In the early 1900s, an Austrian monk, Gregor Mendel carried out various kinds of experiments with pea plants and eventually he found that every single organism is made up of genes which are segments of DNA. With this great discover, many scientists started to do research regarding genes and came up with genetic engineering. Between 1997 and 1999, genetic modified ingredients turned up in abundance all of a sudden in The United States of America (USA). Butcher (2009) stated that "The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was the tomato called Flavr Savr, which was made more resistant to rotting by Californian Company Calgene. The tomatoes were released into the market in 1994 without any special labelling".
Genetically modified foods (GM foods) are edible organisms in which the genetic materials of them have been modified through the latest technique which is genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is done to the organisms in order to improve various traits of the organisms such as increasing crop size, having higher resistance against pest, raising nutritional value of the food, increasing production and lots more. Specific genes of desired traits are inserted into the crops to attain the above required conditions. Stronger crops and animals are then produced. For instance, insecticide sweet corn is one of the examples of GM foods. The insect-killing gene is inserted into the plant. Therefore, without using insecticide, the sweet corn can kill harmful insects on its own by producing a poison.(bionet, 2002)
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However, many issues regarding GM foods are arising at present. Austria and Hungary insistently ban GM food. Twenty nations supported Austria and Hungary while four nations which include Britain, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands protested (VeganVerve, 2009). The public also concern about the active spreading of GM food in other regions of the world such as united state.
Currently, there are a lot of debates carried out in every part of the world regarding GM foods. One common debatable question has been raised by many. Genetically modified food is harmful. Do you agree?
Although GM foods are claimed that they are advantageous in various aspects, I still insist that GM food is indeed harmful as it causes potential danger to the environment and may pose health danger to humans. The economic concern of genetically modified food is also an issue to be looked into.
In this report, the coverage of my research is not only based on the information of GM food in USA but also other countries from all over the world which have issues with GM food.
2.0 Body of Content
2.1 Potential danger to the environment
There are different genes insertion attempted by the researchers on GM food but unfortunately, adverse effects are arising at the moment. The risk to food web is one of the concerns. Some crops have been modified to produce pesticides on their own whereas some plants are designed to resist herbicides. A typical example in Britain is GM sugar beets which can resist herbicides. Weeds are diminished in the process of planting this crop. Therefore, the skylark, a native farm bird fed on the seeds of the weeds in autumn and winter is seriously affected. According to researchers, 80% of the skylark population is forced to find other ways to look for food. (Sakko, 2002)
Some GM crops have been proved that they contain poisonous substances which endanger some native animals eating them. A report reveals that 44% of the monarch butterflies died of feeding on the pollens from GM corn. (Sakko, 2002)
GM food will also cause the reduction of agroecosystem complexity. The presence of herbicide resistance crops (HRCs) gives an opportunity for the farmers to use broad-spectrum herbicides to carry out total weed clearance. This will reduce the weed diversity and ultimately lead to some negative impacts as a tolerable level of weed diversity plays important roles in the crop fields such as better soil cover reducing erosion, enhancement of biological insect pest control and lots more. (Altieri, 1994)
HRCs may provide a pathway for unremitting cropping by inhibiting the use of rotations and polycultures susceptible to the herbicides used with HRCs. Low plant diversity will eventually allow unrestricted growth of weeds, insects and diseases because there are many available ecological niches. The enhancement of herbicide effectiveness can even decrease the plant diversity further resulting in abundance of weed community composition. In the meantime, these weeds are able to adapt to the broad-spectrum herbicides better after all. (Radosevich 1996 cited in Altieri)
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Advocates of GM foods claim that with the help of GM food, farmers need less pesticide in GM field. This is because the pest resistance gene can be inserted into the crops so that the crops are able to secrete poisons to kill pests. For bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton, pest resistance was built into the cotton, hence reducing and even removing the use of pesticides. (GMO compass, 2008) However, there was an outbreak in China in 1997 after the approval of China government for the cultivation of this crop. There is a type of insect called mirid bugs (insects of the Miridae family) which bred in a very high rate after Bt cotton had been grown. The population of the insect had increased 12-fold since 1997. Thereafter, mirid bugs became the main pest from minor pest all of a sudden. This was because the toxin released by the Bt cotton was largely used to kill another kind of insect called larvae of the cotton bollworm moth but the toxin made only little influence towards mirid bugs. The reduction of the use of broad-spectrum pesticide provides a good chance for the breeding of mirid bugs. This has created a big problem to china due to the genetically modified Bt cotton. (Qiu, 2010)
1) Butcher, M. (2009). When did genetically modified foods originate?. Available: http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/gm-foods.php. Last accessed 19 August 2010.
2) Bionet. (2002). Future Food. Available: http://www.bionetonline.org/english/content/ff_cont3.htm. Last accessed 15 August 2010.
3) VeganVerve. (2009). Two Countries Ban Genetically Modified Crops. Available: http://www.aboutmyplanet.com/environment/two-countries-ban-genetically-modified-crops/. Last accessed 12 August 2010.
4) Sakko, K. (2002). The Debate Over Genetically Modified Foods. Available: http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/sakko.html. Last accessed 16 August 2010.
5) Altieri, M. (2000). The Ecological Impacts of Transgenic Crops on Agroecosystem Health. Available: http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/~agroeco3/the_ecological_impacts.html. Last accessed 28 July 2010.
6) Altieri, M. Themes > Science > Botanical Sciences > Transgenic Crops > The Environmental Risks of Transgenic Crops. Available: http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/Sciences/BotanicalSciences/TransgenicCrops/EnvironmentalRisks/EnvironmentalRisks.htm. Last accessed 19 August 2010.
7) GMO compass. (2008). Crops cotton. Available: http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/grocery_shopping/crops/161.genetically_modified_cotton.html. Last accessed 19 August 2010.
8) Qiu, J. (2010). GM crop use makes minor pests major problem. Available: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100513/full/news.2010.242.html. Last accessed 19 August 2010.