Genetic Engineering - The Wrong Answer to any Problem
In the matter of only a few years, genetically engineered crops have been
planted on millions of acres of land here in the United States and in other places
around the world. The process of genetic engineering involves the removing of
a gene from the nucleus of a cell and introducing it into that of an entirely
different species, sometimes even from an animal to a plant. The procedure is
so new that there is no possibility at the present time, of estimating the effect
especially over the long term, on the health of the people who eat the food that
has been tampered with in this way. There is also no way of telling how the
genetically modified crops will have an effect on the wildlife and on the
environment. Genetically modified foods threaten to create even greater
problems that cannot be corrected such as a detrimental impact upon wildlife,
further degradation of our environment, and less opportunities and choices for
farmers and consumers world wide.
The Process of Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering is a type of genetic modification, which calls for the
addition of a foreign gene(s) into the genome of an organism. The gene that is
introduced is what gives the organism its trait. This process allows scientists to
move genetic material between different organisms with the goal of changing
their characteristics. The traits from any type of living organism can be used in
this process and transferred into a plant. There are five different steps that are
used in this process. "DNA extraction is the first step in the genetic engineering
process. In order to work with DNA, scientists must extract it from the desired
organism. A sample of an organism containing the gene of interest is taken
through a series of steps to remove the DNA" (Overview of the Process of
Plant Genetic Engineering). The second step in this process is the cloning of the
gene. "During the DNA extraction, all of the DNA from the organism is
extracted at once. Scientists use gene cloning to separate a single gene of
interest...and make thousands of copies of it" (Overview of the Process of
Plant Genetic Engineering). The third step in the genetic engineering process is
the designing of the gene to work inside of another organism. "This is done in a
test tube by cutting the gene apart with enzymes and replacing the gene regions
that have been separated" (Overview of the Process of Plant Genetic
Engineering). The fourth step is the transformation process or the process of
inserting the gene. Fifth and last, is the step of backcross breeding. "Transgenic
plants are crossed with elite breeding lines using traditional plant breeding
methods to combine the desired traits of elite parents and transgene into a
single line" (Overview of the Process of Plant Genetic Engineering). This whole
process takes a considerable amount of time, which ranges anywhere from six
to fifteen or more years to complete before the new transgenic hybrid can
actually be grown in fields.
Argument for the use of Genetically Modified Foods
The use of genetically modified foods could conceivably produce higher
yields of crops, which would essentially revolutionize food production. If a gene
was used that could withstand the cold by only a few degrees this would allow
for earlier planting and more crops. According to Norman Borlaug Ph.D and
distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A & M University:
"Stop to think what would happen to corn production if you could put a gene
into it that would withstand 3 or 4 degrees of frost. Corn is one of the most
sensitive - it and beans - to light frost. Then you could plant earlier in the spring,
when moisture is more plentiful...it will increase the yield. It will shift corn
production to earlier planting".
Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified Foods
One of the main concerns with the implementation of genetic engineering is
that it will have a significant impact on wildlife. One example of this type of
impact upon wildlife can be seen with the results of a study that was done by
researchers from Cornell University. The researchers - John E. Losey, Cornell
assistant professor of entomology, Linda S. Raynor, Cornell instructor in
entomology, and Maureen E. Carter, research aid concluded that "Monarchs
fed milkweed leaves dusted with the so-called transformed pollen from a Bt-
corn hybrid, ate less grew more slowly, and suffered a higher mortality
rate...nearly half of these larvae died, while all of the Monarch caterpillars fed
leaves dusted with nontransformed corn pollen or fed leaves without corn
pollen survived the study" (Cornell News article). This is significant to the
United States because half of all the Monarch butterflies here spend their
summers dining on milkweed in corn growing regions.
The risks associated with genetically engineered organisms being
introduced into the environment can be compared in a way to the risks that
have been encountered by introducing exotic organisms into the North
American habitat area. Over the past several hundred years, thousands of non
native organisms have been brought here to the United States from other parts
of the world. While many of these creatures have adapted to the ecosystems
here in the United States without severe dislocations, there is still a small
percentage of them that have ended up running wild. The Mediterranean fruit
flies are only one example of many of the consequences of this. Cows that have
been injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone - also known as rBGH
- have shorter lives as well as an increased incidence of disease and pus in their
"Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is like "crack" for cows. Bi- weekly shots "rev" up their system and forces them to produce more milk for perhaps a few years, and then their milk production declines dramatically. rBGH also makes them sick. Their udders swell and develop painful, bloody lesions - an infection known as "mastitis", which is treated by giving cows huge doses of antibiotics. The cows suffer through shortened lifespans and increased birth defects, rates of metabolic disease, infertility, and stress" (Michael Cohen,Got Pus?: Bovine Growth Hormone, Genetic Engineering, & the New World Order).
Another main concern is for the environment and the ways that genetic
engineering will contribute to the further degradation of our earth. One of the
ways that genetic engineering will further deteriorate our environment can be
seen with the use, and implementation of genetically modified tree trials.
