Monday, February 23, 2015

Genetically Modified Crops: The Solution Our Earth Needs, or a Dangerous Gamble?

Genetically Modified crops have become a widely used resource for farmers in the twenty-first century. These genes in these crops, including common staple foods such as corn, tomatoes, rice, and beans, have been genetically altered to posses foreign traits and abilities outside of their normal range. These crops have met great success in the U.S. market, often going unknown to consumers due to the lack of labeling. However, GM crops have met great resistance in the European market, and many large companies have given up on their European sales completely. So why are these products becoming so prevalent, and why is their use so controversial? To answer this question, I have researched both the good and the bad aspects of genetically modified foods.

These engineered plants were created with good intention, both economically and environmentally. Many poor nations have difficulty growing crops to feed their people due to pests, drought, strongly alkaline soil, and lack of money for proper pesticides and herbicides. Many genetically altered plants have the capability to solve these issues, utilizing genes from bacteria, mice, fish, and other life forms to create a strong hybrid plant that can withstand these environmental challenges and increase crop yields.

At first glance, these genetically modified foods seem good for a sustainable world and to be a viable solution for food shortages in poor third-world countries. However, if we look deeper into the long term effects of these crops, we begin to see cracks in their logic. Pest resistant crops such as Bacillus thuringiensis corn work by emitting a protein that is toxic to common insects that destroy crops. This protein will effectively kill 99% of insects. There is only one problem. If this is so, then the 1% of insects strong enough to resist the killer protein will be left to breed. If we leave only the toughest insects to breed, then their species may become resistant to our modern pesticides, only making the initial problem worse.

Other similar issues have risen regarding the escape of genetically modified foods, including concerns over GM crops migrating into the wild, long term effects on human health, and on animals in the wild. One thing is for sure, if we are to consider the use of genetically altered crops to better our society, it is extremely important that we ask questions and conduct research first.

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