Research Paper: Ethical Issues Concerning the Genetically Modified Crops

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Ethical Issues Concerning the Genetically Modified Crops

The new technology which is often termed as 'Genetic engineering' or 'Genetic modification' has promised the world to provide with great revolutions in the field of medicine, husbandry and agriculture. The positive point associated with the utilization f Genetic engineering in the production of plants is that with the help of this technology different nations would be able to produce food that is sufficient enough to reduce the mass hunger that prevails in the world. (Ryan 6-17)

The integration of genetic engineering in the production of crops is confronted with a number of controversies in different nations of the world. The process of genetic modification of crops includes the transfer of DNA from a plant, bacteria or even an animal to various kinds or species of plant. Due to the advancements in technology, the scientists are now able to identify the characteristics of various genes and hence it is easy for them to transfer the available genes into the plant, which they want to modify. ("Genetically modified crops: the ethical and social issues" 2-4)

History of Genetic Modification

Even though, Genetic modification of the plants is a recently developed technique but mankind has been using various techniques to develop some favorable characteristics in the crops that they grow since a very long period of time. Since the inception of agriculture the farmers have been using the techniques of selection and cross breeding with the objective of improving the quality of their plants. In the year 1492, corn, which was native to Americans, was introduced in the rest of the world by Christopher Columbus. This plant was adapted by the European farmers and they modified it so that its production may align with the agricultural and growing conditions of Europe. (Payne and Peters 5-8)

In the era of 1800s, Gegor Mendel, who was an Austrian botanist and plant scientist, did a successful experiment of cross breeding the traits of Pea, such as color height and size of pea. He observed that these changes were attributable to the passing of genes from one plant to another. The similar findings were re-discovered by a batch of European scientists and their discoveries and research was independent of the discovery of Mendel. (Payne and Peters 5-8)

In the beginning of the twentieth century, seeds with more productivity and high yield were developed through hybridization by Henry Wallace, who was an agricultural expert. Hybridization is the process of combining the genes of two or more plants to develop a new plant and this processor is regarded as the direct predecessor of the field of Genetic Modification. (Payne and Peters 5-8)

The foundation or basis for the development of Biotechnology was laid down by the discovery of DNA in the year 1953. The first achievement in the field of biotechnology occurred in the year 1973, when the genetic material from the DNA of one organism was lifted and it was then copied to the DNA of another organism by Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer, who were both researchers. The genetically modified crops began gaining popularity in the era of 1990s as the scientists consistently demonstrated the benefits that were associated with the production of these crops. The first genetically modified crop was authorized for production and consumption by the Food and Drug Administration in the middle of 1990s and after a little period of time eighteen other genetically modified crops was approved for production and consumption. (Payne and Peters 5-8)

Although, in the present time, the genetic modification of the crops is considered common but there a number of negative impacts that this technique may incur. The fear of these impacts has persuaded a number of countries to put a ban on the production and consumption of the genetically modified crops. The people who support these bans provide two common reasons for their support which are; the environmental hazards associated with the production of genetically modified crops and the health and safety hazards associated with consumption of these crops. (Payne and Peters 5-8)

Ethical Issues Associated With the Production and Consumption of Genetically Modified Crops

Agriculture is regarded as the first sector that made heavy investments in the field of bio technology. A large number of experiments were done in agricultural biotechnology with the help of which a large variety of crops were introduced in different regions of the world. The unique characteristic of these crops was that they contained genes that were obtained from sources that did not belong to their specie. (Krimsky 11-26)

The scientists, in recent years, have been confronted with a number of issues regarding the use of Genetic modification of crops as these crops can have adverse effect on ecological system, bio diversity, seed markets etcetera. The major Ethical Issues related to use of genetic modification in the production and consumption of crops are listed below; (Krimsky 11-26)

Human Health Hazards Associated with the Consumption of the Genetically Modified Crops

Although, great excitement prevails among the people regarding the potential benefits that are associated with the use of genetic modification in the production of crops, there are a lot of facts regarding the genetic modification of plants and the potential threats that might occur as a result of the utilization of this technique that the general public does not know. As the sufficient information is not provided publically regarding the content and the effects of the genetically modified food, the probability of inactivation of the natural nutrients that are present in the food through genetic modification and the allergens that might be introduced in the human body because of the consumption of genetically modified food. (Marx 3-5)

One of the major ethical issues related with the free usage of genetic modification in the production of the crops is the potential and unknown health hazards that are associated with the genetically modified crops and which the consumer has to confront after he or she consumes such food. The consumers, while purchasing the food, are of the view point that whatever they are buying is safe and healthy but they are unaware of the fact that it might contain toxic compounds or hazardous allergens. The people are not fully ever of the health hazards associated with the genetically modified crops as almost all the companies do not openly advertise the transgenic compounds that are being utilized by them. So most of the time people buy genetically modified food without even knowing the potential threats associated with the chemically treated crops, which are being produced with the help of genetic modification. (Bhuiya 60-64)

In addition to that, most of the organizations advertise that the transgenic compounds are good for health because they increase the nutritional content of the food; genetic modification may leads toward the inactivation of a number of nutrients that are present in the crops that are grown in a conventional manner. According to a recent research, the genetically modified soybeans have lower levels of isoflavone (which are one of the important aforementioned phytoestrogens), which naturally occurs in the soybean and has the ability to protect women from cancer, when compared with the levels of isoflavone in the conventionally grown soybeans. (Marx 3-5)

The use of genetic modification leads toward an increase in the ability of plants to produce amino acid but the shift in the levels of amino acid lead towards some irregularities in the metabolic activities of the plants. These irregularities, in return, negatively impact the ability of plant to produce aforementioned phytoestrogens and hence alter their levels in the plant. This condition is quite evident in the soybeans, even though, the data related to the chemical residue comes under the tolerance limits, which are being imposed by the Environmental protection Agency (EPA). (Marx 3-5)

Apart from the above mentioned facts, the genetically modified crops are regarded as inappropriate and hazardous for human health because of the increase in the number of cases of allergenicity that occurred as the result of consumption of genetically modified crops. An example of the relationship between the genetic modification of the plants and the introduction of allergens in the human body is the incorporation of the Bt protein in the genetically modified maize as this protein has evident properties that are generally associated with allergenic proteins. This is just a single example of how the genetically modified crops introduce allergens in the human body but there a number of similar cases which prevail throughout the cases. Moreover, as the research regarding the relationship between the genetic modification of the plants and the introduction of allergens in the human body is still in the beginning stage, therefore, we can expect that a lot more information regarding this association is still to be studied and portrayed. (Bhuiya 60-64)

Genetic Pollution

The production of the genetically modified crops also poses a unique threat of genetic pollution to the environment. The basic threat, which is already being evidenced, that the genetically modified organisms will spread in the soil and among a variety… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Ethical Issues Concerning the Genetically Modified Crops.  (2013, July 23).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ethical-issues-concerning-genetically/5846731

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