What is the purpose genetic engineering of crop plants and domestic animals?
Briefly explain how GMOs are created.
What foods in your supermarket contain GMOs? Are foods that contain GMOs safe for human consumption? What types of regulations exist for thes
Table of Contents
1.0. The Purpose of Genetic Engineering of Crop Plants and Domestic animals
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have stirred a lot of controversy and still stand as a debatable topic to date despite wide research on the issue. According to Krabbe et al. (2014) there are many scientific and pseudoscientific views on GMOs which contribute to a lack of agreement on GMOs. GMOs are perceived to be harmful to human health with chances of causing cancers and reproductive complications.
Generally, people hold negative perceptions on GMOs, caring less about the facts or myths. People are quick to make conclusions on GMOs without exploring both sides of the coin. Despite being a scientifically oriented project, it is unfortunate that man does not wholly believe in the concept of science (Pforr et al., 2014).
Plants and animals are genetically engineered in the quest to enhance food security and create a sustainable agricultural practice. Poverty is a real set back in developing countries, which, most times leads to people struggling to get a simple meal for the day. GMOs are alleged to increase agricultural yields because of the reduced output invested, which makes farmers save on pesticides and labor. The increased yields empower farmers financially, increasing the living standards of a people. Genetically engineered products are resistant to drought and pests, which makes the yield, thrive regardless of the circumstances (Ortega‐González et al., 2014).
The Canadian and Kenyan governments at one point were faced with a heated debate on GMOs with both governments advocating for GMOs as a means of increasing food security, and researchers arguing it out basing on science that it was a risky affair to human health. Despite having one of the best Biosafety Act signed by the then President Mwai Kibaki in 2009, which allows room for extensive biotechnological research, Kenya is still afraid to embrace genetic engineering (Martínez‐Augustin, 2014).
Like it is the case with United States of America in the continent of America, South Africa is top among the African counties that have wholly embraced genetically engineered products. Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique on the other hand, are staunch believers against genetically modified foods to an extent of turning down help from America because of their genetically modified corn (Pollock and Hails, 2014)
2.0. How GMOs are created
Genetically modified organisms, as the name suggests are genetics modifications made possible using biotechnology of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) recombination (Bayliss et al., 2014). The process involves taking genes from one living organism, whether a plant or an animal and fixing it to another living organism of the same nature or a different nature. According to Luna et al. (2015) genetic modifications are done for products that would be hard to be productive through breeding. Genetic modifications also happen to flowers and can be used as laboratory animals (Luna et al., 2015),
GMO’s have made it possible to toy around with living organisms by customizing them to suit any specified needs simply by altering a little bit of the DNA (Guerou et al., 2015). Genetic modifications make farmers depend on agricultural biotechnology companies that sell genetically modified seeds. However, resorting to genetically modified products means buying the genetically modified seeds from private companies like Monsanto, which produce them. A draw back with genetic seeds is that they tend to be costly (Guerou et al., 2015)
Successful implementation of GMOs methodologies, especially in the third world countries requires support in terms of availing research materials, coupled with trending technologies. India for instance, experienced the daunting effects of genetically modified cotton. Because of the changing weather conditions that were unfavorable for cotton, farmers in India were forced to buy genetically modified cotton seeds, which cost them four times the price of the local seeds. Panzarini et al., (2015) against GMOs argues that GMOs are presumed to be the solution to Africa’s food insecurity, however Africa thrives itself in organic farming and fears to embrace genetically modified products. Some of the African countries that have embraced genetically modified plants are South Africa, Egypt, Sudan, and Burkina Faso (Martínez‐Augustin, 2014)
3.0. Foods in the Local Supermarkets Are Genetically Modified
According to Krabbe (2014) South Africa is on record among the top African nations to embrace genetically modified foods. 82% of maize in South Africa is genetically engineered with its safety on human consumption guaranteed by the Monsanto. It is therefore a common practice to find maize in local supermarkets in South Africa. Statistically, 44.2 million hectares of land worldwide is used for genetically engineered crops, with South Africa alone used 4.9 million acres for genetically modified crops and this meant that by 2013, there were foods such as kales, maize, beans, flowers and beef in their supermarkets all GMOs (Ortega‐González et al., 2014).
