Genetically modified foods have been a topic of interest for agricultural researchers for many years. This technology has gained a broad public awareness after its discoveries when discussed on media and social platforms. The latest controversial study about genetically engineered tomato and corn. After the issue is addressed on public platforms, it gained awareness in the people of America. When the problem got awareness, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held meetings in different districts to collect public opinions about the popularity of genetically modified foods. The FDA made a regulatory authority to set the permission of approval and penalties for the genetically modified foods. There are several environmental concerns and health risks associated with the use of genetically modified foods and also some economic and trade issues.
The term genetically modified foods have now become a debatable topic for both agricultural experts and the end users. Public concerns about the issue are increasing which mainly are about the short and long-term effects of genetically modified foods, there are no doubt some potential risks involved with the process, but research are carried out to make genetically modified foods more consumer friendly and with less environmental and health risks. Studies have provided arguments both in favor and against this technology, but this technology will no doubt decrease the cost and increase the availability of the foods. The technology has several agronomic and financial impacts on agriculture. This paper will provide an exploratory synthesis of four sources that focus the benefits and potential risks involved if the technology is made accessible, and will offer the public opinion and acceptance of this technology for agricultural modification and health concerns. We will analyze the claims about this issue and evaluate the authors’ response to acceptance of genetically modified foods.
Genetic modification of foods are aimed to create nutritious foods that are less in cost in areas where agricultural conditions are not favorable, and natural crops cannot grow effectively. This technology improves the genetic structure of the species and increases their resistance to diseases, and ability to withstand harsh weather conditions, these crops are less susceptible to insect attacks and have a higher growth rate. The past method of selective breeding of crops was found less useful than this method of gene modification, which is less time consuming and has better accuracy. This method selects a positive ability gene from various plants and inserts it into another plant. By this method, the target plant is best in all qualities as it then contains all positive factors from multiple parent plants. These plants then need less water and produce better crops. The following paragraphs will discuss various studies made on genetically modified foods and respond to these studies.
Geoffrey Barrows and Steven Sexton did the research, and David Zilberman, the professors from the University of California and North Carolina State University, provides the arguments in support and against the use of genetically modified crops. It gives critics argumentation in adverse environmental effects that are expected if this technology is made public, and the supporting arguments that include potential benefits in improving growth and decreasing prices of the crops. These arguments include less usage of pest control medicines as crops are more resistant to pest and bacteria attacks as well as the soil erosion factor (Barrows, Sexton, and Zilberman, pp. 100).
The genetically modified crops increase crop yields. The crops increase in their ability to resist high pressures and less cost is required for damage control. The amount used for insecticides in agriculture is a concern for underdeveloped countries, the farmers use excessive pesticides to achieve maximum yield from crops and increase revenue. In a research, it was found that use of pest-resistant cotton in India has grown yield by up to 37% in cotton fields in India and China. A similar increase in yield is seen in the field of genetically modified corn crops in Africa, Argentina, Philippines, Spain, and the US. Therefore the effect of gene modification on crop yields is inevitable (Barrows, Sexton, and Zilberman, pp. 105).
There are environmental concerns linked with genetically modified crops are mainly due to the resistance that weed plantation has developed by this method. There are by now ten types of weeds that have increased in their strength to pesticides and glyphosates. These herbicide-tolerant crops need more dosage of pesticides, as well as more effective insecticides as they have developed immunity to the normal dosage of chemicals used in pesticides. These weeds multiply in number and develop by interbreeding with non-gene modified crops, and the result is an increased number of modified crops.
The study by Scott, Inbar, and Rozin from University of Toronto and Pennsylvania is a survey about the use of genetically modified crops and provides statistical data about the acceptance and opposition to this technology. This survey was about the moral concerns and attitudes about the use of genetically modified crops. It was observed from the study that most of the opposition of gene-modified crops is the factor of disgust. The majority held the view about this technology that despite its positive benefits this technology should not be used as this is immoral and against nature (Scott, Inbar, and Rozin., 2016).
The findings were presented in the form of the graph indicate that majority of the people rated this technology as the most disgusting thing, followed by people who found it moderately disgusting and lastly the small percentage which was supporters of the technology. It was observed that most people had less information about the process, but their opposition was based on the disgust that they associated with the process. The questionnaire included questions that mostly asked their bias about the process irrespective of its benefits.
The research provided three conclusions. The majority of people who opposed this process held complete response about this process and said that they would not agree to use this technology even if it is beneficial and proved to have good economic effects, as the opposition was linked to disgust their opinions were stiff. The resistance because of the level of disgust is directly in compliance with the legal restrictions about genetic modification.
This study proved that people are not willing to accept something if they find it disgusting even if it has many potential benefits. Their moral values are linked to acceptance of any new technology. The attempts of changing concepts about genetic modification are less useful as moral values do not allow people to agree to use of unnatural things (Scott, Inbar, and Rozin., 2016).
The research by Klümper and Qaim is carried out about the agronomic and economic impacts of genetic modification. The study used factors like crop yields, the quantity of pesticide used, and agricultural costs. This study also discusses the differences in crop yields of genetically modified and non-modified crops and provides percentage differences in growth of both types.The research proved that the genetically modified crops reduced 39% the cost of pesticides and its usage by 37%. The production of crops was not found too much increased by the introduction of genetically modified seeds, but the average revenue for farmers generated by the process increased to 69% (Klümper and Qaim., 2014).
