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GM foods genetically modified foods are brilliant products of modern biotechnology. The creation of GM foods and crops reflects a long, creative process of hardworking of different scientists all over the world. Since these products are first introduced to the market, they have drawn attention of many consumers and specialists worldwide. This paper, based on the research from different resources, gives the reader an overall image of GM foods and discusses about the benefits and the controversy that has been emerging so far. Particularly, this work implies the importance of GM foods and GM technology in human life and supports the development of GM foods as a resolution for some critical problems that the world is facing.
GM food and GM crops are no longer new technical terms to people nowadays. Scientists and other specialists on food have been investigating this phenomenal achievement and numerous intensive research, books and articles have been done and written. The emergence of GM food marked a new stage in biotechnology and other scientific practices. Moreover, GM food is also considered to be a significant scientific breakthrough which has helped the world deal effectively with many problems related to food and food security especially in the developing world. Since its first introduction into the food market, GM food' has been developing substantially with an impressively high speed. It has been reported that 2.8 million hectares was cropped with GM crops in 1996 and this figured increased to 90 million hectares in 2009(Timo et al. 29th March, 2011) and the GM food market has grown 74-fold and spread to over 25 countries( James October 2009). In addition, a huge number of farmers have adopted GM crops for its incredible variety of traits and productivity. There are roughly 13.3 million farmers growing GM crops worldwide (Chico 2011) and this figure is expected to continue to increase in the coming future.
GM Foods have brought about a profound change into the world. It has experienced a long period of time and there have been many different opinions about it from various scientists and customers worldwide. With an aim to inform the readers with some basic knowledge, this paper will discuss about GM food in terms of three main parts: An overview of GM foods, The Benefits and The controversy that have arisen so far about GM products.
2. Discussion of Findings:
2.1. An overview:
People talk a lot about GM foods, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) or GM crops nowadays on the internet, in on-line forums as well as in many off-line conferences conducted by different organizations. The consumers subconsciously get familiar with these technical terms as they become ubiquitous everywhere from the packages of food they buy to many pieces of news on TV. However, not everyone knows how to define GM food and other related technical terms thoroughly and precisely. There are probably many ways in which scientists give the definition of GM food. GM foods can be defined as "foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), especially, genetically modified crops" (Wikipedia 2013). More specifically, GM foods are foods "produced from plants, animal or microbes that have had their genetic codes modified" (University of California 2006). Likewise in Whitman D.'s report, he suggests GM food be defined as the products of "crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques"(2000). The technologies involved in the process of modifying the genetic structure or introducing new DNA segments is quite complicated and they requires a lot of error-and-trial experiments which are done by scientists in experimental laboratories. In fact, the three definitions given by different authors together share the same idea relating the change or modification in crops' genes with the help of modern biotechnology. The key purpose of carrying out such complicated biological practices is to gain the desirable and valuable traits in the modified plants such as pest-resistance quality, nutrition-enhancing quality and other incredibly outstanding qualities.
The history of the development and production of GM food is quite long and interesting. GM food witnessed its unprecedented growth especially over the last decade. It is quite promising that the development of GM food will roar in the coming decades in spite of much controversy since its very first introduction into the market. According to Wikipedia (2013) the idea of generating GM crops originated from the discovery of the possibility of transferring DNA between separate organisms in 1946. The very first genetically plant was successfully created in 1983 and in the following years, many GM crops that received approval in a number of countries especially the US. Since that time, there has been much controversy amongst scientists as well as consumers about the possible hidden health risks of GM foods that remain mysterious with no specific scientific evidence. However, GM foods have gained increasing popularity worldwide and obviously bring us many benefits. In Viet Nam, it is not difficult to find GM products on the market as these products are widely available. In an article in the Baomoi (2011), it is reported that 111 out of 323 samples of food examined at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City are GM products. We will discuss further about the benefits of GM foods later in section two: The Benefits.
