Transgenic Foods Genetically Modified Crop Thesis

Pages: 8 (2537 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Transgenic Foods (genetically Modified Crop)

The objective of this work is to write the ethical issue, history, whole process, application, advantage or risk in regards to transgenic food or GM crops in a historical, factual or argumentative paper.

Transgenic crops or plants are those containing genes which have been inserted artificially rather than through pollination. The inserted gene sequence is known as the transgene often comes from another plan that is completely unrelated or even from a difference species. One example of this is Tb corn, "which produces its own insecticide, contains a gene from a bacterium." (Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University 1999-2004) Plants that contain transgenes are referred to as "genetically modified or GM crops." (Department of Soil and Crop Science, Colorado State University, 1999-2004)

Genetically Modified Crops Controversy

There is a controversy surrounding the use of genetically modified crops and specifically those which are human food resources. The work of Melton and Rissler entitled: "Environmental Effects of Genetically Modified Food Crops: Recent Experiences" reports that thus far, "more than 40 genetically modified crops are currently allowed in commerce in the United States." (Melton and Rissler, 2009) There are two traits that have been engineered into four commodity crops. The two traits are stated to be those of: (1) herbicide tolerance (HT); and (2) insect resistance (Bt). (Melton and Rissler, 2009) The four crops are those of: (1) corn; (2) cotton; (3) soybeans; and (4) canola. (Melton and Rissler, 2009) The most popular crops are those of Monsanto however, these crops are also marketed by DuPont/Pioneer; (2) Syngenta; and (3) Dow/Mycogen. (Melton and Rissler, 2009) The HT and Bt crops are reported to be popular among U.S. farmers and to have been widely adopted by farmers in the United States. (Melton and Rissler, 2009, paraphrased)

II. Six Potential Risks Posed by Genetically Modified Crops

It is reported that genetically modified crops pose six types of potential risk. Those risks are stated to include the following: (1) the engineered crops themselves could become weeds; (2) the crops might serve as conduits through which new genes move to wild plants, which could then become weeds; (3) crops engineered to produce viruses could facilitate the creation of new, more virulent of more widely spread viruses; (4) Plants engineered to express potentially toxic substances could present risks to other organisms like birds or deer; (5) Crops may initiative a perturbation that may have effects that ripple through an ecosystem in ways that are difficult to present; and (6) the crops might threaten centers of crop diversity. (Melton and Rissler, 2009)

III. Genetically Modified Crops and the Monarch Butterfly

It was reported in the spring of 2000 that Bt corn was killing the larvae of monarch butterflies in studies conducted in laboratories and due to the study being published making the public aware of this risk the government undertook testing and studies to determine whether Bt corn was indeed lethal to monarch butterflies. The study concluded that just one of the Bt corn varieties, of which there are seven which have been approved for planting and use in the U.S. "produced high enough levels of Bt toxin in pollen to be lethal to butterfly larvae." (Melton and Rissler, 2009)

IV. Genetically Modified Crops and Human Health

It is reported that there have thus far being no major human health problems reported in connection with genetically modified food crops and that these have been "consumed by significant numbers of U.S. consumers." (Melton and Rissler, 2009) However, since genetically modified foods are not labeled as such individuals that suffered ill effects from genetically modified crops would experience a great deal of difficulty linking these ills to having consumed engineered products.

V. Potential Problems Identified

It is reported that there have been several potential problems identified as presently resulting from engineered food crops including those as follows: (1) possibility of introducing new toxins or allergens into previously safe foods; (2) increasing toxins to dangerous levels in foods that typically produce harmless amounts; or (3) diminishing a food's nutritional value. (Melton and Rissler, 2009) Stated as the primary concern is that of new allergens. It is reported that a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1996 "confirmed predictions that genetic engineering could transfer an allergen from a known allergenic food to another food." (Melton and Rissler, 2009) It is additionally reported that scientists at Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company were successful in transferring a gene from Brazil nut into soybean for the purpose of improving the nutritional quality of the crop and that subsequent experiments demonstrated that "people allergic to Brazil nuts were similarly allergic to the transgenic soybean." (Melton and Rissler, 2009)

