Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Crops (GMOS)
Definition of Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs)
Before I go more in depth about the pros and cons of genetically modified crops, let me first give a definition of what genetically modified crops are.
Genetically modified crops (often abbreviated as GMOs) are simply crops, whose genetical material has been modified. There are two ways to do this:
- Traditional selection and breeding (much like breeding animals),
- Modern, scientific modification of the crops.
In this article, my strengths and weaknesses of genetically modified crops list will deal with the second, the scientific effects and applications.
Process of Genetically Modifying Crops
As the scope of this article is not to describe the detailed process of how GMOs are modified, I will just very briefly describe it.
First and foremost the genetic material of the two or more crops whose genetic property or properties will be mixed has to be fully mapped. The phrase "genetic mapping" means to have a full and exhaustive recorded knowledge of the genes, and the sequence of genes of the genetically mapped organism(s).
When each of the genes (and their functions) of the particular crops have been identified, they are then separated in a science lab. These genes are then cloned and injected into the sequence of genes embryonic form (sometimes to stem cells) of the recipient crop. Finally the seed of the modified crop is planted and grown in greenhouses through traditional methods.
Advantages of GMOs
- More informed customers, because they need to make more informed decisions in regard to nutrition, agriculture and science.
Disadvantages of GMOs
- Harm to other organisms. For example genes and their effect included in a crop may turn out to be poisonous to insects (monarch butterfly poisoned by GMO corns).
- Taste of GMOs are not as good or "natural".
- Less pesticide is needed to be used due to insect pest resistant plants.
- Cross-pollination with traditional, organic plants. Cross pollination can occur at quite large distances. New genes may also be included in the offspring of the traditional, organic crops miles away. This makes it difficult to distinguish which crop field is organic, and which is not, posing a problem to the proper labeling of non-GMO food products.
- More economically friendly as pesticides do not go into the air, soil, and water (especially freshwater supplies). Their production hazards to the environment also decreases.
- Decrease in costs of growing and farming, due to the reduced use of pesticides.
- Spread of new, more resistant "super weeds
- Higher crop yields.
- Spread of new, more resistant "super pests".
- Farmers have more income, which they could spend on such things as, for example, the education of their children.
- Major trading countries that obtain most of the benefit from the production and trade of genetically modified crops. This might cause more geopolitical conflicts.
- Less deforestation needed to feed the worlds growing population (UN projections say that the world population will reach 8.15 billion compared to 6.18 billion in year 2000). This decreases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn slows global warming.
- New trade, tariff and quota issues may arise between countries, regions.
- Decrease in food prices due to lower costs and higher yield. As people in poor countries spend over half of their income on food alone, lower food prices mean an automatic reduction of poverty.
- Critics say GMOs may cause health problems.
- Less starvation in the world due to decreased food prices.
- More nutritious. This has been proven and tested many times.
- As the USA is the biggest producer of GMO crops, their exports may rouse more anti-American feeling, due to “Americanization” worldwide.
- Possible damages to the environment.
- Rigorous testing of ALL GMO crops and products. This makes GMOs much safer than organic (the traditional) crops.
- Possible greed of GMO manufacturing firms.
- Unharmonized test-, and safety standards around the world.
- ALL GMOs that are sold in the market, due to the strict tests. If the slightest chance of health hazard, a GMO is NOT allowed to enter the markets.
- GMOs are made because it is possible to make them, not because consumers feel their need.
- Strict and very complex standards that GMOs have to fully meet.
- More thoroughly understood crops due to the rigorous testing.
- Possible creation of new kinds of weapons; genetic food and beverage weapons.
- Scientific development of agriculture, health and related sciences due to the better understanding of the products. For example, the development of new medicines.
- Additional costs of labeling whether products are GMOs or not. This might increase costs of foods.
- Creation of “super foods” due to better knowledge. Super foods are types of food that are cheap to produce, grow fast in large quantities, highly nutritious.
- Widening corporate size gaps between food producing giants and smaller ones. This might cause a consolidation in the market: fewer competitors increase the risk of oligopolies, which might increase food prices.
- Larger companies might have more political power. They might be able to influence safety and health standards (example: less stringent regulations, standards and requirements).
- New products. For examples, scientist identified the gene responsible for caffeine in coffee beans; by excluding this gene, decaffeinated coffee beans can be grown naturally.
- Reduction of sicknesses and illnesses, as GMO crops are more nutritious. Vitamins and minerals can be provided to children and to people, where they were inaccessible before (i.e.: the world’s poorest and/or most secluded areas).
- Activists’ increased ability to boycott and influence food market, food retailing, and food prices.
- Unforeseen risks and dangers due to the complexity of nature.
- Allergies may become more intense, and also, new allergy types may develop.
- Developments of new kinds of crops that can be grown at extreme climates, for example, dry or freezing environments (like deserts). For example, scientist developed a type of tomato that grows in salty soil.
- Reduction of world starvation due to increased production.
- Discrepancies in information flow. GMO producers stress the benefits, but are reluctant to talk about risks and dangers.
What are Genetically Modified Foods?
Identifying Organic Foods
Fertilizers in Conventional vs. Organic Foods
- As more crops (plants) can be grown and at more places, this decreases global warming through the increase of oxygen in the environment, decreasing the proportion of carbon dioxide. Two British economists note in a study that GM crops have also made significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 10 million tonnes. This is equivalent to removing five million cars from the road every year. In effect this means that people would have to choose between growing GMOs and giving up their vehicles.
- Many Nobel Prize winners and prominent scientists support genetically modified crop research and production.
- Enhancement of the taste of food.
- Enhancement of the quality of food.
- Beside humans, livestock and animals are also beneficiaries to the higher nutritious value of GMO crops. They have an increased resistance, productivity, and hardiness.
- Enhancement of the smell of food.
- Decrease of maturation time of the plants, so they can be harvested sooner and more often during the year.
- With time, possible customization of food to meet personal preferences.
- Enhancement of the size of food.
Growth Hormones in Conventional vs. Organic Foods
- Higher resistance to diseases.
- Less processing needed in factories.
- Less factory additives needed.
- GMO crops last longer. This decreases the amount of wasted crops and foods.
- Reduced energy needs to produce GMO crops.
Antibiotics in Conventional vs. Organic Foods
- Less machinery requirements.
- Due to reduced costs of production, prices can be further reduced.
- Production of friendly bioherbicides and bioinsecticides through genetic engineering.
- Genetically modified plant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Genetic engineering - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Transgenesis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Home Page . Home Page
- U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page
Home Page for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
What's your oppinion about GMOsSee results without voting
- Less labor requirements.
- Experts estimate more than 1 trillion meals containing ingredients from biotech crops have been consumed over the last decade with no reliable documentation of any food safety issues for people or animals.
- Genetically modified foods and crops are recognized by experts and regulatory authorities worldwide as being as safe as crops and foods.
- People who are opposed to GMOs are not the farmers themselves, but people who can afford to buy food.
- The needs of some consumers for GMO-free products lead to non-GMO labeling issues.
More Resources on Genetically Modified Crops
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