2.2. The benefits:
It is undeniable that the emergence of GM foods has generated many good effects on human lives. In contrast to conventional methods such as crossbreeding in order to get the desired characteristics on plants or animals, genetic modification technology represents a greater level of accuracy and predictability. Consequently, scientist can create a new generation of crops with high productivity and resistance against diseases, pests or harsh condition. Moreover, with the increase in crop yields of GM crops, the world's hunger may be effectively addressed when people harvest more with the same crops that are planted particularly when the world's is likely double in the next 50 years, which represents an enormous problem of feeding people with enough food resources (Whitman D., 2000). That is clarified when Shields R. (2009) reports a government official's speech in which he emphasized "GM crops have a role to play in preventing mass starvation across the world caused by a combination of climate change and rapid population growth". Besides, it is worth mentioning the enhanced nutrition values in GM products. Designed to contain a large amount of necessary vitamins and nutrients, GM foods bring a brighter future for people especially the poor. An example of these is "golden rice" which has successfully dealt with Vitamin A deficiency in children. Seeing the promising prospect of this GM product for Philippines people, Lomborg B. has urged that "The people, not Greenpeace, should decide whether they will adopt A-rich rice for themselves and their children."(2013).
2.3. The Controversy:
Health concerns about GM products are actually inevitable. As the world is evolving speedily, people become more and more aware of their health and well-being. There have been two opposite opinions about GM foods amongst scientists and customers around the world. One side advocates GM foods, the other rejects its consumption in their own countries. There was Health concerns about GM products are actually inevitable. As the world is evolving speedily, people become more and more aware of their health and well-being. There have been two opposite opinions about GM foods among scientists and customers around the world. One side advocates GM foods, the other rejects its consumption in their own countries. There is obviously an extreme contrast in opinions among scientists and specialists. In a criticism article, Gucciardi A. (2012) has rejected Bill Gates' public saying that "GMO foods are the solution to the world hunger" by showing the result of a research done by a team of scientists. He strongly acclaims "Genetically modified crops were not a meaningful solution to the problem" and that" the claims made by Bill Gates are completely inaccurate". Sharing the same opinion as Bill Gates, a British Parliament member Freeman G. has stated " The resilience we need for the future by smart plant breeding- and that's all GM is" (cited in Hennessey R. 2012) However, the controversy becomes even more tense and confusing when a senior government scientist emphasized in his speech the important role of GM crops for dealing with problems in the face of dramatic changes in climate and population (cited in Shields R. 2009). He based this claim on the potential benefits of GM that may be the solution to the world's problems. Backing the idea, Professor Watson urged the trials of GM crops in the UK as he saw the future of the world's food security as the "nightmare scenario".( cited in shields R. 2009).
Many different organizations and countries around the world also involve in the debate with two tensely contrasting attitudes. One of the most heated debates is the "war" over GM foods between EU and US (Borger J. et al. 2006). The "war" actually began in 1998 when EU imposed a "de facto" ban on GM food imports from the US, which tries to "have GM crops accepted in international trade". In response to the debate, Carroll D. openly opposed to EU's decision and considered the debate "based on emotion, not evidence". She also strongly expressed:"People in the Europe are anxious about the use of GM crops or animals and I have a concern about that because I don't see the evidence base suggesting that there is substantial risk associated with it" (2012). Nevertheless, there are many other organizations which are set up to show its opposition towards the use of GM foods in their own countries. The Organic Consumers Association which supports the use of organic products in Japan is a typical example. In an article on the association website, it is reported that there have been many cases in which Japanese health ministry and the domestic consumers reject the consumption of GM foods in their country and request the labeling of GM products (Bayer A. 2007). In other countries such as Austria, Luxembourg, Greece and Bulgaria, the sales and cultivation of GMOs is strictly prohibited. However, there is so far no evidence against the development of GM foods but only conclusions based on secondary research. English C., a writer for the RealClearScience, has claimed "There is no reason to label these generally harmless foods and doing so could create unnecessary concern among the public" (2011).
The creation of genetically modified foods and crops is obviously ingenious and remarkable. GM foods have undergone an intriguing process of development since its first introduction into the world's market. The findings which have been discussed above indicate the undeniable advantages of GM foods to the human and claims its contribution to the dealing of different issues especially the world hunger. However, the controversy that has arisen is considered unavoidable and it draws our attention to the health risks that GM foods may represent. "Is GM foods harmful or helpful after all" is what the world is trying to figure out with focused effort and intensive investigation. It is strongly believed that by thinking rationally and critically, we human will eventually come to the right conclusion and the next steps for addressing world-scaled problems for the sake of human lives.