November 13, 2011
Let’s face it. Genetic modification of plants and animals has been taking place for thousands of years. In order to generate a fruitful harvest or breed larger stock, farmers would selectively breed their best with their best, thus creating a superior breed.
So what’s all controversy about?
Modern genetic modification is no longer as simple as taking two large plants and breeding them with each other. The role of technology and science has become more and more reliant and nature no longer is allowed to take its course. This is not necessarily a bad thing but has provided a basis for controversy.
Genetic modification has proven as a benefit to society in many ways. Through altering certain genes, crop yield and quality have greatly increased and improved. Through scientific breakthroughs one crops’ distinct gene, such as an ability to create a vitamin beneficial to humans can now be transferred to a completely different crop. This same concept has now created crops that require less pesticides. By identifying bacteria that are resistant to certain diseases, DNA can be extracted, altered, and implanted into a crop. This modified crop is overall easier on the environment and of a higher quality to that of traditional farming methods. Due to the removed cost of pesticides to treat plant disease and the ability to create larger and healthier harvests, farmers have been able to generate larger profits.
While there are many positives for a society to adopt genetically modified organisms, many people question the effects engineered agriculture can have on the human body. Produce is not the only type of genetically modified organism. Many of the animals we currently eat are engineered to grow quicker and be larger than those found in nature. This unhealthy growth has been the concern of many people across the United States who feel as though ingesting such engineered meats can be carcinogenic and unhealthy. While there currently has been little scientific proof of such accusations, many people feel strongly that any agriculture genetically modified should be labeled when up for sale. Stemming from this concern, organic agriculture has been thriving and providing people with certainty their food has not been scientifically tampered with. Every store bought organic item is labeled and guarantees nothing through its growing process has been engineered or modified.
Along with health concerns, GMO’s have massive potential to dominate in nature. Through their engineering process, GMO’s tend to be superior in many ways to a wild version of the same plant. There currently is a large concern for GMO’s to cause a loss of genetic diversity and variety among certain species of plants. This lack of variety can eventually lead to a loss of a prized trait that may have a certain use in the future.
The GMO debate is not one that will end soon. Still relatively new to the market, the positives of GMOs currently outweigh the negatives. Though future analysis, science will be able to analyze and decipher the negative effects engineering organisms can have on the human body. In the mean time, I believe the people should have the option to choose whether or not they want to eat these organisms. Stores should be forced to label produce that has been engineered and shoppers should decide what they currently want in their diet.
About the authors: Lucas Biging and Nick Leonard are working towards their bachelor degrees in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.