Currently, these genetically modified trees are increasing rapidly around the
world without any type of control or adequate research in place. "The trials
pose a serious risk to the global environment...commercial production of GM
trees is likely to happen in Latin America and Asia - despite inadequate
research into their environmental impacts" (GM Trees Threaten the Global
Environment). Many of these tree crops are located in remote areas and near
the locations of natural forests which makes them even more difficult to
Pine pollution is an excellent example of the real threat of genetic pollution.
This type of pollen can travel as far as six hundred kilometers. The greatest fear
with the pine pollen is that the sterility trait that has been made as a result of
genetic engineering can spread via the pollen to the neighboring crops or wild
relatives that are growing nearby - rendering them sterile as well. "Trees
engineered for sterility would support far less biodiversity" (GM Trees Threaten
the Global Environment). The natural process of cross pollination would wind
up carrying genetically engineered organisms into the neighboring fields and
beyond, creating new, unknown and potentially harmful species. Given that the
technology is new and untested on a large scale, biosafety issues remain an
important concern. On an equally serious note, unlike chemical or nuclear
contamination, gene pollution cannot be contained or cleaned up at all.
Therefore if and when gene pollution becomes a problem - there is no way to
correct it. "Once the GM genie is out of the bottle there is no going back"
warns Frances Sullivan WWF's Director of Programs. "This technology must
only be used if we are confident that it will not have a negative impact on
forests and the wildlife and people they support" (GM Trees Threaten the
Other risks that are associated with genetically modified trees are the
potential for release of other instable genes, such as those which could pose
such threats upon the whole forest ecosystem as well with the creation of
"super-weeds". Pest resistance along with herbicide intolerance could quite
probably have unintended impacts upon other non-intended species.
"Herbicide tolerant tree species could eventually pose a threat to other forms of
land use and thus people's livelihoods. If the seed of non-sterile, herbicide-
tolerant trees is easily dispersed, the control of woody invasives in some
tropical pastureland could become a serious problem" (GM Technology in the
GM Foods - Extra Costs and Concern for Farmers
Farmers are concerned that genetically modified seeds will make them
dependent upon big firms that are now rushing to patent this new technology.
"Monsanto, one of the biggest players in the field, is currently suing dozens of
North American farmers whom it claims have raised its patented GM crops
without paying for the privilege"(Harvest of Fear). Farmers are also having to
bear the burden of extra costs because of concerns from consumers regarding
the genetically engineered foods. "Farmers in Mexico, Brazil, and France are
facing extra costs to satisfy the demand for non-genetically engineered food.
Demand for clean certification has created new testing, labeling, and transport
costs for farmers to guarantee no genetic contamination of their crop" (Farmers
Say No to Genetic Engineering). This could have a significant impact on the
livelihood of the farmers. "Increasingly, farmers around the world are viewing
genetic engineering as a threat to their livelihood" (Farmers Say No to Genetic
Engineering). In addition to worrying about the extra costs, one farmer along
with many others in Mexico is also worried about the genetic contamination of
the traditional varieties of corn crop that they have. Porfirio Encino a farmer in
Mexico says: "There are about 5,000 traditional varieties of maize in Mexico
and we could lose them all" (Farmers Say No to Genetic Engineering).
Allergic Reactions to Genetically Modified Foods
Millions of Americans and others around the world who are sensitive to
allergens will have no way of identifying or protecting themselves from
offending foods that have been genetically modified. Allergic reactions can
cause more than simple discomfort - they can result in life-threatening
anaphylactic shock. While consumers rely on physical characteristics such as
color and firmness of fruits and vegetables to indicate freshness, nutritional
quality, as well as flavor, a luscious looking bright red tomato from your local
grocery store could actually be several weeks old with little nutritional value
and one would never be able to tell. We won't know, because the DNA of the
tomato will have been restructured and altered for the purpose of giving the
consumer a misleading and counterfeit appearance of freshness. According to
Dr. Geoffrey Clements: "DNA is difficult to destroy; it survives boiling, and
ingested DNA can survive the digestive process. From there it can pass into
the bloodstream and into other cells. Possibilities include genetic disturbances,
including cancer". (Genetic Engineering: Technology or Cookery?).
L-trytophan is an example of the unfortunate reality of the real danger of
allergic reactions and that they can indeed have harmful - even fatal - effects on
us. L-tryptophan is a dietary supplement that was made using a genetically
engineered bacteria. L-trytophan was marketed for sale here in the United
States in 1989 by a Japanese Company by the name of Showa Denko, KK.
Within a few months of being sold, the genetically engineered supplement
caused the deaths of 37 people and the permanent disability of 1,500 others.