The analysis of the heterogeneity and economic benefits of the genetically modified crops are significant. The yield and farmer profits by the use of genetically modified crops are higher than the crops that are produced by the average crops. The research analyzed different types of data and applied various tests. These multiple tests were made because if only a single factor would be discussed the results may vary due to other factors too. The combined outcome of all these results was affected by other uncontrolled traits, but these minor variations were negligible.The results of the study proved that crop yields were better when genetically modified crops were used, and this technology was highly appreciated by the farmers as their income was increased.
Another research done on the advantages and disadvantages of the genetically modified crops was carried out by researchers in China. This study compiles the information about potential benefits and risks involved by this technology. The study provided reasons for the need of genetically modified crops. By the growing population of the world, the consumption of food has increased and with it the demand of plants that have increased yield. The study provided geographical data that provides an increase in population over the years. The researchers argue that to fulfill the needs of this growing population the use of modified crops are necessary. They provide the argument that use of technology to meet the food requirement is inevitable and viable. They think that genetic engineering of plants are a potential solution to the problem and it will bring qualitative improvements in agriculture (Zhang et al., 2016).
This study claims that available land for cultivation is decreasing. According to metrics, the net available land for farming per person will reduce to another 25% to its current value by 2050. Using this less available land for farming will yield fewer crops that won’t be sufficient for a population that is increasing every year. The use of more effective pesticides and agricultural methods of weed control are inevitable for increasing yield of crops. However, the use of genetic engineering will be a big step towards this improvement as it will boost our agriculture and improve our crop yields drastically. The genetically engineered crops also need less water and pesticides cost therefore it will save our economic resources too which can be used for other purposes.
The study presented three significant risks linked with usage of genetically modified foods. These problems originate with the selective insertion of genes from various species. Sometimes the inserted gene with its benefits as a problem in the crop that may not be apparently harmful but prove to be dangerous after its excessive usage (Zhang et al., 2016).
One of these problems is the allergic nature of some of the added genes. Sometimes when a gene from a plant is inserted into a crop, the crop develops a nature that is allergic to some consumers. An example of the case is “Starlink maize” (Zhang et al., 2016). This crop when genetically engineered with “Bacillus thuringinesis” it develops pesticidal properties, that is reported to have an allergic reaction to some people. This allergic reaction will be more severe if the plant is modified by engineering with a more robust pesticidal organism.
Another risk to genetic modification is the toxication of the plant that is resulted by genetic engineering with a species that alters the metabolism of the target plant. This alteration results in secretion of more harmful toxins which if are consumed creates potential risks for the consumers. If the consumer is allergic to these toxins, the reaction can be more severe, and it may lead to regulation against the use of these genes.
The last and by far the most severe biological factor of genetic modification is the likely reaction of weeds and insects against the use of this particular genome technology. The purpose of genetic modification leads to improvement in plant genes and increases their resistance to insect and bacteria attacks. However, it’s only a matter of time that bacteria develop immunity to the pesticidal nature of these crops and a more severe attack happens (Zhang et al., 2016). This factor can cause a considerable problem as new and improved pesticides will be required to save crops from insect attacks and advanced genetic modification will be necessary to keep plants safe from disease attacks. This problem will increase both costs of agriculture and can cause an agricultural crisis.
Another risk that is linked to the consumer is that the continuous intake of these genetically modified crops in food will cause antibiotic resistance to gastrointestinal bacteria. This person, by consuming the food changed in its genetic structure, this genetic modification may be adopted by the benign bacteria, and it may be more resistant to antibiotics. The person if falls ill will need more advanced antibiotic medications to fight against this modified bacteria. This will too increase the cost of healthcare and will need more advanced research to overcome the adverse effects of genetic modification.
In short, the consumption of genetically modified foods cannot be justified by just arguing on its potential benefits. The health and economic concerns are to be evaluated too if we want to shift to genetically modified crops. If the process is to be applied on a larger scale, scientists have to minimize the health risks to zero. The process needs to be addressed with more economic research and how this technology will benefit the farmers. The governments also have to listen to consumer preferences on whether they will consume such food or not. The advantages of the technology are astounding, but the process needs a lot of research before it can be used as a solution to current population expansion and a decrease in food facilities from available lands.
Barrows, Geoffrey, Steven Sexton, and David Zilberman. “Agricultural biotechnology: the promise and prospects of genetically modified crops.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 28.1 (2014): 99-120.
Klümper, Wilhelm, and Matin Qaim. “A meta-analysis of the impacts of genetically modified crops.” PloS one 9.11 (2014): e111629.
Scott, Sydney E., Yoel Inbar, and Paul Rozin. “Evidence for absolute moral opposition to genetically modified food in the United States.” Perspectives on Psychological Science 11.3 (2016): 315-324.
Zhang, Chen, Robert Wohlhueter, and Han Zhang. “Genetically modified foods: A critical review of their promise and problems.” Food Science and Human Wellness 5.3 (2016): 116-123.