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For centuries, farmers have used a method of selection and cross breeding to consistently improve the quality of plants. But, because of genes may be exchanged during selective crop breeding, the technique of transferring genetic material is much likely using genetic engineering. Genetic modified crop is broadly defined as using genetic engineering technique to improve the plants to give more benefits for humans. GM crops can give us better plants to eat but these crops have raised many ethical concerns whether it should be strictly controlled. Discussions and debates have been carried out by the scientists and others to discuss the ethical, legal and the social impacts of GM crops or plants. Hence, my issue concerns about whether GM crops should be strictly controlled.
There are several techniques on how to produce GM plants by using genetic engineering, such as electroporation. The target cells are immersed in a chemical solution with the selected DNA and electrically shocked is passed the solution to stimulate DNA uptake. Then, small pores in the cell wall will appear that indicate the cell wall already opens, it will allowing DNA material to seep into the nuclei. Following gene insertion, the cell incorporates the foreign DNA into its own choromosomes and undergoes normal cell division. The new cells ultimately form the tissues o the "regenerated' plant. The second method is the process of biolistics or as known as gene guns method that typically used to shoot DNA that attached to microscopic of metal tungsten or gold into the nucleus of the plant cell. The researchers combine the gene of interest with a gene that makes the cell resistant to certain antibiotics. After firing gene gun, they collect the cells and try to grow them in a medium that contains antibiotic. Another method is viral carriers which the DNA to be transferred is added to the genetic makeup of the viral DNA inside the protein capsule. When they infect the target cells and replicates, the gene will spread.
First and the most important thing is the plants which are genetically modified are able to prevent diseases and produce a large amount of nutrients, for example vitamin A is built in the rice which can prevent 100 million children from suffering night blindness. Genetic engineering technique is applied to the plants and makes them to be more resistant to pesticides. Generally, farmers will use large quantities of chemical pesticides to get rid of the pests. Crops like cabbage can resists caterpillars attack at once will help to eliminate the use of the pesticides and those crops are safe to eat. Furthermore, farmers also can save their money from buying a lot of pesticides for their crops.
Other than that, GM crops may be produced to be herbicide-resistant plants because excessive use of herbicides to remove weeds are not only harming the plants and the environment, it may also harmful to human if they consume plants treated with herbicides before. GM crops are now produced to be more resistant to herbicides like soybeans which are modified to be not affected by the herbicides. On the other hand, GM crops can produce plants with a better shelf life, for example tomatoes that last longer and taste better. Thus, it will lead produces of more nutritional yield in crops. Besides, GM crops can also be modified to be drought tolerant. As the world population is getting larger and larger, land for the crops cultivation is reducing and farmers have to plant them in unsuitable places. Crops with drought tolerance are able to survive in this condition, hence, the problem of shortage of foods can be solved.
An investigation found that soybean containing a gene from the Brazil nut could trigger an allergic reaction in people who sensitive to Brazil nuts. Other than that, ecology concerns about the creation of "superweeds" when introduced genes for herbicide resistance are transferred from crop plants to weeds. It was happened in 1996, when the farmers were introduced to resistant soybean. This was to help the farmers to lower the cost of their herbicides used in soybeans. But, the increases of farm areas of herbicide-resistant soybean has resulted in an extraordinary increase in the kinds of weeds which are now have the same genes for herbicide resistant as the soybean. These "superweeds" have given huge environmental problems on crop production in years to come. Besides, actually the GM crops do not help to lower the uses of pesticides because the recent surveys that made in USA showed that Bt corn that targets corn borer was not lowered the used of pesticides, since most pesticides were directed against other corn pests.
Some of the transgenic plants are said to be toxic and harmful to our body, for example the vital organs and immune systems the rat are damaged from consuming of GM crops. This happens because of the significantly different chemical composition from the original crops. An investigation done by Dr. Lappe showed that the concentration of the beneficial phytoestrogen compound which is useful to protect against the heart attack and cancer were totally lower in transgenic plants compared to the traditional strains. Besides, only a few of researchers had done research about the effects of GM crops on human's health. Furthermore, many of the GM plants that we eat, still the researchers do not know the long term effects of these foods on human's health.
In conclusion, GM crops still get a great request from a few of the farmers because many of them think that it is very useful for them to have this kind of technology. However, although we can benefit from transgenic plants but the major concern of the people around the world in refusing to consume GM crops is they believe these GM plants are harmful to them. Therefore, further studies are required by the researchers, so that the potential risks of GM crops are able to be assessed even though GM plants promises a lot of benefits to us.
Ahmad Yamany bin Othman