In Canada for instance, the foods that have been genetically modified across the board are maize, soybeans, cotton, and canola. In the United States of America on the other hand, corn, soybean, and cotton have accumulated large shares of land and are commonly found in supermarkets. Since these genetically modified foods are the common ingredients found in most processed foods in their supermarket shelves, the danger tend to linger. Genetically modified corn and soybean is most preferred in America because of its resistance to diseases. Paraguay has also enjoyed the benefits of genetically modified soy to an extent of evicting 9000 rural families to create more space for soybeans. It is for this reason that Ortega‐González et al. (2014) report that at least every supermarket in Paraguay has soy.
Data by Pforr et al. (2014) indicate that 80% of the American foods contain genetically modified products, which make it harder for Americans to escape GMOs. There the following foods are common in supermarkets:
- Enfamil Infant Formulas by Mead Johnson has soy beans which is a genetically modified product
- Betty Crocker by General Mills has apple, banana and lemon which are some of the ingredients, all perceived to have GMO’s
- Duncan Hines by Aurora Foods
- Pepperidge Farms by Campbell’s.
Genetically modified organisms camouflage themselves in such ingredient forms, including acids, sugars, fats, and yeast products.
4.0. Safety of Genetically Modified Foods for Human Consumption
The food and Drug Administration is in charge of determining the safety of GMOs for human consumption (Pforr et al., 2014). International instruments have to be put across all boards to ensure the safety of genetically engineered products for human consumption. Scientists continue to beat themselves about the safety of GMOs for human consumption not only because of the methodologies used to carry out the research, but also because of the different interpretations of data (Krabbe et al. 2014).
Despite the differing stands, human race hold different views on GMO’s as well; some arguments are backed by educational reasoning, whereas others are based on religious views. Pollock and Hails (2014) reiterate that it is impossible to tell the effect of GMOs on human beings, which makes it even harder to ascertain its safety or lack of it (Krabbe et al. 2014).
The European Union recently announced some genetically modified foods that are safe for human consumption. The European Union further plans to let their member states choose whether to allow the importation of genetically modified foods to their countries. Whereas a research by the European Union supported the safety of GMOs, some of the effects were documented by Pollock and Hails (2014). For instance, they found that GMOs are causing adverse effects to animals, plants and human beings including allergic reactions and destruction of internal organs.
According to The food and Drug administration, GMOs are safe for human consumption (Krabbe et al. 2014). To date, the safety or unsafely of GMOs is indecisive, following a statement that was ascertained by signatures of over 300 researchers agreeing that the safety of GMOs is still unknown (Krabbe et al. 2014).
5.0. Regulations for Genetically Modified Foods
The food and Drug Administration does not have any regulatory framework on GMOs, which makes them easy to flood the market since no certification or monitoring is required. The regulatory framework on GMOs limits their production in different countries. Whereas the United States of America perceives genetically modified products as part of life, Europe is quite the contrary (Krabbe et al., 2014).
In Canada for instance, genetically modified organisms are given a span of 10 years to enable research to prove the effectiveness and safety of the products first before introducing them for human consumption. According to Krabbe et al. (2014), this is the regulatory framework the country has adopted. Manufactures are also required to submit data for assessment of their products before they can officially start marketing them.
The regulatory framework of Zambia, being one of the African countries against GMOs, includes ensuring that genetically modified seeds are not accessible in Zambia. In April 2007, the Zambian parliament even passed the Biosafety Act, which stipulated that any research related to genetically modified organisms be thoroughly vetted (Guerou et al., 2015). The Act does not necessarily prohibit GMOs but does everything in its powers to suppress any GMOs efforts.
Human beings are still hesitant to fully embrace genetically engineered products because of the unending debates, with scientific and pseudoscientific backings surrounding GMOs. The war on GMOs continues to be hard as long as some public entities are reluctant to invest in research, leaving the private sector to thrive and monopolize the research projects because of their willingness to invest.
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