Genetically Modified Foods Essay

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Technology has been responsible for bringing about some of the most noteworthy accomplishments of recent generations. Medical cures for deadly diseases, the World Wide Web, faster and more efficient travel options, and advanced irrigation systems are just a few of the recent successes which have all resulted from better technology. Like anything, though, technology can be problematic at best and detrimental at worst if not employed properly. One recent use of technology which leaves many conscientious people uncomfortable is genetically modified foods (GMF).

These new food sources are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO) that have undergone a molecular level change to their DNA by genetically engineering techniques (Gaskill et al. , 1999). Not everyone is convinced that GMF are a positive use of technology. In fact, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) encouraged all physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks (Edwards, 2013).

Many skeptics are concerned with the products health risks and environmental impact, along with the repercussions for local farmers, particularly those operating in developing countries. Nearly everyone is affected by GMF in one way or another, but some groups of people are more directly affected than others. They include local farmers, food manufacturers, food purchasers, environmentalists/ conservationists, and government agencies.

Due to insufficient scientific data concerning the safety of GMF, and the possible catastrophic consequences resulting from the development and use of this product, they should be highly monitored by government agencies and immediately banned in order to protect the public at large.

James P Collins CS 300T 9/30/2013 4 Some studies have shown that GMF are potentially hazardous to consumers, especially children, pregnant women, and individuals with compromised immune systems. Many scientists and healthcare professionals argue that GMF are a major contributor to the deteriorating health of people worldwide and possibly even a carcinogen (Edwards, 2013). An increase in blood pressure and heart disease is linked to the consumption of GMF, although these food products are too recent for most researches to be able to conclude anything decisive regarding their long-term effects. Dr.

Stanley Ewen, a homeopathic physician, argues that a cauliflower virus oftentimes used in GMF could potentially increase the risk of both colon and stomach cancers. Even if one is able to completely avoid GMF, they are still not safe from the harmful effects. Water sources near crops of GMF are often contaminated by the runoff from the soil. Dr. Ewen maintains that this amount of exposure alone may hasten the growth of malignant tumors (Edwards, 2013). Other studies suggest that animals fed GMF suffer from severe illnesses and die faster than expected.

In India, animals that grazed on genetically modified cotton plants died almost immediately. Cows in Germany that ate genetically modified corn products experienced the same fate. Scientists are attributing this phenomenon to GMFs tendency to produce toxins and suppress the immune system (Kuiper et al, 2001). The Institute for Responsible Technology listed 65 health risks associated with GMF. Rats fed genetically modified potatoes developed precancerous cells in the digestive tract. These rats also showed signs of inhibited development of the brain, liver, and testicles, along with atrophy of the liver and immune system damage.

Another study indicated that rats fed Monsantos genetically modified corn showed significant changes in their blood cells, livers, and kidneys. Not surprisingly, this mega-company denied James P Collins CS 300T 9/30/2013 5 these findings and refused to conduct follow-up studies to confirm the safety of their food products (65 Health Risks, 2013). A second major drawback of GMF is their negative impact on the environment. As already stated, genetically modified crops pollute soil and water systems. This, in turn, causes adverse consequences on plants and animals (to include humans) that rely on these two natural resources.

Insects that live in the soil are oftentimes negatively impacted and die due to chemical changes in the soil composition. The damage to the water affects nearly all animals, as most animals obtain their water from runoff systems (Dill, 2010). Additionally, GMF produce unnatural chemicals that give plants a new way to defend themselves and insects and animals that naturally consume these organisms die. Spiders, caterpillars, and other small insects are particularly vulnerable to these engineered chemicals. Unfortunately, many species are becoming endangered or threatened.

Due to cross pollination, crops that are not genetically modified are becoming contaminated. Some scientists are concerned that if this trend is not halted, unaltered food species will become severely compromised and may even go extinct (Kuiper et al, 2001). One noteworthy example is North Dakotas genetically modified canola plants. Scientists took thousands of random seed samples from across the whole state. Nearly every sample whether wild or domesticated contained genetically modified seeds. Further studies identified genetically modified canola seeds in locations as far-reaching as Japan and Ireland.

Researchers interpret this data as suggestive of cross-pollination in the wild (Biello, 2010). Furthermore, scientists maintain the genetically modified crops greatly increase the amount of herbicide used. Farmers know that their crops are resistant to most herbicides. Therefore, they tend to use these toxic chemicals more liberally. Since genetically modified James P Collins CS 300T 9/30/2013 6 crops are also modified to produce their own herbicides and pesticides, the end result is that even more toxins are added to the food supply, causing even more contamination (Dill, 2011).