"Although there is no conclusive proof that EMS (epidemic of an unusual malady) resulted from genetic engineering, the link has not been ruled out; and many experts think it likely that whatever toxins caused the disease were unexpected side effects of the gene-splicing procedure. It is well recognized this procedure can alter cellular activity and generate novel toxins...the main reason a definitive answer has not been reached is that the relevant evidence in Showa Denko's laboratory was destroyed before it could be examined" (Steven M. Druker J.D.).
The Problem with Labeling Genetically Modified Foods
Unfortunately, a significant number of genetically modified and engineered
foods are already on the market. For the most part, they are not labeled as
such and consequently, millions of people here in the United States are
consuming these products without them knowing that they have been
genetically engineered or modified. Genetically altered and modified foods
already on the market in the United States include corn, soybeans, potatoes,
squash, tomatoes, chicory, and papaya, as well as milk and other dairy
products from cows treated with a genetically engineered growth hormone
"By 1999, approximately 30% of the United States corn crop had been genetically engineered. More than 50% of the soy crop had been modified, and 60-70% of all processed foods contain soy. A total of more than 30,000 grocery products have been genetically modified themselves or contain genetically-engineered components" (American Association for Health Freedom).
The FDA's own scientists have proven themselves to be unsure of the
effects of genetic engineering of foods. Dr. Louis Priybl of the FDA
Microbiology Group wrote, "There is a profound difference between the types
of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering" (FDA
Taken to Court by Own Scientists). Because of the uncertainties with regard to
the safety of genetically engineered foods, a landmark lawsuit has been filed
against the US Food and Drug Administration by nine different people including
biologists, advisors, and some of the FDA's own scientists in order to obtain
mandatory testing and labeling of genetically modified foods. "They have been
joined by a whole host of consumer groups, religious organizations, and
concerned scientists. They claim that every genetically engineered food in the
U.S. is on the market illegally and should be recalled for rigorous safety
testing" (FDA Taken to Court by Own Scientists).
Sustainable Agriculture - A Better Solution
While it is evident that genetic engineering and modification is on the rise, I
argue that this is not the answer to any problem such as the one that pertains to
the uncertain supply of food. It is aparent that food production does need to
increase. However, we already produce enough food to feed everyone - the
real problem of hunger is that the poor cannot afford to buy food and poor
farmers cannot afford expensive modern technologies that could increase their
"More than enough food is already being produced to provide everyone in the world with a nutritious and adequate diet - according to the United Nations' World Food Programme, one-and-a-half times the amount required. Yet at least one-seventh of the world's people - some 800 million people - go hungry. About one-quarter of these are children. They starve because they do not have access to land on which to grow food, or do not have the money to buy food, or do not live in a country with a state welfare system" (Genetic Resources Action International).
Sustainable agriculture does not deplete natural resources and does not use
harmful, artificial substances that cumulate in the environment. Rather, it uses
knowledge of the interactions between crops, pests, and pest predators to
avoid the need for costly technological fixes such as fertilizer and pesticides.
Because of these reasons, it is the only sensible form of agriculture for the long
"Analysis of 208 projects in 52 countries covered some 9 million farms on 29 million hectares that have adopted sustainable agriculture practices. A common feature was reduced soil erosion and improved water management through the use of cover crops, inter-cropping, reduced tillage, and development of mulch-based systems. Many projects revealed important interactions...The projects fulfilled many of the criteria of sustainability and did so with production increases often between 50% and four-fold. If such successes in developing local production and consumption while improving rural social structures could be extended, then such projects would have a significant impact on world hunger and poverty" (Recognizing and Realizing the Potential of Organic Agriculture).
What the people need is readily available food and an inexpensive means
to improve their farms. The solution to these problems is sustainable agriculture.
Sustainable agriculture is a method of farming that utilizes the best use of
nature's goods and services without damaging the environment. This is done by
using natural processes such as nutrient recycling, nitrogen fixation, soil
regeneration, and pest predators in the food production process. By doing this,
the use of pesticides and fertilizers is reduced which reduces the damage to the
environment as well as the danger of health threats to consumers. Also, it
makes better use of the knowledge and skills of farmers, which will allow them
to improve their self-reliance and capacities.
It is very clear that Genetic engineering may lead us straight down a
dangerous road. Especially since there is a lack of testing and research. Genetic
engineering and modification likely will cause many adverse reactions such as a
detrimental impact on wildlife, further degradation of our environment, and less
opportunities and choices for consumers as well as farmers. It is clearly not the
answer to any problem - only a mistaken solution that would lead to more
problems. The big question is, given that the potential for ecological damage is
known from the outset, will the business owners of genetic engineering
companies be held accountable for the harm caused by their products? It is
unconscionable to allow these businesses of genetically engineered crops to
continue to develop, release, and profit from a technology that has not even
been able to be adequately tested and researched as to the impact it will have
on the environment and the health of wildlife as well as people themselves. This
issue of genetic engineering is just one big experiment that we are all being
made a part of whether we like it or not.
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Genetically Engineered Foods Despite the Deaths One Had Caused And
The Warnings Of Its Own Scientists About Their Unique Risks".
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