Genetically Modified (GM): Pros and Cons
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Food is a vital source for the survival of mankind. The current global food crisis has become too significant a problem that we cannot avoid this issue any further. Several solutions are made to salvage the situation like educating the nations on eating habits, population control and providing food and financial aid to poor countries that face hunger and famine. However, enforcing birth control and changing eating habits is possible but difficult to change the mindset of billions of people within the near future, what we need is an immediate response to tackle this exponentially increasing problem. The most efficient solution to solve the global food shortage issue might be the reliance on science and technology, the growth and consumption of genetically-modified (GM) food. Despite many controversies regarding the use of GM food, it could be the best answer to handle this global food shortage. In this is article, the pros and cons of GM food will be evaluated along with reference from two developing countries - China and Philippines - which will describe their use and attitude to GM foods.
The creation of GM food can play a rather significant role in solving the problem of food shortage worldwide. GM food are produced quicker and an additional advantage of GM food to food that are grown naturally is with the help of genitical enhancement, certain food are manufactured to grow more nutritiously than when produced naturally, for example, golden rice genetically developed to provide Vitamin A will help reduce Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) commonly contracted in developing countries as a result of malnutrition (Curtis; McCluskey; Wahl, 2004).
Another example that shows a plus point to the suppor of GM food is drought-resistant crops. They are created to allow crop yield without being too sensitively affected by erratic climate changes. This means that crops can still be grown and harvested to feed people even when rain doesnt come. Kenya, for example, has been experiencing drought for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to the lack of rain, the unpredictability as to when rain will come causes confusing and inefficient planting and hence, poor harvesting. With the use of genetically enhanced drought-resistant crops, they will not face problems like poor harvest. (Integrated Regional Information Networks, 2009). Furthermore, since GM crops are produced more quickly than naturally grown crops, crop yield will increase significantly which benefits farmers and most importantly, reduce the problem of food shortage.
However, there is an argument that contradicts the point in GM crops helping the increase of crop yield. It is asserted by Mexican Research Scientist, Dr. Antonio Serratos (2008) that production of GM food is unpredictable resulting in the evolution of a mutated version of the actual species. The unpredictability also questions the production of GM crops being more efficient than traditonal methods. As refered from the example before regarding the creation of drought-resistant crops, the essence of drought-resistant can also be transfered to weeds. Hence, evolving weeds into drought resistant weeds. This will then result in an increased use of fertilisers or even fertilisers of higher potencies to get rid of the GM weeds which instead do more harm to the ecosystem than by traditional breeding. Therefore, an increased in enhanced weed could also lead to a reduction in crop yield.
On the other hand, the following argument faults the unpredictability of genitically enhanced crops. Plant Scientist from the John Innes Centre, Dr. Giles Oldroyd (2008) argue that science, by definition is predictable. When one gene of an organism is transfered into another organism it is done thoroughly and sensitively to ensure accuracy. Furthermore, a case study of conventional growing of crops requiring nitrogen fertilisers. The use of nitrogen fertilisers have many adversed effects such as deaths in Mexico and depleting natural resources (fossil fuels). This natural method of crop growing is doing harm to the environment and debates that the perceived unpredictability of genetically enhanced crops are harmful. Dr. Oldroyd also believes that the use of biotechnology is necessary to prevent issues from food shortage due to the expansion in world population and climate change.
My first example of a developing country is the Philippines. It is one of the pioneers in Asia to use GM crops where mainly corn was substituted with GM Insect-protected (Bt) corn which has assisted farmers in controlling invasion of insects on the corn without the use of agricultural pesticides. The following example will explain how the use of GM crops is more convenient and profitable than conventional cropping. Jerry Due is one of more than 50, 000 Filipino farmers in the Philippines that embrace the use of GM corn. Due had less problems dealing with corn borers. Furthermore, he has had an increase of an estimated 20 to 30 percent increase in yield since he started using GM grains two years ago. This also reflected positively on his income, he is now confident in being able to save sufficient money to send his son to school and support his throughout his studies. In addition, Due stated that another advantage to the use of the Insect-protected corn is that they need not burn the residue in their harvest where it is necessary for naturally bred corn, instead they simply leave the residue in the field where it will naturally deompose and become fertilisers. Hence having more time to spend on his family and also reduce negative impacts to the environment. (Monsanto, 2005)
However, there were much domestic debate for Philippines to allow GM crops to be grown in the country due to mainly religious reasons. Philippines is mainly a Roman Catholic country, it has encountered fierce disapproval from environmental groups as well as many Catholic bishops when the Philippine government approved growth of GM crops in the country. Mr. Gloria Arroyo, Filipino President state that the Vatican's approach to GM crops is postive and has allowed the country to cultivate them however, the Vatican states otherwise. The Vatican were still in the midst of discussion, studying the implications and ethics of using GM crops (Mantell, 2003). Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales - Archbishop of Manila - informed President Arroyo to eliminate sale of GM rice products that were imported from the United States as they pose dangers to the people's health as well as the environment. He stated that “As a church institution, we have moral obligation to protect the interest of God's people and their inherent right to safe food and healthy environment” (Rosales cited by Digal, 2007)
The government sees the necessity of GM crop being grown in the country which will help its people economically as described that it had to weigh the consequences between the idealogy of faith and desperation over food deficit.
