Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Frankenfood last 10,000 years agriculturalists have been

Frankenfood – that is a commonly used term by those who oppose the use of GMOs.  Why is there such an opposition? How agriculturally educated are those who oppose? To understand either side of the argument, one must first understand what a GMO is and how they are used. A GMO is a genetically modified organism – a crop or livestock animal. There are two main ways GMOs are developed. Artificial selection breeding is used to draw out only the desired traits from two parents into the offspring. For example, in the livestock industry there are many different associations to which cattle, sheep, goats, swine, and chickens can all be registered to. The primary purpose of these registrations is to track genetics through bloodlines, and then prove that a specific animal is associated to said bloodline. More modernly, genetic engineering has given scientists and engineers greater control over the genetic changes and developments in a specific organism or seed. An example of a common genetically engineered organism is corn. Engineers built up the plant’s resistance to insect pests by introducing the insecticidal protein Cry1AB from Bacillus thuringiensis into a seed line of the plant. Overall, the purpose of these modifications is to increase the value and growth of the product. While GMOs are negatively presented in the media, they are the most effective route to feeding the growing American and global populations. Crops have been genetically modified for centuries and have experienced positive effects.  According to the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, in the Overview Of Genetic Modifications In Seeds, “during the course of the last 10,000 years agriculturalists have been in some way genetically modifying their crops to improve hardiness, yield, taste, and/or nutrition”. Farmers paired with scientists in the 1700s to begin cross breeding plants of the same species. Some crops have modified themselves naturally over time, like the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes have been found to contain four genes from a soil-dwelling bacteria. Gene transfer is one of the ways that Nature creates biodiversity on its own (Vincelli 1). The Perception of International Stakeholders on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) states that, modernly, crops derived through genetic modifications are grown by millions of farmers in developing and developed countries around the world and the area under cultivation of GM crops is growing each year (Mbabazi 51). The usage of GM crops are growing because farmers and consumers see that they work. With the possibility of the global population rising to 9 billion by 2050, the world needs methods that work extremely well. GMO usage in livestock is beneficial to the animal as well as the consumer. There are multiple examples of genetic modifications which support the animal, the consumer, or both. Sophia Chen explains a few examples in her article, Genetically Modified Animals Will Be on Your Plate in No Time. For the sake of the consumer, super muscular pigs are being developed through genetic engineering which shuts off a gene that generally inhibits excessive muscle growth using a gene editing technique called TALEN. Another example of genetic modifications, for the sake of the animal, is the experimental development of hornless cattle. Most all cattle, dairy or beef, naturally develop horns and must go through the painful and traumatizing experience of dehorning to protect themselves, and the other members of the herd. To avoid this process, scientists and genetic engineers are attempting to alter the cattle’s genes in a way that would prevent horn growth to begin with. While neither method has been publicly introduced yet, they are working through continued research, testing, and scientific and legal scrutiny before they will ever be put in action. The idea of GMO’s are misrepresented in the media. According to the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, scientists figured out how integrate a highly effective source of vitamin A into rice grains and seeds in 1999. This led to the creation of what is known as Golden Rice, a type of rice that is rich in vitamin A due to genetic engineering that was invented to help in vitamin deficiencies all around the world. However, it was 2004 before Golden Rice could even be planted for testing because of the strict restrictions placed on experimental plants. Even when a solution to an epidemic is present, restrictions based on lack of understanding can delay the aid process. In FAQs About GMOs,” sales for Non-GMO labeled or Certified Organic foods skyrocketed by 80% in 2013″ (12). This common idea not only affects farmers, but the companies for which they supply. Local farmers have jumped on the genetically modified bandwagon as well. For example, grower Megan Bell produces genetically modified corn on her family’s Graves County farm. “It reduces the the need to use pesticides, has stronger stalks and better handles drought and wet conditions” Bell says. Therefore she has no qualms using the GM corn seeds or feeding that crop to their chickens, which they raise on an industrial level (Bruggers 12K). Consumer demand is over weighing consumer well-being due to ignorance and for the sake of profits. Misconceptions almost always stem from ignorance. Ignorance in this case is the lack of knowledge, and the lack of interest in becoming educated. There is so much value in agriculture education, as agriculture is in everything humans do, not just in America but globally. Lacking agriculture education is the root of much of the opposition to GMOs. American agriculture education is often overlooked and devalued. This trend seems to continue internationally as the results of the EU experts’ surveys show that in general the EU society does not have enough sufficient knowledge to be able to interpret and understand the data on GMO issues (Aleksejeva & Sloka 177).  Bruggers also found another study which shows that 88% of scientists consider GMOs safe to use and consume, while only 37% of the general public believes in this safety. Bell also stated, “I’ve actually visited a research facility with DuPont, and it’s really quite remarkable. It’s really nothing to be afraid of — these are just scientists spending their lives on this” (12K). Many people seem to believe that genetically modified products can just spontaneously be created and sold to the public, however  the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance says “each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market due to extensive research, safety studies and regulatory approval processes put in place to ensure the safety of every product”.  More than just the appearance of the GM crop or livestock is affected as well. While consumers generally are drawn to aesthetically pleasing products, GMOs allow for physical and internal value to enhanced. Again, this is not achieved through harsh chemicals, rather only continuing to use superior genes in commercial crops and animals.  GMOs are not only safe for consumption, but also for the physical environment on which they are raised. GMOs can be beneficial to the physical environment around them as they are more efficient with their resources. The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance also claims that “GM seeds can contribute to a reduction in the amount of land, water and chemicals needed to produce more food. This can contribute greatly to conservation and environmental stewardship, in particular helping to save protected land and keeping soil healthy. Additionally, as seed companies and researchers continue to make new strides in developing crops with the use of genetic engineering, there are increased opportunities to enhance the nutritional profile of foods that are important in developing countries that need nutrient-rich food”. With the population growth continuing on its current trend, farmers will have much difficulty finding excess land on which to work, and they may even struggle to keep their current land as infrastructure for the multiplying population will go on to expand. GMOs provide a solution to this land shortage by developing individual plants that produce greater yields. In conclusion, GMOs are the most effective method for feeding the growing population despite their poor media representation and the lack of agricultural education which surrounds the main oppositions. The benefits of genetically modified crops and livestock, including more product from smaller spaces and better use of natural resources, far outweighs the negative ideals which falsely surround the use and development of something that could potentially change the way people around the world get and consume food.   

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