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What are genetically modified foods? Probably to some, this term is new to them though some could have heard of it but don’t really know what it entails. They are foods that are produced through the application of the biotechnology. This implies that, the genetic makeup of organisms such as bacteria’s, plants or animals is been altered in order to solve some desired problems. This product derived from the alteration includes s foods and food ingredients, feeds and fiber, medicine and vaccines. Though these technologies for the genetically modified foods promises to offer solutions to the challenges facing the 21st century, they like any other technology poses risks, some which are known while others are unknown. The benefits that come with this technologically modified foods is that there is increased production of products with better taste and quality, reduced malnutrition timer, better nutrients ,yields and increased nutrients. There is also increased resistance to diseases, pests, and herbicides among the crops grown. Some benefits in animal products include better yields in egg production, more milk and meat (Weasel, 2008). The animals are able to become more resistant to diseases and more adaptation to hardship areas. The question which persists is whether these foods are helpful to us or they are all together harmful to us?
The genetically modified foods have been developed due to the arising problems and since they have the capability of solving many of the worlds malnutrition problems, I think they better be adapted. They will also help in protecting the environment by their increased yields with higher resistance to diseases meaning a reduced use of pesticides and other chemicals in the soils. The world population has currently topped six billions and the unfortunate thing is that, the numbers are expected to increase by double in the next 50 years. The major concern that persists is whether the current trends of producing food will be able to feed double the population if it is currently not able to do so efficiently today. This concern is again joined with the fear of the degrading environmental conditions which are leaving more land uncultivatable. There are also concerns about the availability of water for irrigation in the future following the current decrease in it source due to the drastic weather changes. Since there problems posed by changes in nature appear to be more immutable , the next better option in trying to evade these challenges is by coming up with technologies which can be used to produce more yields despite the harsh conditions. (Bodiguel, 2010)
We could give a further look into the benefits that come with this technology of producing foods. The crops being produced by these technologies are pest resistant. This helps to evade the losses brought about by pest infestation which leaves behind devastating financial losses due to low yields. This loss of crops by farmers means that there is starvation mostly in developing countries. Again there are a lot of chemicals which are used by the farmers when producing their crops. These are some undesirable components by the consumers who wouldn’t want to feed on foods with lots of harmful chemicals. These chemicals also deplete the environment of its riches by the excessive use of fertilizers which as a result affect the water supply. So this means that, growing GMO foods would eliminate the application of chemicals in form of pesticides and hence reduce the cost of growing crops. Another benefit on crops is that, since there are some crops which are not cost effective to remove weeds by the available methods and so the use of large quantities of sprays for weed killers (herbicides) becomes the only appropriate technique to use. This process requires a lot of care so that the herbicides don’t harm the crops or the environment. Therefore, crops that are genetically made to resist the effect of the herbicide are of more help as they don’t pose any threat to the environment.
Since there are many diseases brought about by the viruses, fungi’s and even bacteria’s, it becomes essential if crops would be developed to be able to resist the diseases. It would save a great deal to avoid the losses incurred due to poor yields as well as the cost of treatment of these diseases. The new technology has brought desirable traits to some crops that would be affected by adverse weather conditions. For instance there some seedlings that are destroyed by frost. Through this technology, an unfreeze gene has been developed from cold water fish and has been introduced in crops like the potatoes and tobacco .This way the crops are able to resist the unexpected cold temperature and this means that the yields would be realized as expected. The plants are able to withstand the adverse condition that would kill the unmodified seedlings.
As the population has been growing in an alarming rate, there is less land for food production and instead, the land is utilized for housing. This means that farmers have to grow crops in areas previously unfit for crop production. This means that, new brands of crops have to be developed which will be able to withstand long period of drought or some areas with high concentration of salt. Through the GM crops, it means that drought tolerant and salinity tolerant crops are able to be grown meaning that, the previously inhospitable places can now be put to good use.
Another big problem that has been solved by the GM foods is that of malnutrition. Most of the developing countries have had this problem of some improvised people depending on a single staple food like rice for their nutrition. This is a very dangerous position as they miss the required nutrients which would prevent malnutrition and the diseases arising from the same. If for instance rice would be genetically modified, to include additional vitamins and other essential nutrients which lack in the unmodified one. This way some of those nutrients deficiencies would easily alleviated. There is a case study conducted on the third world countries concerning the blindness caused by lack of vitamin A. According to the research conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for plant science has come up with a strain of golden rice as they call it that contain high levels of beta-carotene or vitamin A. This kind of rice if brought to the developing countries would help solve the blindness. There have also been major strides in the development of pharmaceuticals. Medicines and vaccines are often very costly to produce and in most cases require some special storage conditions that are not available in the third countries.
Though they are very profound benefits of the GM foods, they have been met by some criticism. These critics are majorly on three main areas: environmental hazards which are usually some hazards on some unintended harms to other organisms. There is also some reduced effectiveness of pesticides. There are some populations of mosquitoes which have developed resistance to some developed earlier pesticide. This has made the pesticide un-effective. There has also been a problem of transfer of genes to un-targeted species. This problem though has some possible solutions. For instance, to deal with to the problem of introduction of genes of untargeted species by having plants which are sterile such that, they don’t produce any pollen grains. This way there would be no possibilities of cross-pollination. (Evenson, 2004)
The various government should put in place the necessary measure to ensure that proper testing of the safety of this products are carried out to avoid the negative effects that could arise. The international policies and food labeling should be adapted to ensure that, consumers are not made to feed on foods they are not willing to. This means that, we must continue with the necessary cautions to avoid the unintended harm to human health and his environment as he chose’s to live with the various benefits of the GM foods.