Disadvantages and Advantages of Genetically Modified Crops
Advantages and Disadvantages
Nearly 90 percent of all the crops grown in the United States have been touched by science. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants that have had their genes manipulated. They give the crops new characteristics, like insect resistance, larger yields, and faster growing traits. The use of GMOs is hardly new, but many believe that sufficient research on the long term effects has not been conducted. In order to understand more about genetically modified crops let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
The Advantages of Genetically Modified Crops
- Better For The Environment
Since GMOs require much less chemicals to thrive, the impact on the environment is lessened. The pesticides and other chemicals commonly used on non GMO crops emit green house gases and pollute the ground soil.
- Resistance To Disease
One of the modifications made to the crops is an added resistance to disease that would normally kill off the crops. This keeps the yields high and the prices for the consumers low.
GMOs provide a stable and efficient way to sustain enough crops to feed the ever growing population of people in the world. This was the main goal of GMO crops in the first place.
- Increased Flavor and Nutrition
Along with resistances to insects and disease, the genes of the crops can also be altered to have a better flavor and increased nutritional value. This is good all around.
- Longer Shelf Life
Genetically modified foods have a longer shelf life. This improves how long they last and stay fresh during transportation and storage.
- Keeps It Affordable
One of the biggest effects that the use of GMOs has had on our every day life is the prices of produce and other foods. Since more crops can be yielded, the prices can be much lower.
The Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Crops
- Cross Contamination
The pollen from the genetically modified plants is also contaminated. When this pollen is around other plants, even things like grass or weeds, they cross pollinate. This could develop “superweeds” that have the same resistance properties as the crops.
- Allergies On The Rise
Ever since the introduction of GMO foods, the amount of childhood food allergies has risen significantly. The exact link to GMO has not yet been found, but many believe this is due to insufficient research in the area.
- Less Effective Antibiotics
The crops that have been genetically modified have antibiotic properties put into them in order to make them immune to certain diseases. When you eat these foods these properties are left in your body and can make many antibiotics less effective.
- Not Enough Testing
There has been very little testing and research done on genetically modified foods and the long term effects have not been discovered yet. This makes many people feel uneasy at the high use of these foods.
Important Facts About Genetically Modified Crops
The fight to have GMO foods labeled is very heated right now. They are currently not.
GMOs are in 80% of processed foods.
The technology to genetically modify food has been around for over 20 years.
The very first GMO food to be commercially sold was the FlavrSavr tomato from California.
Soybeans, cotton, and corn are the most common types of genetically modified crops.
Benefits of GM Food:
With an ever increasing global population, massive 3rd world hunger, and with an estimation that a child dies for every two seconds world wide from starvation; this does not even take into account the number of people who are mal and undernourished, there is a great promise in the use of this technology to benefit not only the farmers, but also societies worldwide.
Some opportunities to use GM foods for good is:
Creating plants better resistant to weeds, pest and other diseases; such as corn
corn is the most important and widely grown grain.
However, corn cannot reproduce without human aid.
Corn is also vulnerable to many pests and diseases, and corn requires a lot of nutrients.
Bigger yields to create more efficient use of land, less uses of herbicides and other pesticides.
Foods with better texture, flavor and nutritional value.
Foods with a longer shelf life for easier shipping.
Finally, GM foods can create an essential sustainable way to feed the world.
Positive Environmental Impacts
Soil salinity has become a major problem in all agriculture. This makes the crops less able to grow and in some cases unable to grow at all.
Thus we need to research the possibility of using the genes of salt tolerant plants species (eg: mangrove) in our agricultural crops.
Example of such crop:
A gene from the grey mangrove, Avicennia marina, has been genetically implanted into a tobacco plant, making it able to tolerate salt stress as well as showing tolerance to other ionic stresses.
Some of the most exciting advances in genetically altered plants are for non-food sources. Edible vaccinations are one such area.
The genetic engineering of plants has the potential to provide edible plant vaccines that could be used to immunize individuals against a wide variety of infectious diseases ranging from cholera to potentially AIDS.
One such example:
the transgenic potato plants that have been produced and tested successfully by utilizing a genetically engineered food to deliver a pharmaceutical immunization against diarrhea.