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Patel
1


Chandni K. Patel

Instructor Newsom

ENG 1020

April 22, 2011

Genetically Modified
Seeds of Promise


Through gene mutations,

DNA

recombination, and gene transfer, the
manipulation of genes is a natural occurrence within all life forms. Such knowledge has
been attained and exploited by humans for centuries
.
Our understanding of gene
transfer has evolved a great deal with advancement
s of technology compared to

simpler
times when

the use of cross breeding plants to produce genetically unique offspring

defined our understanding of gene transfer
.

These technological advancements have

allowed for scientists to work directly within the
DNA

of plants and animals to ensure the
expression of desired gene

traits
.

The scientists

of today work with

DNA by identifying
certain genes, isolating these genes, then copying the genes and introducing them into
plants, animals, or microorganisms

to create

new organism
s

which would

have

never
naturally occur
red

in nature.
T
hese deliberate modificati
ons made by the scientists fall

under the branch of genetic engineering
.
There are many applications to genetic
engineering, from use of it in medicine for the treatment of illness and disease to the
production of foods
for

improve
ment of

taste, increase

in

size, and
the

delay
decomposition.
Its wide

use in production of food h
as proved to be contentious and has
stirred up an immeasurable amount of attention from the media.

This is due to the fear
of whether genetic
ally modified foods pose a threat to the health of society or not
.
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Opposers of genetically modified foods also clai
m they do not fulfill their purpose of
being more efficient and are not worth their pricey expenses of maintenance.
However,

supporters claim genetically modified foods are safe for consumption and are cheaper
to maintain because they require less pesticid
e and herbicide use compared to plants
which are unmodified.
Supporters also claim genetically modified foods

have

innumerable potentials such as

the potential

to make pharmaceutical vegetables and
fruits which would be cheaper to ship compared to vaccines

and medications

thereby
providing lower income families all around the world with cheaper alternatives to
attaining good health.

Supporters also view potential on a larger scale for genetically modified foods to
decrease o
r solve the rise of the

world hunger crisis.
The world is on the edge of a food
crisis, nearly one billion people do not have enough food to eat each day, and this
number continues to steadily increase with time. As the increases in crop yields begin to
slow, the world’s populat
ion continues to skyrocket. Experts predict there will be an
additional 2.3 billion people living in the world in the year 2050

(Castaldo)
. To sustain
such a large population, global food production will have to increase sevent
y percent by
2050 to sustain not only humans, but livestock as well

(Castaldo)
. For this reason, it is
necessary to take into account genetic engineering in food to produce stronger plants,

an

increase
in food production
, and
t
o produce

nutritionally enhanced vegetables and
fruits.


By taking desired genes from other plants or organisms, such as abilities to
withstand harsh conditions, disease, and flourish in uncompromising situations, certain
crops may be mo
dified to grow succ
essfully in places which lack access to food.

The
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science

of genetic engineering

prevents threats of extinction in plants b
y modifying
plants
to be more resistant to disease.

The prevention of extinction of plants helps to
address the food crisis by ensuring the crisis does not become any more severe than it
s

current
status
.

Papaya is not

popular globally, but for the Hawaiian economy this fruit is
the second most important fo
od crop. Twenty years ago this crop was on the brink of
extinction due to a ring spot virus which preyed upon the crops, resulting in
the dying
out of the plant and low crop yields
. In a few years the state’s output of papaya
plummeted from fifty two pound
s to mere twenty six pounds

(Castaldo)
. As the
Hawaiian papaya industry
steadily began

to cave in, researchers in New York at Cornell
University were searching for

a

solution to this catastrophe.
Instead of breeding fruits to
produce hybrids these researchers isolated a gene within the ring spot virus and
inserted the gene into the chromosome of a papaya. Just as humans develop
resistance to a virus through va
ccination, the resulting fruit also

developed

resistance to
the ring
spot virus.

The results of this application were miraculous for farmers,
production increased to forty million pounds after planting the genetically modified
papaya seeds

(Castaldo)
.

Currently
, most

of the

papaya seeds grown in

Hawaii are
genetically modified. Had the papaya plants not been modified to resist the ring spot
virus the plants would have surely died out and a dominant source of income for Hawaii
would have been cut off completely. This would have resulted in the los
s of jobs for the
Hawaiian people leading to economic downfall and an increase in poverty among
Hawaiians
.

