Genetically Modified Food Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2281 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Genetically Modified Food

There has been consistent controversy regarding the safety and labeling of genetically modified foods (GMF) over the past few years. But the corporations that are creating the GMF and growing the food continue with production and there seems no slowing down this trend. Are genetically modified foods safe to eat? Are GMF safe for the environment and safe for people? How are GMF explained from the point-of-view of biology and chemistry? This issues and more will be addressed in this paper. Thesis: Since there are so many unanswered questions about the potentially negative impacts resulting from genetically modified foods, great caution should be taken by regulatory agencies prior to authorizing additional GMF crops to be planted.

The Literature on Genetically Modified Foods -- the Pro-GMF Position

An article in the peer-reviewed journal Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry argues that foods have been genetically manipulated for "…hundreds of years," going back to 1885 when Gregor Mendel published "Experiments on Plant Genetic Hybridization" (Daunert, et al., 2008, p. 327). Daunert and colleagues clearly support the continuing genetic manipulation of food products, saying that "genetically modified foods highlight the potential humanitarian ramifications" including "increased nutrition and heartiness of the crops" (327). Those corporations creating GMF are part of the "…fight to end human malnutrition and hunger," Daunert explains, while those opposed to GMF "…cite the fact that allergies and inter-species gene transfer may be hazardous to human health" (327).

Actually opponents of GMF also point to the "potential negative environmental effects of modified crops," Daunert adds, noting however that instances where GMF has had negative impacts on mice and rats are exaggerated. Opponents also are concerned about the transfer of "antibiotic resistant genes from genetically modified foods to the microflora housed in human intestines," Daunert continues, albeit she explains that this inference "is pure speculation" (328). The authors suggest that "special interests" are against GMF, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Organic Consumers Association; that said, there are actually many mainstream consumer and environmental groups that have concerns about GMF, but Daunert and colleagues chose those three groups as a way to editorially diminish the clout of the opposition.

What Daunert admits in terms of one legitimate criticism directed towards GMF is that "…little is known about the long-term effects of GM crops on the environment, microorganisms, animals and humans" (328). In advocacy of GMF, the authors emphasize: a) the need to feed billions of hungry people (the Earth's population is soaring); b) the fact that GM crops "provide immunity to insect attack on stored grain"; c) genetically modified foods "eliminate the need for expensive pesticides"; d) increasing crops "due to GM crop proliferation should make food cheaper"; and e) genetically modified foods can be "fortified with vitamins and nutrients" and have a longer shelf life (328).

The Literature on Genetically Modified Foods -- "Regulatory Sham"

An article in the peer-reviewed journal Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease asserts that regulators are "ignoring the precautionary principle" and that regulators are "manipulating and corrupting science" (Ho, et al., 2007, p. 66). Moreover, regulators are actually "sidestepping the law" by helping to market and promote "…genetically modified organisms (GMOs)" notwithstanding what the authors call "massive public opposition ad damning evidence" (66).

Just what specifically do the authors of this article object to? Humans have been consuming genetically modified foods since 1994, Ho explains, and because "…no one [in the U.S.] has been found to fall ill or die" from GMF, regulators continue to assure the public that these modified foods are safe for consumption. However, notwithstanding the fact that apparently no one has died (or at least no deaths were reported in the U.S. up to the time this article was published in 2007), the authors list 12 incidents that do not shine a favorable light on GMF.

This paper will present five from among those damning examples: a) between 2005 and 2006, scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences reported that when female rats were fed glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans, "more than half of the litter" died within 3 weeks and the rest of the litter was "severely stunted"; b) thousands of sheep died between 2005 and 2006 after grazing on "Bt cotton crop residues" in India; c) in 2003 there were five "unexplained deaths" and numerous "mysterious illnesses" in the Philippines when a Monsanto Bt maize hybrid that contained Cry1ab protein "came into flower" (antibodies to the Cry1Ab protein were found in the villagers); d) in 1998 in Scotland young rats were fed GM potatoes that contained "snowdrop lectin" and damage was discovered "in every organ system" of the rats; and e) a dozen cows died in Hesse, Germany, after they ate Syngenta GM maize Bt176 that contained Cry1Ab/Cry1Ac plus glufosinate-tolerance (Ho, 67).

The Ho article takes a militant position against GMF production and against the regulators, asserting (69) that there is so much evidence against GM food that "regulators should be answering a charge of criminal negligence at the very least."

The Literature on Genetically Modified Foods -- Monsanto's GMO Corn

An article in the Huffington Post (Goldstein, et al., 2010) appears to back up some of the assertions made by Ho and colleagues in terms of the negative impact on mammals vis-a-vis genetically modified food produces. The journalists in this article point to a study of Monsanto's "GM corn" by the International Journal of Biological Sciences (IJBS) revealing that the corn "…is linked to organ damage in rats" (Goldstein, p. 2). There were three varieties of genetically modified corn (Mon 863, "insecticide-producing Mon 810"; and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603) that were used in the study, all produced by Monsanto, Goldstein explains on page 2.

The study showed that the most serious effects the corn had on the rats occurred in their kidneys and livers, but there were also negative effects "…on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells," Goldstein reports. After examining the data, the study's authors "….strongly suggest that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity" ("hepatorenal" toxicity refers to kidney failure); moreover, because these genetically modified substances have "never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet," therefore the health responses for humans that consume the three Monsanto varieties of corn is "currently unknown" (Goldstein, p. 2).

Monsanto was quick to respond to the results of the study, saying the research was "…based on faulty analytical methods and reasoning and do not call into question the safety findings for these products" (Goldstein, p. 2). In response to the Monsanto rebuttal, the author of the IJBS research (Gilles-Eric Seralini) contends that Monsanto "…systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose"; the failure of Monsanto to vet its products is "a very serious mistake," which could have a "dramatic" impact on public health, Seralini asserts (Goldstein, p. 2).

The Literature on Genetically Modified Foods -- Gender Differences

The author of the IJBS article mentioned in the paragraph above notes that there is a difference in terms of health effects on males vs. females. There is also a difference between the genders when it comes to acceptance of GMF, according to authors Hester Moerbeek and Gerda Casimir. Writing in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Consumer Studies, the authors claim that "women are less accepting of genetically engineered products than men" (Moerbeek, et al., 2005, p. 308). Why are women less enthusiastic about GMF?

Moerbeek references the feminist view that since women take in the responsibility of childbearing and childrearing, they are more particular and sensitive to "nature," which creates a more "…humane, subjective and 'empathetic' science sensitive to women's values" (310). Studies show that countries that rate high on the "masculinity index" also tend to score low on the "environmental-sustainability index"; moreover, women worldwide are the "primary buyers of medicines without prescription" and females are known to make the major decisions in households as to family health issues (Moerbeek, 310). A study by the Mintel International Group in 2002 revealed that 51% of women had deep concerns about food safety as compared to just 36% of men who said they were very concerned about food safety (Moerbeek, 310).

The Literature on Genetically Modified Foods -- Health Risks

"In the absence of adequate safety studies, the lack of evidence that GM food is unsafe cannot be interpreted as proof that it is safe…" (Dona, et al., 2009, p. 164).

A peer-reviewed article in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition points to animal toxicity studies with some genetically modified foods which have shown that genetically modified foods "…may toxically affect several organs and systems" (Dona, et al., 2009, p. 164). Most studies conducted up to 2009 show that genetically modified foods "…may cause some common toxic effects" including hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects, Dona explains on page 164. Also, eating genetically modified foods "…may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters" of the human body, the authors continue… [END OF PREVIEW]

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