My second example of a developing country and its use of GM food isChina, the country with the largest population in the world.With over 1.3 billion people and an expected population of 1.4 billion by late 2010s, this is a massive nation requires an incredibly large supply of food to feed its people (Rosenberg, 2008).
The China government is very supportive of food biotechonology because they understand the urgency of the immediate availibility of food and the additional nutrional content that GM food can provide. It has policies of self-sufficiency which resulted in China being the fourth largest producer of GM crops globally. The government also believes that more efficient agricultural production techniques need to be practised and GM crops have proven to show superiority over conventional crops with higher yield, pest resistance and longer shelf life.
The people in China has a relatively positive attitude towards the use of biotechnology on food where only 9.3% of respondents in a survey display negative opinions towards the use of biotechnology on food. This could be partly due to positive influences from the country's government regulation and media coverage . Moreover, the benefits of GM food are considered outweighed to its so-called healths risks and implications. The general benefits which are key factors to developing countries like China are the availibility of food, the nutritional enhancement and last but not least, the economic advantage to the use of food biotechnology.
A consumer-attitude analysis was done in China and results show that Chinese consumers are willing to pay an average of 16% appreciation for GM soybean oil and 38% appreciation for GM rice over natural alternatives (Curtis; McCluskey; Wahl, 2004). Another survey was done to show that at least half of the survey respondents have heard of GM food and about half urveyed that were adequately informed about GM food define GM food as safe for consumption. Only about 20% of overall surveyed feel that GM food is considered unsafe (Zhong; Marchant; Ding; Lu, 2002). This shows that the chinese consumers are not ignorant as to what GM food is all about. The reason as to why chinese consumers are willing to pay premium for GM food is that they are willing to experiment new products. They have great trust in the government's judgement on food safety and the price change between GM and conventionally grown food is not a factor big enough to prevent them from buying (Curtis; McCluskey; Wahl, 2004).
In conclusion, this article has shown perspectives from two developing countries and their postive attitude towards the use of GM food apart from religious reasons. Most importantly, this essay has evaluated and shown that the use of biotechonology on food as a response to tackle the food crisis faced worldwide has been relatively successful with reference from the two developing countries discussed. Genetically modified crops play a very important role in increasing efficiency in production of food for the world, perceived health risks dangers, for example, mice that were fed with food that underwent biotechnology had severe health damages (Zhong, Marchant, Ding, Lu 2002) need to be cushioned and the embracement of enhanced crops ought to be look upon by the entire world.
Curtis K; McCluskey J; Wahl T. 2004, AgBioForun “Consumer Acceptance of Genetically Modified Food Products in the Developing World”
Digal S. 2007, AsiaNews “Stop US GM Food, says Cardinal Rosales” [Accessed on 27/11/09] from http://www.asianews.it/view4print.php?1=en&art=8509
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) 2009, Prevention Web “Kenya: Drought-resistant crops encouraged” [Accessed on 28/11/09] from http://www.preventionweb.net/english/professional/news/v.php?id=10731
Mantell K. 2003, Science and Development Network “Philippines announces Vatican's approval of GM food” [Accessed on 27/11/09] from http://www.scidev.net/en/news/philippines-announces-vaticans-approval-of-gm-foo.html
Monsanto Company, 2005, “Filipino Farmers Reap Advantages of Genetically Modified Organisms” [Accessed on 27/11/09] from http://www.monsanto.com/biotech-gmo/asp/farmers.asp?cname=philippines&id=jerrydue
Rosenberg M. 2008, About “China Population” [Accessed on 28/11/09] from http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/chinapopulation.htm
Zhong F; Marchant M; Ding Y; Lu K. 2002, AgBioForum “GM Foods: A Nanjing Case Study of Chinese Consumers' Awareness and Potential Attitudes”