GMOs are organisms whose genes have been modified by scientists. The process of Genetically Modifying Organisms depends on two main factors. These are the type of organism a scientist wants to modify and the type of modification they choose. This process can be applied to both animals and plants, such as chickens and vegetables. There are about five main steps to this process. First, the gene of interest is chosen and isolated by as scientist in a lab. Restriction enzymes act as molecular scissors, which can recognize specific sequences in DNA and cut it out at those places. Then, these genes are added in a vector, which is able to get inside cells of specific species. Last, this new gene is injected into the host cells, which will insert into the host's genome. The new cell will duplicate and the new gene will be found in the DNA of every new cell.
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GMO's are beneficial to farmers in many ways. Modifying agricultural crops can highly increase food production with fewer resources. For example, GM crops could be resistant to diseases caused by pathogens and parasites. Fertilizers would not be necessary with a gene that increases their growth rate. Also, farmers would not have to use pesticides if a crop has insect-resistant outer covering. Therefore, farmers would spend less money having to buy these chemicals previously needed to grow natural crops. If the crop has a gene that alters its growth, farmers would benefit from higher profit, as well as the growth and resistance against many diseases. This also applies to animals. When added these modified genes, it can protect them against diseases, affect their growth rate, and even influence their behavior.
There is much controversy over whether GMO's are safe to eat. The U.S. government claims that GMO's are completely safe, while the EU believes that its risks to health and the environment outweigh its benefits. GM foods that are available on the market have been inspected and do not show any risks for human health. Before being introduced in the market, Genetically Modified Foods must pass a safety assessment that addresses 5 main points. These are: toxicity, allergenicity, stability of inserted gene, nutritional effects, and any other unintended effects.
Over the years, many children in the US and Europe have developed severe allergies to foods such as peanuts. Many scientists believe that there may be a connection between GMO's and these allergens. It is possible that genes placed into certain plants may create a new allergen that affects certain individuals. Even though GM foods are highly inspected, there may be a possibility that this may have been overlooked.
Some negative effects of GMO's to the environment are unintended harm to other organisms, such as the monarch butterfly caterpillars. A recent lab study was shown to find that the pollen from B.T. corn, blown by wind onto milkweed plants, was killing much of the population of monarch butterfly caterpillars. Another concern is the possibility of gene transfer to other species. For example, GM plants that are herbicide-tolerant may cross-breed with weeds. This could result in a new species of "superweeds". Other concerns include GMO's being accidentally introduced into wild populations, reduced effectiveness of pesticides, and loss of biodiversity.
Hormones and antibiotics are added to poultry and meat. The reason behind this is that these companies would not profit much without adding these hormones. Since cows, pigs, chickens, etc. are naturally lean, not much of their meat, milk, or eggs would be able to be used for profit by these companies. For example, cows without any hormones added would produce only about one gallon of milk per day. On the other hand, if hormones were added, these same cows could produce up to five gallons per day. Also, chickens could produce higher amounts of eggs and the amount of meat that could be used from them would increase by up to ten times. Hormones and steroids are also added to pigs to increase the amount of meat that can be used from them. Because of these hormones, animals are prone to getting sick easier. Antibiotics are added to animals at a higher rate.
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There are known negative effects on the human body as a result of hormones and antibiotics. There are 6 main hormones used in beef production. Estradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone are naturally occurring, and Zeranol, Trenbolone, and Melengestrol are synthetic. When these are added to animals, they stay in the meat that we eat from them, which means that those hormones end up in our body as well. Some studies have shown that Casein, or cow milk protein, is correlated to cancer, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, and other serious diseases. Also, these hormones can cause a growth imbalance in children.
Organic farming involves farming in which everything is grown naturally. No chemicals or genetic modification is used. Soil is essential to organic farming because it provides nutrients for plants to grow. The soil must be kept healthy and rich in nutrients & minerals so that plants can grow healthy without the use of any type of chemical. Plants need nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and other nutrients in order to survive and grow. The greatest challenge for organic farmers is providing plants with the right amount of these at the right time. Organic farming mostly relies on crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation to keep the soil healthy and control pests. All of this has to be done without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Compost piles and decomposers take a huge role in maintaining these types of farms. Compost is rich in nutrients and beneficial to the soil. It acts as a fertilizer that is rich in carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Compost piles can be made up of farm residues, animal waste, and kitchen waste.
Decomposers are responsible for breaking down wastes so that plants can reuse the nutrients. They convert organic matter into nutrients, and release nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium that plants can use. By breaking down dead material, they provide the nutrients that plants need to survive. They are an essential part to organic farms because without them, plants would not have the nutrients they require to grow and be healthy.
Preservatives and additives are added to food to keep it fresh and avoid bacterial and fungal growth. Preservatives are safe at a moderate level, but when too much is added they pose a threat to human health. For example, preservatives such as sulfur dioxide and sulphites are added to fruit products so they won't turn brown. Some studies have shown that this is linked to hyperactivity and is dangerous to people with asthma. Benzoic acid in condiments is also linked to hyperactivity, and skin & eye irritation. Sodium nitrates are shown to thicken blood, mostly in infants, making it hard for blood to transport oxygen to the body. Furthermore, many foods use Butylated hydroxyanisole and hydroxytoluene as preservatives. These are also known as BHT. This preservative is especially dangerous because it makes you more likely to develop tumors and cancer because of their carcinogenic properties. Other effects include cholesterol imbalance, hyperactivity, and asthma attacks. BHT is banned in some countries around the world.