Most people are unaware of which foods are genetically engineered and which ones are not and in most occasions will buy the least expensive ones. Some people do not like eating genetically manipulated foods due to religious and ethical values, health testing and environmental concerns, so there should be labels to differentiate between the two.
Genetically engineering foods is necessary because it is more efficient in producing crops, making them more affordable, it is less detrimental to the environment, and has thus far proven to be safe.
When you go to the supermarket and pick up your vegetables in the produce isle, do you know where these foods come from? If you are not buying the ridiculously expensive vegetables that are labeled as "organic", then chances are you are buying genetically engineered foods or otherwise known as biotech crops. Believe it or not, the majority of produce consumed in North America has had some form of genetic modification. Production of genetically engineered foods was a highly controversial debate when it first began in the early 1990's and is still an issue in different parts of the world. In North America, confidence in genetically modified foods is quite high as they are part of the diet for almost everyone. In the UK, however, many have a fear of genetic modifications and strict regulations are in place.
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It is important to understand the process of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is done through recombinant DNA-formation, or gene splicing. What happens is the sections of genetic material are transferred from one organism to the other. Restriction enzymes are used to split the DNA wherever desired sequences of nucleotides are found. A series of fragments of DNA are then combined with plasmids (circular molecules of DNA found in most bacteria). The plasmid is removed from the bacteria, and then split by restriction enzymes. The desired DNA is then inserted into the plasmid which is then resealed by ligeses, which are enzymes that repair breakage in strands of DNA. This new strand of genetically modified DNA is placed back into the bacteria where it clones itself. Cell division creates many identical cells, each with a copy of the recombinant-DNA molecule, thus changing the genetic structure of the organism.
Producing crops that are genetically engineered can also reduce damage to the environment. These crops reduce the need for plowing or tillage. According to Monsanto, "in the United States alone, these practices and other conservation measures are reducing soil erosion by 1 billion tons and saving consumers $3.5 billion in water treatment costs annually" (http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/globalOutlook.asp). In addition, biotech crops maximize the productivity of existing farmland, meaning more crops can be grown in smaller areas. Over the past decade, over 400 million acres of natural areas have been protected due to the efficiency of biotech crops. Protecting these areas that provide food and shelter for wildlife preserves biodiversity. In addition, environmental impact is reduced since far less pesticides are used genetically modified crops.
Natural breeding is an uncontrolled method of combining genes since recombination is random, thus less precise. Genetic engineering involves removing desired traits of one organism and inserting it in another. These desired traits can immensely increase the efficiency of crop production, making certain crops grow larger in shorter periods of time. For example, scientists can genetically alter trees to yield nuts and fruits years earlier. Rapid development can even reduce the amount of resources required to grow the crops. When farmers start producing genetically modified crops, they pay more than they would if they were growing crops in a conventional manner. This is because highly skilled scientists and expensive equipment are required to isolate and combine genes and conduct rigorous tests to ensure the safety of the food. However, in the long run, farmers producing biotech crops make more money than those producing crops using traditional methods. In 2007, farmers producing genetically modified crops made an additional US$10 billion. Crops made to be resistant to pesticides will need minimal pesticide applications and less farm labour. Also crops are modified to grow faster, giving farmers greater production levels. In addition, since genetic engineering is more precise With the world's population growing exponentially, it would be extremely difficult to sustain everyone with traditional methods of cultivation.
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A common misconception is that consumption of genetically modified foods can result in unforeseen health issues. The Royal Society of medicine published a review in 2008 noting that GM foods have been consumed by millions of people for over fifteen years without any reports of ill effects. The Food Directorate of Canada and the US-FDA must regulate and approve nutritional characteristics of the foods in comparison to foods produced in conventional ways. The NAS (US National Academy of Science) stated in a 2004 report that "To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population." (http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=1). Several studies claim to have proven that some GM foods are unsafe. For example, scientist Árpád Pusztai of the Rowett Research institute reported that rats who consumed potatoes that were genetically altered to contain lectin developed damaged tissue in their intestinal tract. This experiment was deemed flawed by other scientists, as a diet of only potatoes led to all the rats being sick. In a more recent example, three scientists reported that the genetically modified corn produced by the company Monsanto, cause kidney, heart and liver damage in mammals. A panel of independent toxicologists later reviewed the study and concluded that it was statistically flawed and provided no evidence of adverse health effects (http://www.monsanto.com/products/techandsafety/fortherecord_science/2010/monsanto_response_de_vendomois.asp) . Despite rumors surrounding the negative health effects of GM foods, there has yet to be a definitive study that proves they are harmful.
The unjustified term "Frankenfoods" that has been coined by those that disapprove of genetic engineering gives people the misconception that these foods are experiments gone wrong. Genetic engineering is just an example of people using science and technology to make easierâ€¦Many argue that genetically modified foods should at least be labeled as so. However doing so will create unnecessary fear in consumers, who will start to think