Blog Post 3: Agriculture
Genetically Modified Crops
Genetically modified crops all start with seeds that are engineered to resist pests, grow faster and bring about a higher yield for harvest. Genetic modification of plants and animals happens naturally over time, but as technology has advanced scientists have sped up this process. The benefits of Genetically Modified Organisms could have a great impact on food production worldwide, but with this technology comes concerns for businesses, the environment and social well-being. What exactly happens when a modified seed, a new hope for some and a new threat for others, is introduced to the world?
Scientists engineered genetically modified seeds for the purpose of making the plant stronger, more reliable, and more fruitful. By taking and adding genes to the seed, the plant will then grow with stronger or better improved characteristics. These improvements make for some very strong arguments for engineering plants. One advantage is in herbicide resistance. These plants will save farmers money that they will not have to spend on herbicide treatment and will increase crop yields. Less herbicide will be used which is also great for the environment. In performing these changes, they have also increased the plants tolerance levels so that they can better handle harsher environments. Genetically modified plants can also contain more nutrients, such as more proteins in certain vegetables. Fruit could be modified to ripen better without growing soft and plants being insect resistant would reduce the need for harmful pesticides. Some claim that these organisms are “helping farmers to increase yields, reduce pesticide spraying, and save topsoil — and without injury to a single person or damage to an ecosystem” [Conko]. Among all of these advantages, there is also the fact that Genetically Modified Organism use has increased, which is a plus for the economy in a sense.
Among all of these advantages are some grave concerns over the use and future of genetically modified crops. One major problem with GMOs is risk. Genetically engineered products could and have had health risks, such as becoming toxic or other issues with well-being. An issue with becoming pest and herbicide resistant: pests and weeds will find a way to overtake these safeguards, bringing about super weeds and pests in the process. Research has found that “pollen from genetically engineered Bt corn was poisonous to Monarch butterflies” [Nayak], and that good insects such as ladybugs have been affected by the process as well. Due to the lack of technology there is also a lacking in safety tests for GMOs. The ultimate concern is that this is a very new product that has not seen very much testing over social and environmental concerns. Due to lack of research there has also been links to antibiotic resistance passing on to humans so that antibiotics become useless against infection. There has also been links to effective compounds, necessary for human health, lacking or not even appearing in GMOs.
Public and consumer outcry over GMOs has arisen due to some of the business practices associated with using GMOs. “Studies have found that US farmers growing GE crops are using just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farmers and in some cases are using more.” [Nayak] These farmers use more herbicide because it won’t hurt the plant to spray extra. This is terrible for the soil and insects and will also increase the likelihood of super weeds and pests appearing in our future. One of the ugliest sides of GMO business practices are the patenting of the seeds. “Biotech food production threatens to eliminate farming as it has been practiced for 12,000 years” [Nayak] due to the technology of making seeds infertile after a certain amount of growing seasons. Farmers are forced to buy seeds every season rather than reusing seeds as they have always done.
This issue is very complicated and the fighting over GMOs has just begun. GMO supporters claim that the products are socio-economically viable, in that GMOs can feed the world and are business efficient. Contenders of these ideas are pushing for the socio-environmental concerns of these plants, where health issues and environmental concerns should play a more major role in our decision making with GMOs. My question: Is it economically efficient if farmers are finding it more and more impossible to farm?
CONKO, G., & MILLER, H. I. (2011). The Rush to Condemn Genetically Modified Crops. Policy Review, (165), 69-82. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Nayak, L., Pandey, H., Ammayappan, L., & Ray, D. (2011). GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS. Agricultural Reviews, 32(2), 112-119. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Srivastava, N., Gupta, V., Pati, R., & Gaur, R. (2011). Genetically Modified Crops: An Overview. Biotechnology, 10(2), 136-148. doi:10.3923/biotech.2011.136.148
Tayo, T., Longjam, N., Mezhatsu, V., & Deb, R. (2010). GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) CROPS LIFELINE FOR LIVESTOCK — A REVIEW. Agricultural Reviews, 31(4), 279-285. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.