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Issues Surrounding Genetically Enhanced Foods

by Arnold on March 14, 2016

Genetic engineering of crops takes place in a laboratory, where genes are spliced from one plant to another, or even from a bacteria to a plant.

The question of whether foods should be genetically enhanced attracts heated debate.  That’s because there are strong arguments that can be made for either side of the question.

On the positive side, crops that have been genetically modified are often more resistant to disease and insects. Planting genetically modified crops increases crop yield and decreases costs.

On the negative side, we may be taking on an unknown quantity of risk.  There is much to be concerned about because of the possibility of unintended consequences. What makes this especially difficult to evaluate is that unintended effects may not show up in the short term.  By the time they do become apparent, it may be too late.

These are the major issues surrounding genetically enhanced foods:

1. Are genetically modified foods safe to eat?

Proponents of genetically modifying food insist that the foods are safe. In reality, though, it’s not possible to know the answer for sure.

The relationship between people and the food that we eat is a complex one that’s been fine-tuned through eons of evolution,  It’s impossible to predict with certainty what effect making abrupt changes to our food sources will have on our health, especially in the long term.

2. Will genetically modified foods decrease biodiversity?

Farmers try to isolate their genetically modified plants or animals from wild populations, but inevitably there will be some contact between modified and wild organisms. The modified genes will spread within the wild populations. The more that happens, the smaller the percentage of natural organisms that will remain.

Also, because genetically modified crops have been so successful as far as being less expensive and producing a higher yield than unmodified crops, more farmers will plant them.  The planting of other kinds of crops will decrease, potentially even to the point of extinction.

So it’s a difficult question.  On the one hand, genetic modification makes it possible to grow cheaper crops, with a higher yield.  This might go a long way toward eliminating the hunger and starvation that still plagues large areas of the world.  On the other hand,   The long term effects might be harmful to people’s health and to the ability of wild species of crops to survive.  Perhaps the solution, in this instance, will turn out to be worse than the original problem.

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