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Genetically Modified Products

Essay by 24  •  July 2, 2011  •  1,430 Words (6 Pages)  •  766 Views

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Genetically Modified Products

Genetically engineered products are a major controversial issue in today’s food agricultural, livestock and healthcare industries. Genetic engineering is the science of changing the DNA by removing, combining, or adding certain genes. In relation to other types of sciences this type is relatively new, until recently scientists did not have the tools to attempt this advanced science. Some people believe that by attempting to change the way plants and animals are created scientists are crossing a religious or moral line. This speculation can not stand up to the breakthroughs and the potential this young science can have on today’s present day society. Ways to significantly benefit problems such as world hunger and poverty; while simultaneously benefiting the environment outweigh these weak conservative arguments.

One such breakthrough in Genetically Modified (GM) products can be seen in the attempt to grow rice with a high concentration of life supporting vitamins. This type of rice has been named Golden Rice. This kind of rice is an example of a biofortified food. A major cause of death in impoverished countries, as well as across the world is hunger and malnutrition. The only way to avoid this leading cause of death is to ensure a more complete diet and better standard of living. In the ideal diet a range of meats and vegetables that deliver a complete and balanced meal makes for the healthiest life style and physical makeup. If this ideal diet cannot be supported by the populace in question, a diet of vitamin rich vegetables or fruits, which can be grown locally, also suffices as a life supporting diet. Making such products available to the populace of an impoverished country would significantly decrease the mortality rate, which is the goal of the GM food known as Golden Rice.

In ordinary rice the vitamin ОІ-carotene is produced, however it cannot be found in the edible part of the plant. The husk surrounding the rice seed produces this vitamin, but the inability for it to be stored for long periods of time, such as the winter seasons, where the plant cannot be grown, make it a vitamin inefficient staple food for a large populace. Processed rice does not include this vitamin because the husk is removed. In areas where this plant is the staple food, there are terrible results that come from this lack of vitamins, such as an increase in the occurrence of blindness as well as a weaker immune system expanded on by the WHO,

“According to the World Health Organization, dietary vitamin A deficiency (VAD) causes some 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year. Blindness and corneal afflictions are but indicators of more severe underlying health problems: more than half the children who lose their sight die within a year of becoming blind. VAD compromises the immune systems of approximately 40 percent of children under the age of five in the developing world, greatly increasing the risk of severe illnesses from common childhood infections.” (GRHB 2)

In scientists’ attempt to genetically modify a rice plant to produce β-carotene in the actual rice grain, the rice itself changes color. As more β-carotene is produced, the grain of rice becomes more golden in hue. Eventually the rice grain will contain enough β-carotene to ensure a child’s health as long as at least 100 grams of rice are consumed daily. When this day comes the 500,000 people blinded by malnutrition yearly, will decrease significantly. However, less occurrences of blindness will not be the only positive outcome of this product, the populace of a Golden Rice base society will also have stronger immune systems. This trait will not only ensure a better quality of living, but also will reduce the spreading of diseases. The quality of life of millions is at stake and there are people that want to prevent this way of growing rice to be popular. The idea that man should not change the way things are created seems like an argument that pales in comparison to the benefits that this product can bring to the world.

Another example of a GM product that can aid in the fight against hunger is known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn. To successfully grow corn in today’s age farmers have to prevent the pest known as the rootworm from destroying their crop. In the battle against this pest, a range of pesticides have been tried. Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane or DDT, commonly known as an extremely toxic, though effective pesticide, is one example. Since the ban in the US of this pesticide in 1972, environmentalists have kept their eye out for the detrimental effects of pesticide on the environment. This watchful eye has shown that the pesticide of today is effective, and is a necessary evil, to successfully grow corn. However in a recent field testing of the GM product known as (Bt) corn, an entire crop of corn was successfully grow without the use of any pesticides. This field test was conducted in a field that was infested with the rootworm pest. What makes this corn able to grown in such a way is the presence of the Bacillus thuringiensis gene which is genetically manipulated into the plant as it is grown. This gene can be found in small amounts in regularly used pesticides today. This ingredient however, does not negatively affect people. By growing this kind of corn the amount of harmful pesticides used on thousands of acres of corn fields every day, is not only reduced, it is halted completely. The amount of decreased pesticide use can better be explained by Stephen Johnson,

"We only have estimates now, but as much as 8.5 million pounds of insecticides would not be

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