Genetic engineering debate:
The biggest worry in GMO technology perhaps is the uncertainty surrounding it. Many people feel that we may be going onto an area that we cannot control if it gets out of hand. Maybe it is too late now because we have all (very likely) already consumed lots of GM foods. Whiles, there is little research on the real effects of GMOs on human health, it is widely known that GM foods are safe for consumption, at least in the short term.
The debate is a very heated one.
Food redistribution and food waste
People speaking against GMOs have a different point of view. They argue that feeding the world’s hungry and malnourished can be achieved by redistribution of food supplies. They argue that there is a lot of food waste in many of the countries that are pushing for GMOs. If they did care, they could invest in cutting the waste and distribute the surpluses to the most needed places. That sounds great, but is that possible?
Transfer of allergenic genes
Some people react to some food types. Transferring allergenic genes can result in contamination of natural foods and open up the range of allergic foods for people. For example, an allergenic Brazil-nut gene was inserted into a transgenic soya bean variety, but luckily the effect was noticed before it was released into the market.
— Source: Weighing the GMO arguments. FAO
There are also concerns about the environment. The use of heavy chemicals on crops means that the land will absorb the chemical residue. Weeds that were killed will contain chemical residue, posing a threat to soils and living organisms in them.
Hundreds of millions of people in the world are malnourished and hungry. Where is the food going to come from if we depend on natural farming practices that we have used all along? Many people speaking for the use of GMOs say that the technology will make farmers in the developing world (and all over the world) combat drought, pests, and weeds more effectively and increase yields at local levels. Local farmers will need less effort to produce a higher yield.
Our reading for the lesson included these sources:
1. Genetic Engineering Benefits: Promise vs. Performance, Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/genetic-engineering-benefits.html
2. Genetically Engineered Animals, U.S. Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/GeneticEngineering/GeneticallyEngineeredAnimals/ucm113605.htm
3. AG Biosafety, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. What is genetic engineering? http://agbiosafety.unl.edu/basic_genetics.shtml
4. Biotechnology Industry Organization: What is Biotechnology? http://www.bio.org/articles/what-biotechnology
5. WHO. Food safety: 20 questions on genetically modified foods: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/20questions/en/
6. Safety aspects of genetically modified foods of plant origin., Report of a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Foods Derived from Biotechnology. 29 May–2 June 2000. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/66575/1/WHO_SDE_PHE_FOS_00.6.pdf