People Fear DNA? Because Criminals Always Leave Essay

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¶ … people fear DNA? Because criminals always leave it at the scene of a crime: Joke told by Stephen Rogers, Monsanto scientist (cited in Lambrecht, 2001)

Technology has provided people worldwide with a variety of positive additions to their lives, such as advanced medical care, electricity, heating and cooling, and now instant communication through the Internet. However, there is always a tradeoff for everything, and it is necessary to weigh the pros and cons as in the case of genetically modified (GM) or genetically engineered (GE) foods. These are defined as crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques; they have been approved for commercial planting by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1995. Despite this approval, opponents of genetically modified foods can be found worldwide. Their concerns include environmental violation, contamination of non-GM crops, harm to wildlife, and health hazards. Their criticism is strongly debated by those who stress the benefits of these foods, including increase of crop yield, improvement of nutritional quality, economic growth, environmental protection, food for world poor, and health enhancement. Since it appears that the production of genetically modified foods will continue, then the need is to educate consumers about these foods and determine their views in regard to such issues as labeling, GM free stores and federal regulations.

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The first modified plants were developed to produce insecticides that were not harmful to humans but would kill insects that destroy crops. They were field-tested in 1985 in the United States and approved by the EPA in 1985 as Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis, a toxin that kills insects such as the caterpillar corn borers that destroy over one billion dollars' worth of crops annually (Pringle, 2003, p.122).

TOPIC: Essay on People Fear DNA? Because Criminals Always Leave Assignment

In addition to killing pests, genetically modified foods have been developed to improve flavor, such as the Flvr Savr tomato that was sold in the mid-1990s. It was genetically altered to remain on the vine longer to ripen. However, the tomatoes damaged easily when they were transported and the product was withdrawn. Other plants are enhanced with vitamins and minerals, developed to grow in poor soil, or to produce specific pharmaceuticals to prevent or treat disease (Gay, 2008, p. 16). Presently, the main GM organisms produced and marketed in the U.S. are crop plants including corn, soybeans, and rapeseed for canola oil. More than 80% of soybean crops and 40% of corn are GM forms (Hallaman et. al, 2004, p. 10).

In the U.S., three federal agencies are responsible for protecting American people and their environment from risks arising from GM plants, foods, animals and microbes: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA.

The FDA is entrusted with safeguarding the U.S. food supply and ensuring that a new GM food is safe and nutritious for humans and livestock to eat and it has no new toxins and allergens. The USDA is responsible to ensure that genetically altered plants do not cause any threat to traditional agriculture by spreading altered genes to native plants and weeds. The EPA is ensured for watching that the public, wildlife and environment is free from harmful man-made substances; its jurisdiction extends to genetically engineered foods in cases when a plant or microorganism is altered to produce a toxic substance such as a pesticide (Hart, 2002, p.63)

From the beginning of discussions on regulations regarding genetically modified foods, this topic has led to serious debates in government, organizations and consumers. Albert Gore, Jr. (D-Tenn.) held the first congressional hearing on the implications of genetic engineering in 1983. He used the example of the European gypsy moth and its destruction of the environment, stressing that the organisms being created today are completely new genotypes and their potential for environmental damage could be significant. He stated, it is essential that "we understand all the potential environmental ramifications of an organism before it is released into the ecosystem -- instead of waiting and finding out about them after damage has occurred" (Gore, 1985, p. 12). Most American citizens who knew of this new field did not show support to alter plants and animals. They were insisting that biotechnology experiments be performed in sealed facilities and that any genetically modified products be strictly monitored.

On the other side of the debate were numerous university and industry researchers who downplayed the risks and the need for continued research. Business entrepreneurs argued that too many regulations would stifle innovation and drive up costs and that Americans should be willing to take risks to maintain an intellectual lead in this new field. Some biotechnology advocates went as far as to say that it was better for society to take risks, because with them discoveries may never be made (Hart, 2004, p. 68).

In 1986, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published its final findings in "Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Products and Biotechnology," which still provides the basis for U.S. oversight of genetically altered life forms: Plants and animals created through genetic engineering techniques are not any different, in kind or nature, from the plants and animals that result from traditional methods of selective breeding (Hart, 2004, p. 74). Many people continue to negate the assumption that the process of genetic engineering poses no risks or any problems in the process will be found by a superficial examination of the end product.

In 1992, despite mixed views of the government's scientists, President George Bush announced a new FDA policy on foods derived from new plant varieties developed through recombinant-DNA technology: Genetically engineered foods were to be considered no different from their conventional counterparts unless substantial changes had been made to the nutritional composition of the foods. Labels were not necessary, unless inserting a gene from a known allergen such as peanuts. The FDA did not require companies to perform premarket safety tests of genetically modified foods nor have to notify FDA of introducing new GM whole foods. They were, however, encouraged to consult with the FDA.

At this point in time, therefore, questions concerning GM food safety, value and impact on the environment remain open, and thus the debate by both sides continues. The advocates of engineered foods, many of them scientists such as David Christopher, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Molecular Physiology and Molecular Biosciences and Biosystems Engineering at the University of Hawaii, see GM techniques as improving, medicine, industry, agriculture and the environment. They will some day be used to cure genetic diseases, produce inexpensive medicines and breed superior plants and animals (Christopher, 2000). A Declaration in Support of Agriculture Biotechnology was signed in 2000 by over 3,400 scientists worldwide, including 25 Nobel prize winners (AgBio World).

Thomas R. DeGregori (2000), professor of economics at the University of Houston, believes that movements to ban or put special labeling on GM food are "pandering to hysteria." He argues that there is no basis for the claims that such foods are harmful to human health or the environment. He blames the controversy over GM food on a uninformed public because of the dissemination of misinformation by such groups as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. This misinformation includes, according to deGregori, the fact that Bt did not harm the monarch butterflies. He also stresses the fact that genetically engineered food, such as corn, "has a distinct health benefit of discouraging the buildup of mycotoxins in corn, potentially dangerous human and animal toxins that are produced by fungi that cause plant disease." Recently, in fact, some researchers have been developing edible vaccines to fight hepatitis B and bacterial diarrhea by genetically altering plants, such as potatoes and bananas. The transformed plants produce proteins that elicit immune responses in people who eat them (Torr, 2001, p. 23)

The Flvr Savr tomato, although it transportation problems, was an example, GM food supporters say, of a food that can be developed to last longer. Other slow-ripening foods are still on the market, such as bananas, pineapples, strawberries and raspberries. Genetic modification has also been used to develop a new source of laurate, an ingredient used on chocolate coatings and whipped desert toppings. Laurate occurs naturally in coconut and palm kernel oils. A company learned how to transfer a gene from the California bay tree into rapeseed, the plant used to make canola oil. Since rapeseed can be grown in the U.S. And coconut and palm must be imported, it is less expensive to produce laurate from canola oil (Marshall, 1999, p.61). It is also noted that GM crops help protect the environment, since there is less runoff of synthetic pesticides and herbicides into groundwater and streams. GM food supporters also state that biotech crops can help feed hunger populations around the world. In 2005 biotechnology conference at the United Nations, African farmers explained how GM crops have improved their lives.

In 2005, the World Health Organization of the United Nations issued a report entitled, "Modern Food Biotechnology, Human Health and Development," which concluded that genetically modified… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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