disputes in 2012, even though it was rejected. Today,I want to dispel some of the misconceptions about GMO’s in relation to theenvironment and our health. These so-called “frankenfoods” are really not thatmenacing. After all, despite all of the murky marketing terms meant to confusecustomers, almost everything we eat has been improved by genetics. We can continueto improve our health, our environment, and our economy all with the help ofgenetic modification. Transition:to begin…Body1. Main Point #1· We’vebeen eating genetically modified foods for many years, and nothing bad hashappened yet.
In fact, plants have been bred for many years to produce newcrops. This is just a slower version of genetic engineering. According to theUniversity of Illinois Extension’s website titled “Apples and More,” 7500 applevarieties are grown throughout the world, all starting from the Lady apple. · Sweetpotatoes were naturally genetically modified from the potato by a bacteriaaround 8,000 years ago. Just think, without genetic modification, you wouldn’thave been able to enjoy sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving dinner.· Theseprocesses are less efficient. You cannot tell exactly how many genes are beingaffected, as evidenced by the diagram.
· Despiteopposition to genetic engineering because it is “too hasty,” modern-day GMO’sare thoroughly tested and researched before put on the market. This testing cantake upwards of 7-10 years. Throughout all of history, GMO’s remain among themost highly tested products, even though only around 15 years ago, the term”Certified Organic” did not even exist. Transition: Once genetically modified cropsdo reach the shelves,2. Main Point #2· Oncegenetically modified crops do reach the shelves, they have many benefits. Forone, they actually reduce pesticide use, which is known to be harmful to theenvironment and the health of the people who inhabit it. Its counterpart, organic food, has to use more to make up for a lesseffective pesticide.
Many supporters of organic farming use the term ecologicalto describe organic products, but in fact the opposite is true. There are morethan 20 approved chemicals commonly used in organic farming, and they have tobe used more liberally due to their ineffectiveness. On the other hand, GMO’sare bred to be pest resistant, so they do not have to rely on near as manypesticides as organic crops.
According to the National Center for Food andAgricultural Policy, copper and sulfur, the most commonly used organicpesticides were used at a rate of 4 and 34 pounds per acre, respectively. Thesynthetic pesticides chop that hefty number in half, only requiring 1.6 poundsper acre.· Butthese organic pesticides are still used today, because people associate anaturally-occurring pesticide as a “good” pesticide. However, many naturalpesticides are potentially serious health risks. · Forseveral years, there was a common organic pesticide in the US by the name ofRotenone.
Since it is found in certain roots and stems of plants, it waslabeled as “safe” and “organic.” Actually, Rotenone is very dangerous as itattacks the energy-producing bodies within all living cells. Research done by BenoitI. Giasson and Virginia M.-Y. Lee titled “A new link between pesticides and Parkinson’sdisease,” published in Nature Neuroscience Journal in December 2000 evenindicated that it causes Parkinson’s Disease-like symptoms in rats, and had thepotential to kill many species, including humans. · Thepoint I’m trying to make here is that just because something is “natural”, itdoesn’t make it healthy or safe. Transition: Moving on, yet anothermisconception…3.
Main Point #3:· Yetanother misconception about GMO’s is that they are less nutritious than theirorganic counterparts. However, there is absolutely no research that provesthis. On the contrary, a research project done byAD Dangour and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled,”Nutrition related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review” foundno significant differences in the nutrient content of organic vs. non-organicfoods. Actually, foods can be genetically modified to improve nutrition.· Takefor example golden rice, a genetically modified crop created with higher levelsof beta-carotene (which is converted into vitamin A in the body). It prevents 2million deaths every year from vitamin A deficiency in third world countries. Yetthere was a riot in the Philippines against golden rice in 2013.
Transition: And this is a shame because…4. Main Point #4:· These third worldcountries desperately need GMO’s to feed their extremely high populations, asorganic farms have at most 80% of the output of conventional farms, as shown ina study done by Paul Maeder and published May 31st 2002 titled “SoilFertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming.”· We too desperatelyneed GMO’s as their greater efficiency leads to lower food costs. Since themajority mentioned in the survey that they shop at groceries, I thought it’d beimportant to show the price differences of organic and conventional foods. Asseen in the diagram, not a single organic product is cheaper than thecorresponding conventional one.
As both are made of the same ingredients, samenutritional value, the only difference being whether or not they are made withgenetic modification, why pay more for organic? Transition:With all of these misconceptions about GMO’s now resolved,Conclusion:I hope that itbecomes clear which choice to make when purchasing groceries or dining out.Organic food is in no way better than conventionally produced foods. Their keydifference is the price tag.
So, save your bank account and purchaseconventionally grown products. Also, now that you all know the real differencesbetween organic and conventional foods, please spread the word to your friendsand family, who will all thank you. Genetically modified foods are beneficial,as they remove the undesirable traits from a crop, and necessary, as they helpto feed our ever-growing population. With your help, and the assistance ofgenetically modified crops, the 870 million hungry people today could sit downto an abundant meal.