Hazards Of Genetic Engineering Biology Essay

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Many people frown upon the idea of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering, a process that changes the DNA of a living organism, has many downfalls which include threats to the entire food supply, health concerns of the people, and environmental hazards. Some threats to the food supply consist of unanticipated side effects, cross-pollination, and worldwide food shortages. Health concerns would involve little food safety knowledge, allergic reactions to unknown allergens, and the production of new toxins. Environmental hazards associated with genetic engineering are increased levels of pesticides and herbicides, the irreversible nature of gene pollutions, and unforeseen changes in the environment. Genetic engineering should have many restrictions and the foods should get labeled.

Unanticipated side effects, one of the threats to the food supply, could cause many people harm. Tryptophan has been linked to some of the genetically altered plants’ bacteria. Some of the dangerous effects, such as tryptophan, could kill and individual. The increased use of genetic engineering could lead to numerous amounts of deaths that otherwise would not have happened. Preventing the dangerous side effects of genetic engineering becomes difficult because of the unknown health risks. Genetic engineered foods include an antibiotic resistance cell. The consumption of this cell could lead to a reduced effectiveness of virus fighting antibiotics in humans. The gene could also be introduced to the pathogens of animals or humans and make them impervious to antibiotics. The decrease in the effectiveness of these antibiotics leads to far more sickness and increased visits to the doctor. The process of genetic engineering is random, although the engineers say that it is the same as natural foods. The engineers are working with powerful forces of nature without full knowledge of all of the repercussions associated with genetic engineering. "37 people died, 1500 were partially paralyzed, and 5000 more were temporarily disabled by a syndrome that was finally linked to tryptophan made by genetically-engineered bacteria" (Dangers). Many people struggle with the idea of using genetic engineering because of the many unanticipated side effects.

The cross-pollination of transgenic plants and genetically altered seeds is another risk to the human food supply. Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from genetically altered seeds to transgenic plants causing them to inherit the traits of the genetically altered seed. All of the crops become vulnerable to contamination after cross-pollination has occurred. The consumer of the food could become gravely ill because of the contamination caused by cross-pollination. Continuing with genetic engineering contaminates many plants causing more of them to become inconsumable for the people. The introduction of the new genes into the wild plant population and the ecosystem could affect the food chain. Affecting the food chain could allow some of the lower levels of the pyramid to rise up because of these changes and cause many problems. Weeds could thrive in unwanted places as a result of the cross-pollination. Cross-pollination could also allow certain weeds to grow during the winter. Weeds could also grow in places that they would not originally and become a hassle to deal with. "When new genetic information is introduced into plants,..., it can easily be passed into related organisms, through processes such as cross-pollination" (Genetically). Transgenic plants and genetically altered seeds cross-pollination could cause a great danger to the food supply.

Worldwide food shortages, another possible threat to the food supply, could be caused by widespread crop failures. Crop uniformity, used during genetic engineering, reduces genetic diversity. Crop failures could occur because all of the crops have the same genetic make-up. The destruction of one plant would lead to the destruction of every plant that has the same genes as them. People choose to stop buying the genetically altered foods because of the concerns associated with them. Many of the people have seen these harmful effects on someone they know and do not want to take the risk of it happening to them. The reduced purchases of genetically altered foods makes the farmers lose money and then not be able to afford growing foods naturally after realizing this. This causes less crop growth, thus, decreasing the food supply creating a greater risk for food shortages. "As a result, if a fungus, a virus, or a pest develops which can attack this particular crop, there could be widespread crop failure" (What is GE). Genetically engineered foods create threats to the food supply because of the possibility of crop failures and people choosing to not buy genetically altered foods.

The lack of long-term testing on genetically altered foods leads to little food safety knowledge. Knowing the risks associated with a certain organism is important in deciding whether one wants to eat that certain food. Many of the organisms used today have never played a part in the human food supply. These organisms cause the food supply to become more dangerous because of the unknown effects of consuming such foods. Organisms added into the food supply without proper testing could cause many problems to people. The foods consumed by people should have proper testing because of the complexity of our bodies. "Scientists do not yet understand living systems completely enough to perform DNA surgery without creating mutations which could be harmful to the environment and our health" (What is GE). No long-term testing related to genetically engineered foods leads to a lack of food safety knowledge.