By producing the
ring spot virus resistant papaya the Hawaiians were able
to return their economy to its high point and their jobs were saved. In suc
h scenarios
where a plant has been driven to

a point of near extinction,

its price would drastically
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rise making it unattainable for families whose primary source of consumption or income
is based off of this plant. If these families have no other means of

income they will be
forced out of their homes and become cut off from receiving foo
d.


Despite the many promising assets genetic engineering in foods have to offer,
the European Un
ion gave into fear and banned genetically modified

crops. They were
afra
id
that if they chose to grow genetically modified

crops they would become
permanently shut out of European Market

(Collier)
. Due to the EU’s fea
rs, most of Africa
has banned genetically modified

crop production.
Presently, the
Af
rican agricultural
productivity per acre has be
gun to deteriorate while

the population continues to increase
at

a

rapid rate

(Sharif)
. Experts predict that in the future, the climate of Africa will
become hotter and rainfall
will dec
rease leading to more droughts o
n the continent.

The
production of genetically modified plants to induce a biological revolution may be all the
continent needs to sustain such a large population and to counter the effects of the
predicted harsh wea
ther conditions.
With crops being genetically modified to grow to
tolerate d
rier conditions

being planted all around Africa, jobs will be produced and more
sources of food will become available to the Africans
, thus reducing poverty and hunger
among the pe
ople
.


Many c
ritics

question whether genetically modified crops would be
e
nvironmentally

and e
conomically

beneficial to

the

farmers living in developing
countries.
A study conducted in

India in 2001

by the University of California

consisted of
one hundred and fifty seven farms in three of the most cotton producing states during
the seven month period of cotton season. The high temperature and humidity of India
provide ideal conditions for
insects to feed off of crops, therefore cot
ton farmers have
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struggled in the past to fend off the bugs with excessive pesticide use.

At the end of the
cotton growing season, t
he researchers found the average yields for the genetically
modified cotton crops were eighty percent greater than the natur
ally grown cotton
crops

(Genetically Modified Cotton Crops)
. In addition the modified crops were sprayed three
times less compared to the local crops.
"We are reporting on cotton, but the results are
easily transferable to food

crops since the type of pest damage they would
sustain
would be the same," stated

Matin Qaim,
the study’s lead author,
"With populations in
developing countries growing exponentially, and available farmland stagnating, there is
an urgent need to find ways

to increase crop yield
s on the land that is available
"

(Genetically Modified Cotton Crops)
.

Another study conducted in 2008 among low
income rice farmers in China yielded similar results regarding pesticide use. The results
of

the study revealed farmers who adopted the genetically modified insect resistant rice
crops experienced

a range of

either a rise
or no change at all in their crop yield

(Jikun
Huang)
. The farmers also had to use

six times

less
pes
ticide meaning they were able to
save money by not having to purchase the
expensive insecticides

(Jikun Huang)
.
Furthermore, due to the reason that the farmers were mostly poor
the study

provide
s

insight for leaders concerned with agricultural productivity and farmer income

as to why
genetically modified rice crops should be commercialized. The efficiency and low cost of
maintaining
the modified

crops
contribute to the positive impact on farm sust
ainability.
Given that

genetically modified crops are less costly in production costs, this makes the
cost of the finished product less costly to the consumer as well.
T
his lower cost effect

aids in attacking the food crisis because it
helps with food avai
lability

and affordability.
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With an increase in food supply availability, more people will be able to be fed all around
the world.



As a direct result of hunger, malnutrition is a cond
ition in which the body does not
receive enough nutrients

(Hunger Stats)
.
Starvation is a form of malnutrition.

Natural
disasters, poverty, war, and epidemics all contribute to conditions of starvation and
malnutrition.

Among children around the world, malnutrition is a significant problem.

There are an estimated 10.9 million deaths among children under the age of five in
developing countries each year

(Hunger Stats)
.

M
alnutrition and hunger
-
related
diseases
are the cause of sixty percent of these deaths
.

Experts estimate that six
hundred and eighty four thousand child deaths worldwide could have been prevented
had

the children had better access to vitamin A and zinc

(Hunger Stats)
.

Vitamin A and
zinc deficiency is not only seen in children but in billions of people.

Research for
developing countries is most likely now to focus on nutritionally enhancing crops in
order to save t
he lives of millions of people
.