VI. Economic Impact of Genetically Modified Foods in Developing Countries

The work of Raney (2006) reports a review that has as its objective the identification of the factors that influence the level and distribution of the economic value created by transgenic crops in developing countries." The most basic requirement for adopt of the use of transgenic crop cultivars by farmers is their availability. Institutional factors affecting adoption of transgenic crops include such as: (1) national research capacity; (2) intellectual property rights; (3) environmental and food safety regulatory capacity; (4) trade regulations; and (5) the existence of functioning input markets. (Raney, 2006) Raney's work find that evidence indicates that farmers in developing countries "can benefit from transgenic crops, but a fairly high level of national institutional capacity is required to ensure that farmers have access to suitable innovations on competitive terms." (Raney, 2006)

VII. Report of Independent Science Panel (2003)

It was reported by an Independent Science Panel in 2003 that GM crops have "failed to deliver promised benefits" and specifically that findings are consistent since 1999 that GM crops "have cost the United States an estimated $112 billion in farm subsidies, lost sales and product recalls due to transgenic contamination." Furthermore, GM crops are reported due to the instability of transgenic lines to be posing escalating problems for farmers. It is reported that triple herbicide tolerant oilseed rape volunteers that have combined transgenic and non-transgenic traits are now widespread in Canada. Similar multiple herbicide-tolerant volunteers and weeds have emerged in the United States. In the United States, glyphosate-tolerant weeds are plaguing GM cotton and soya fields, and atrazine, one of the most toxic herbicides, has had to be used with glufosinate-tolerant GM maize." (Independent Science Panel, 2003)

It is additionally reported that extensive transgenic contamination is unavoidable since this contamination has occurred "in maize landraces growing in remote regions in Mexico" and this is reported to be despite that fact that "an official moratorium that has been in place since 1998." (Independent Science Panel, 2003) Testing in Canada of certified seed stocks found that 32 of the 33 were contaminated.

The Independent Science Panel additionally reports that GM crops have contrary to claims otherwise, not been proven to be safe and that the regulatory framework is flawed and has been from the very beginning in that it is based "on an anti-precautionary approach designed to expedite produce approval at the expense of safety considerations. (paraphrased, 2003)

There have not been but only a few studies that are credible on the safety of GM food however, the findings that are available are stated to be a cause for concern. The only systematic investigation carried out on GM food states that "growth factor-like' effects were found in the stomach and small intestine of young rats that were not fully accounted for by the transgene product, and were hence attributable to the transgenic process or the transgenic construct, and may hence be general to all GM food. There have been at least two other, more limited, studies that also raised serious safety concerns." (Independent Science Panel, 2003) In addition, food crops are used to produce pharmaceutical and drugs which is inclusive of cytokines which are immune system suppressors, and which induce sickness and produce toxicity for the central nervous system. Interferon alpha is known to cause dementia, neurotoxicity and mood and cognitive side effects.

It is reported that crops that are engineered with 'suicide' genes or that cause male sterility have been supporting as a means of, i.e. preventing, the spread of transgenes. In reality, the hybrid crops sold to farmers spread both male sterile suicide genes as well herbicide tolerance genes via pollen. (Independent Science Panel, 2003) In addition the following additional negative effects have been noted linked to genetically modified food products and crops: (1) Broad-spectrum herbicides highly toxic to humans and other species; (2) Genetic engineering creates super-viruses; (3) Transgenic DNA in food taken up by bacteria in human gut; (4) Transgenic DNA and Cancer; (5) CaMV 35S promoter increases horizontal gene transfer; (Independent Science Panel, 2003) It is reported that there is a history of failure to properly represent and report scientific evidence. This is due to lack of study to report or the reporting of studies that are inaccurate. Sustainable agriculture is reported to have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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