A final reason to ban GMF is the negative economic impact these food sources have on small farmers. Many local farmers, who pride themselves on naturally growing their products, are forced out of business due to rising food costs. They cannot compete with large farms that use genetically modified seeds and pesticides on their crops. As more and more organic farmers close their doors, the available unmodified, natural food sources decrease steadily. This, in turn, drives up the prices for consumers, making it harder for the average person to afford healthy alternatives.

Local farmers oftentimes have their fields completely destroyed or are forced to forfeit their harvests due to cross pollination. Large seed companies, (such as Monsanto), patent their seeds. If these seeds contaminate the local farmers crops, then the mega-companies are legally permitted to confiscate the produce and destroy what remains. This is particularly problematic in developing countries. According to the Center for Food Safety, big seed companies attack and target any farmer who wants to save their seeds. This plan of attack consists of three stages:

investigations; coerced settlements; and, if that fails, litigation (Lo, 2013). In the United States alone, Monsanto has sued 410 independent farmers and 56 small business owners for violations of seed patents (Lo, 2013). Unfortunately, this mega-company won every case to date. This resulted in their receiving over $24 million from small time farmers and businesses. Countless other businesses have been forced to close their doors due to threats from Monsanto and other mega-seed corporations (Lo, 2013).

Presently, many companies are working to produce even more genetically modified plants and food sources that are even more resilient to predators. Also, many large companies James P Collins CS 300T 9/30/2013 7 are lobbying policy makers in order to have stricter laws and regulations enacted to protect their modified products (Lo, 2013). If these companies are allowed to continue with their agenda, there will be dire consequences. More people will develop horrific illnesses and diseases, the environment will suffer terribly, and local farmers will be forced out of business.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (2013) has proposed five ways to prevent these hazardous products from further contaminating consumers food supply. First, they suggest that research funding for public crop breeding programs be expanded to help subsidize the cost of producing unaltered, natural food products. Second, they advocate public research funding to develop agro-ecologically based systems of farming. Third, they propose changing patent laws to allow independent companies to experiment on GMF without legal repercussions.

Fourth, they maintain that stricter controls should be placed on GMF so that these products do not come to market until scientists and private researchers can better understand their health risks. Lastly, they support food labeling laws that mandate all GMF be labeled appropriately. In conclusion, GMF are detrimental to society as a whole. They are extremely unsafe for human consumption, pose huge risks to the natural environment, and place unfair and unnecessary stressors on local farmers.

Due to the numerous uncertainties associated with GMF and the data that supports their harmful side effects, these products should be heavily monitored by government agencies and banned from the public market.

It would be wise for the government to adopt the five suggestions put forth by the Union of Concerned Scientists in order to better protect its people. Unfortunately, mega-seed companies have substantially more disposable income than non-profit health and welfare organizations; therefore, they can afford to buy lobbyists to petition lawmakers to make rules and decisions profitable to their agendas. James P Collins CS 300T 9/30/2013 8.

Works Cited Biello, D. (2010). Genetically modified crop on the loose and evolving in U. S. Midwest. Scientific American. http://www. scientificamerican. com/article. cfm? id=genetically modified-crop Dill, J. (2010). The dangers of GMOs: Know the environmental hazards. Natural News. http://www. naturalnews. com/029869_GMOs_dangers. html Edwards, R. (2013). GM expert warns of cancer risk from crops. Sunday Herald. 16 February 2013. Gaskill, G. , Bauer, M. , Durant, J. , & Allum, N. C. (1999). Worlds apart? The reception of genetically modified foods in Europe and the U. S. Science, 285 (5426): 384-387. Kuiper, H. A. , Kleter, G. A. , Hub P. J. , Noteborn, J. M. , & Kok, E. J. (2001).

Assessment of the food safety issues related to genetically modified foods. Plant Journal, 27 (6): 503-528. Lo, P. (2013). Monsanto bullies small farmers over planting harvested GMO seeds. British Broadcast Channel. 14 April 2013. N. A. (2013). 65 health risks of genetically modified foods. Institute for Responsible Technology. http://www. responsibletechnology. org/gmo-dangers/65-health-risks/1notes N. A. (2013). Genetic engineering in agriculture. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://www. ucsusa. org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic engine ering.

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