Achieving the millennium development goals has been off track for some countries especially developing one. The millennium development Goal number one is to eliminate extreme hunger and poverty; this means that countries have the priority of providing food to their citizens. This has been faced by major challenges especially the ever changing and unpredictable weather patterns (Helmuth, p.784). This has made it impossible or rather risky to depend on rain fed agriculture where farmers have encountered numerous losses due to failure of rainfall for their crops and livestock. Hunger continues to strike in different arid and semi arid areas due to the un-productivity of their lands.
This paper tackles how genetically modified foods, can be the answer to the hunger in the world. In addition, it acknowledges the arguments against this science and then refutes them to bring a clear view of how it can be the answers to numerous hunger situations experienced globally.
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Despite the major criticisms on GMO's they remain a positive prospect for achieving food security for those countries and societies still struggling to feed their people. According to Whitman (2000 para.4) in the article Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? GMO's have come under criticism from European environmental organization and other groups of public interest. For example, they have protested on the effects of genetically modified corn pollen on monarch butterfly caterpillars.
The politicians have also joined in the debates and politicized the issues some even blowing it out of proportion. But, the questions still abound of whether food security will be achieved through natural agriculture that has greatly been dented by the global climatic changes. Policies therefore need to be developed to save the biting hunger situation. While those supporting GMO's argue that they will feed the world and support better health ad ecological welfare those who oppose it doubt this quoting environmental and genetic problem.
What are GMO'S?
Genetically modified foods i.e. plants and animals are those that are produced through genetically engineering. These are molecular/gene biology methods in the laboratory so that ensure the plants and animals developed acquire desired traits. These desired traits include increased resistance to pests, diseases, and harsh weather, and also improved nutrient level. These desired traits have been developed traditionally through choosing the desired crop or specimen to breed (NBIAP News Report, para.2).
These traditional methods of breeding generally take time and less expensive and also not guaranteed to produce excellent results. Biotechnological methods on the other hand are capable of producing the exact desire trait fast and accurately. The genetic modification will also ensure plants improve their value and characteristics including taste, size, color, sweetness, texture, ripeness and acidity (Panse, para.3).
Plants and animals have been produced through gene modifications that are drought resistant and survived in such conditions effectively. The developed plants and animals produced by consequent generations acquire the trait resulting to better productivity and yields. This is a way to harden the crops from adverse environmental circumstance such as drought, soil salinity, alkalinity, and anaerobic conditions among others. These genes do not necessarily have to come from plants to change plants; they can be transferred from non-plants sources and change the plants. This is the same for animals. A practical example as stated by Whitman (2000 para.2) is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis a bacterial to change corn so that it can produce pesticides to protect against the Bacillus bacteria .
Those who campaign against GMO's have their reasons and different groups such as religious organizations, Environmental activists, public interest groups, government officials and professional associations have voiced their concerns. They criticize GMO's on grounds of environmental hazards, economic risks and human health risks.
Environmental hazards include; the unintended damage to other organisms; the ineffectiveness of pesticides; and the transfer of genes to species that are not targeted. The unintended damage to organisms can be observed when the genes developed harm other organisms. For instance, when the crops developed are able to resist the pests; the pests will be highly affected in view of the fact that they will not have anything to feed (Zinnen, para.5). This will in turn affect those other organism that depends on the pests. The pest resistant crops may not only affect the targeted specie but other pests that may be relying on the plant. This is a critical factor since the environment is placed at a risk with elimination of the species and vital food chains and webs.
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Ineffectiveness of pesticides is also another argument by those who oppose GMO's. They argue that after time the pests will become resistant to the pesticides. Just like mosquitoes became resistant to DDT; they will become resistant to the genetically modified plants and attack them. This will create conflicts since the food security created will be under threat where the natural environment has already been wiped out by the genetic modifications.
Genes can also be transferred to non target species maliciously, through negligence, or unknowingly. In this case, plants or animals may interbreed or cross breed and transfer the genetically modified characters to others (Whitman, 2000 para.4). This will pass genes to the natural environment which does not need to be genetically modified. The conflict is the same in view of the fact that the natural environment remains affected in the long run. However, genetic engineers have brought about a probable solution to this problem.
The engineers propose the option of making the male sterile thus containing the gene among the females only. Secondly they are options of modifying the genetically modified products not to contain the introduced gene; through this method crossbreeding will not occur thus making the plants safe even for the pests to feed on. Scientists can also create buffer zones in the region of the fields that are genetically modified crops. The buffer zone would be of a different species which can not be affected by the characteristic introduced. The pests can therefore feed on the plants and survive from the GMO's. This option has a disadvantage where a lot of land is required for this purpose i.e. planting the GM plants and the buffer zones.
GMO's have risks on human health these include allergies developed by the GM foods; this is a great risks since the food will leave more damage than good. However, not all GMO's cause the allergic reactions but if this occurs then there is labeling of GMO's foods that will protect those who are affected while they feed on them (Bizily, Rugh, & Meagher, p.215). There are also unknown human health effects. Critics argue that feeding on changed genes in plants may after time have a negative effect on the human body. Such concerns do not have any basis but are just worries and propaganda perpetuated by those who do not want to embrace the revolutionary change in GMO's (Daniell, p.468). Critics also argue that some chemicals introduced in the GMO's are harmful to human health; whereas this may be true it can be avoided effectively through avoidance of such chemicals which will make the GMO's safe for human consumption.
