Genetic Modification

Genetic Modification
Genetic Modification The development of genetically modified food is the most controversial development in farming and the food industry for centuries. Throughout history man has developed new methods of farming and new types of food but GM food represents a revolutionary change compared to the evolutionary process that has ruled up to now. Scientists have developed methods of manipulating dna, by transferring it from one organism to another. Characteristics such as the height to which wheat grows are encoded into molecules of dna of all living things. dna consists of chromosomes that have series of genes; these genes are inherited through the generations.
A gene that encodes a desirable trait can be copied and transferred into another organism and this is called genetic modification. There two main types of GM crops being grown at the moment. The first can tolerate herbicides that wipe out other plants and the second type is modified to produce toxin that kills pest that feed on it. At present around 25% of the world?s crops are lost to pesticides and diseases through insect attack which is enough to feed over one billion people. However with Genetic Modification you can stop this as for example with the Bt maize, the maize plant modified with poisoning producing genes taken from the bacterium thuringiensis is able to resist the corn borer insect which can destroy up to 20% of a crop. Weeds are also a threat to food crops, even though there is no problem with the amount of herbicides, there is a limit to when you can use them. As with ?broad spectrum? herbicides you can only spray before the crop has emerged from the soil and then you spray again with selective herbicide when the crops start to emerge. However, crops that have been genetically modified to tolerate the ?broad spectrum? herbicide can be sprayed at the optimal time at which to spray and therefore the fewer sprays can reduce number of tractor trips across the field and save energy. Since weeds compete for water, sunlight and soil nutrients, such GM crops might produce higher yields. 800 million people amounting to 18 per cent of the world?s population do not have enough food and six million children under five die of malnutrition each year in developing countries*. GM technology could help by increasing the quantity and quality of food produced, at less cost to the environment and help to reduce the amount of famine worldwide. Drought resistance could be built into plants to enable them to grow in dry conditions, whilst plants made resistant to frost could grow in colder climates. Pro-GM crops believe that GM crops in Britain will boost the economy and encourage biotechnology companies to invest in research and development**. Food can be modified to contain more protein and higher levels of nutrients, which can make it more appealing for people to buy. Few people support early commercialisation, with more than half attending the debates saying they never wanted GM crops grown in the UK and there is a widespread mistrust of government and multinational companies. They argue that we do not know enough about the science and altering the genes could lead to problems for future generations. Genes could escape from crops into related wild species, making indestructible weeds. Such weeds would pose a problem for the farmers, as they would need to be controlled by alternative herbicides or cultivation. Cross pollination could occur if two crops are adjacent to each other or even between adjacent farms so crop isolation doe not always work. Wildlife could suffer the knock-on effects of huge areas of insect free monoculture, or be poisoned directly. Another concern is that GM crops are more effective at killing target insects; this might deprive other organisms which prey on them, such as birds. A build up of unwanted plant remains could be caused by the increased use of broad spectrum herbicides or Bt toxin within plant as they have an impact on insects, fungi and micro-organisms. If the pesticide is used frequently then it is likely that the weed or insect it is killing will build up a resistance to it. The concern with GM crops is that the use of just one herbicide instead of a mix of herbicides, would make the weed resist against it and therefore the weed will continue to grow. Introduced genes in foods might cause unforeseen allergies, or worse. Also large companies that own both GM technology and agrochemicals threaten to control the world?s food supply, overriding consumer choice and disadvantaging small farmers especially in the developing world. My own view based on the evidence is that on balance, the benefits of developing GM foods out weigh the disadvantages. In a world with big discrepancies in the standard of living between the modern industrialised countries and the less developed third world, the ability to maximise production of food resource is paramount. There will always be environmental issues and risks involved in solving the problems created by the limited natural resources of our planet and it is for scientist to solve these problems rather than use them as an excuse to slow down progress.

Genetic Modification 6.8 of 10 on the basis of 2483 Review.