Biot
echnology companies can change the
genetic makeup of crops to
improve

their nutritional value, antioxidant content
,

and

vitamin content. This

idea of taking pieces of fruit and packing them full of vitamins and
minerals and sending them to developing count
ries

is

a promising solution to such a
heartbreaking
problem

as malnutrition
. There have already been attempts at producing
such wondrous food. In India, charities, scientists, government institutes, and industries
have worked together to produce a
genetically modified potato to fight malnutrition
among the children living in poverty

(Can GM
-
enhanced nutrition wait?)
. This potato,
also known as the “protato”, has a gene within its DNA to produce protein. India’s
populatio
n largely consists of vegetarians; many of them use legumes

and lentils

as
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their primary sources of protein

(Can GM
-
enhanced nutrition wait?)
.
Compared to other
vegetables, the protato

has high levels of essential amino acids, amino acids which
cannot be produced by the body and must be attained through diet. Currently the
protato is wit
hin its final stages of testing. A
s soon as it is app
roved it will feed and

benefit many people

nutri
tionally
.

Another example of a genetically modified food which
has been nutritionally enhanced is
golden rice. Golden Rice is known for its richness in
beta
-
carotene, which may be the cure to the vitamin A deficiencies of people in
developing countries

(Can GM
-
enhanced nutrition wait?)
. Scientists are currently
attempting to further enhance this rice by adding a trait from French beans to increase
the amount of iron content.

Swiss scientists are also striving to take a gene from
daffodils and place it within the DNA of the rice to further enhance the amount of vitamin
A content

(Can GM
-
enhanced nutrition wait?)
.

Not only are plants genetically mod
ified,
but modifications could be done within animals as well to enhance the amount of
nutrients their bodies produce before consumption.

Other enhancements which can be
made to food could include
adjust
ing the food

to

taste better as well as
to be

health
i
er
.
Such changes could result in more people eating fresher fruits and vegetables rather
than packaged foods and fast foods.
A change in diet from unhealthy foods to healthier
nutrient packed foods would be better society as a whole because everyone would
have
the potential to live a healthy life whether they are in a developing country or not.


To many people, genetically engineering and food sounds like a horrible and
dangerous idea.

They believe genetically modified food to be unknown and not worth
the
risks taken to produce an item which would not occur within nature naturally.

Although the idea of genetic
ally modified food strikes fear

in many people’s minds, it is
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still of utmost imp
ortance the

benefit
s be considered. Critics may say

it is too far a
stretch to take genetically modified foods and use it as a way to get rid of world hunger.
Nine hundred and twenty fi
ve people million people living all around the world do not
have enough food to eat with each passing day

(Hunger Stats)
.

With food productivity
beginning to slow and the world’s population continuously increasing to higher and
higher numbers food productivity must skyrocket to feed all these people.

The world is
in a state of food crisis with peo
ple dying every day for lack of sustenance.

To allow
genetic engineering in food to remain unconsidered would be letting these people down
and not using the most of our resources to fight the situation on hand.
Genetically
modified foods hold great promise for improving such a dire situation of need through
the production of stronger plants, higher crop yields, and nutritionally enhanced crops.
The production of stronger plants will allow for crops to be planted
in
locations which are
prone to drought and allow for crops to not go extinct by producing disease resistant
crops. With strong crops, jobs will be produced and higher yields will result, meaning
more food to feed starving people with. Along with higher yi
elds, money will be saved,
as genetically modified crops are cheaper to maintain. Nutritionally enhanced foods will
combat vitamin and mineral deficiencies, saving lives. By utilizing genetic engineering to
produce far superior food compared to natural foo
ds, hunger will be diminished and
society as a whole will prosper.





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9


Works Cited


Can GM
-
enhanced nutrition wait?

March 2005. 27 April 2011 <http://www.new
-
ag.info/en/focus/focusItem.php?a=1255>.

Castaldo, Joe. "The DNA Solution."
Canadian
Business

12 April 2010: 37
-
40.

Collier, Paul. "The Politics of Hunger How Illusion and Greed Fan the Food Crisis."
Foreign Affairs

2008: 67
-
79.

Genetically Modified Cotton Crops.

February 6 2003. 27 April 2011
<http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/ar
ticle/5165>.

Hunger Stats.

2009. 27 April 2011 <http://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats>.

Jikun Huang, Ruifa Hu, Rozelle Scott, Carl Pray. "Genetically Modified Rice, Yields, and
Pesticides: Assessing Farm
-
Level Productivity Effects in China."
Economic
Development

& Cultural Change

(2008): 241
-
263.

Nicholson, Simon. "Genetically Modified Organisms and Global Hunger
-

A Real
Solution?"
Sustainable Development Law and Policy

2008: 57
-
77.

Sharif, Khadija. "GM Foods: Hobson's Choice for Africa."
African Business

October

2008: 52
-
53.