The economic concerns come due to the expected prices of the GMO's; this is because the process of producing them is long and costly. On the other hand, companies producing such seeds will require profits to continue running they therefore will charge high prices. The prices may be high especially for developing countries that are faced with food insecurity. This is no great concern since opposing a product on costs would be baseless and ambiguous. The presence of non profit making institutions will make it easy to administer the technology and make it available and affordable to such nations thus transforming their dire need for food to plenty.
Governments have the role of administering and regulating the GMO's i.e. their effects and use (Whitman, 2000 para.8). They have to balance between the social, political, and economic values within their jurisdiction and make it possible for the citizens to embrace the technology to solve their problems. The government needs to keep an eye on the practice that no one can use it for selfish gains or harmful purposes. They should regulate the research of the species and make sure every species and the natural environment is adequately protected adverse modification. This includes any genetic instability where the traditional breeding is not done away with but supplemented by GMO's.
The Advantages of GMO's
As stated earlier, global climatic conditions have become adverse the weather patterns are unpredictable and rain fed agriculture has become impossible. In view of the above fact, GMO's can be the answer to the hunger in the world. This is the best probable solution given that the environment is already modified by mans activities that have caused increased global temperatures, carbon, alkalinity and consequently reduced rain. The plants have therefore to survive the harsh conditions to be able to fit the human race. Dependence on rain fed agriculture has proved insufficient and has led many people go hungry and without food for days. This does not need to be the case while countries can adopt GMO's and feed their citizens and still have surplus to store for the future needs (Hodgson, p.7).
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The advantages of GMO's include high productivity and thus a higher yield. This is irresistible since the countries need more food to feed the population. This is because of the fact that the plants have the genes to resist the harsh climatic condition. Such genes developed will make people utilize the lands that are arid and semi arid which are never productive. Utilizing such lands makes the land for production increase and thus more yield to those populations. The GMO's are cold tolerant (Panse, para.5). Cold conditions can destroy the crops that the farmer has spent a lot of time and money in planting. Introducing the cold tolerance genes will make the crops that freeze away due to cold be able to produce.
The GMO's also have pest resistance. The losses that occur due to pests are numerous and this can be reduced by modifying the plants and animals genetically. The losses result to financial losses and also cause starvation to those who will not harvest anything. The pest infested crops are also not appealing to people and they will not be eaten nor sold if the farmers intended the farming for sale. In addition, plants that are sprayed with chemical pesticides are known to have cancerous effects on the effect of man when excessively used (Hodgson, p.7). GMO's on the other hand does not require to be sprayed with the pesticides; this means it will reduce the effect of cancerous disease. Moreover, the costs of purchasing the pesticides are eliminated thus contribute to more profits due to the reduced production costs.
GMO's are tolerant to herbicide. The costs of removing the weeds from the farm are huge; this is never cost effective for those farming natural crops since they spend much time and finances in this exercise (Panse, para.5). They use herbicides which are also chemicals that are expensive, time consuming and may even destroy the crops and environment. On the other hand all these effects can be solved through the use of GMO's. This means that the farmer will be able to reduce costs of buying and applying herbicides thus saving on costs and getting a higher yield.
GMO's are disease resistant. Diseases claim so many plants and animals from farmers; this result to numerous agricultural losses to the farmers. In addition, diseases also stunt growth and affect the yield to be harvested by the farmers. Moreover, the farmer has to spend huge amounts of money in the diagnosis, treatment and cure of the disease which is not guaranteed. The answer to these huge costs and expenses lie in GMO's. In view of the fact that they are disease resistant the farmer can rest assured of the high yield which will make farming lucrative and risk free.
The nutrition of GMO's can be enhanced as opposed to the naturally grown plants. Malnutrition has been a major challenge to developing countries many have been found to have malnutrition since they rely on the same type of food which is staple (Whitman, 2000 para.8). People may heavily rely on maize or rice as a staple diet which doesn't contain the necessary nutrients. To solve this problem the government must provide food supplements to the affected people; these supplements are very expensive and more so the distribution process takes time and money. To avoid devastating effects of malnutrition there is an easy way out (Helmuth, p.785). The answer lies in GMO's. They can have enhanced nutrients content that will be introduced in the staple food. This becomes a one time solutions that will be cost effective and efficient in solving the problem at hand.
GMO's have also enhanced qualities that are very essential in the marketing of the produce for the farmer; these qualities include taste, smell, size, color, and appearance. In doing so, the products will fetch better prices in the market thus improving the financial situation of the farmers. When the farmer is economically empowered they are able to purchase all their requirements (Whitman, 2000 para.10). The farmer will no longer be faced by hunger or starvation since he/she is in a position to purchase the food he/she wants.
In conclusion, food security as projected in the millennium development goals will not be achieved easily if radical measures are adopted. Every year when the weather never favors the farmer there is cause for alarm since people are at risk of hunger. Such effects of drought need not worry people due the biotechnological innovations of genetic engineering. With the introduction of GMO's the food is guaranteed to the masses. This will not only be easy but efficient and cost effective. By giving the people the GMO technology it will to contribute more food security rather than distributing rations to the people affected by drought every time there is drought.
The critics of GMO technology do so with fears rather than hard given facts; their worries are always addressed by the effective and efficient application of the technology making it the probable answer to hunger in the world. To be able to reap fully from GMO technology the government must have a comprehensive framework that will be responsible for the regulation and monitoring the implementation and progress. This will ensure that safety measures are all put in place to address the concerns of the environment human health risks and economic risks. All in all GMO's provide a feasible answer to the problems of hunger and droughts in the world.