Unknown allergens in genetically altered foods lead to allergic reactions that one did not know could occur from eating that certain food. The addition of genetically altered foods has led to ordinary foods becoming allergenic and dangerous to the health of individuals. People would eat ordinary foods without concerns of health risks and they would get sick because of the new allergens associated with these foods. Unknown allergens in foods makes individuals skeptical about eating what used to be considered ordinary foods because of the concerns. Genetic engineering introduces proteins into foods that have never been consumed as foods. This could lead to many dangerous effects because of the unknown dangers associated with these proteins. The only way to identify if a protein causes allergic reactions is experience. This increases the possibility of someone getting sick without the knowledge of the allergens in the genetically engineered foods. "...importing proteins, particularly from nonfood sources, is a gamble with respect to their allergenicity" (Risks of GE). Ordinary foods becoming allergenic and the introduction of new proteins in foods are two health concerns that could become fatal.

The production of new toxins increases the health concerns associated with genetic engineering. The addition of new genetic materials leads to an increased level of toxic substances. The increased toxic substances become harmful because the prevention of them becomes difficult because of the excessive amounts produced by genetic engineering. Using genetic engineering could reactivate inactive paths that lead to toxic substances. These paths always stay in the plants, but remain harmless until activated by proteins added by genetic engineering. Genetic modification could also increase the levels of toxic substances in plants creating a risk for the consumer. The gene that gets inserted as a part of genetic engineering could create unexpected reactions and produce toxic products. Unexpected mutations could occur during the process of genetic engineering, which could cause new and higher levels of toxins in foods. The addition of organisms is not the only health risk associated with genetic engineering. Removing some of the genes or gene products could cause health problems because of needed nutrients in those genes. Some new genes added to crops can bring toxic metals such as mercury from the soil and concentrate them into the plant tissue. These metals are brought into inedible parts of the plant, but there is a great risk that these substances could move into the edible parts. "... some genetically engineered Bt crops produce toxin in the activated form" (Concerns). The increased levels of toxic substances in the environment could lead to many hazardous effects upon the people.

The addition of herbicides and pesticides, an environmental hazard of genetic engineering, could cause many problems. Pesticides could harm non-target organisms because of its toxic possibilities. Insects could escape dying from pesticides because they grow accustomed from the overuse. The insects could adjust to the pesticides to where they cannot be killed by them at all. This could lead to the insects getting into the foods and being consumed by an individual. This could become dangerous because of the pesticides that the insect has in them. Weeds could grow a resistance to herbicides because of the increased use. These weeds could grow in places that people do not wish to see them. Weeds could continue building up and cause the plants to grow slower than usual. "GE crops often manufacture their own pesticides and may be classified as pesticides by the EPA. This strategy will put more pesticides into our food and fields than ever before" (Dangers). Pesticides and herbicides in the environment could lead to increased amounts of insects and weeds.

Gene pollution, an irreversible process, causes the bacteria and viruses to remain in the environment because of the impossible nature of catching them. Recombination could occur between the viral genes produced by the plant and the closely related genes of the incoming viruses. This could create a wider range of viruses or viruses more dangerous than the parent viruses. Genetic engineering could cause many consequences for the wildlife including death. Consuming crop debris left after harvesting could put mice or deer at a great risk because of the bacteria and viruses. Engineered fish containing metal-sequestering proteins to clean up the environment could become harmful if consumed by other fish or raccoons. "It is already assumed by agricultural officials that gene flow to wild relatives will, in fact, occur... The issue is not if transgenes get into the environment but when" (Agriculture). More dangerous genes and concerns for the animals are two environmental hazards related to the irreversible nature of genetic pollution.

Adding new organisms into the environment may allow them to compete successfully with wild relatives causing unforeseen changes in the environment. This causes irreversible damage to the local ecology of the environment. Damaging the ecology could affect the make-up of the food chain. "As with human health risks, it is unlikely that all potential harms to the environment have been identified" (Risks of GE). Adding new organisms into the environment allows irreversible damage to occur to the local ecology.

A process that changes the DNA of a living organism is genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has many concerns which include damages to food supply, health hazards, and environmental issues. The damages to the food supply include unknown side effects, the risk of cross-pollination, and worldwide food shortages. Health concerns would consist of a lack of food safety knowledge, allergic reactions caused by unknown allergens in genetically engineered foods, and the production of new, harmful toxins. Environmental concerns associated with genetic engineering would involve more pesticides and herbicides in fields, the irreversible effects of gene pollution, and unforeseen changes in the environment. Gene pollution should not be tested and restricted greatly.