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The world population has topped six billion people and is predicted to double in the next fifty years. Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come (Burghart). Genetically Modified (GM) corn is extremely beneficial to both farmers and consumers. Genetic engineering is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change the DNA of living organisms. GM corn can benefit farmers by decreasing costs and increasing crop yields. The new super corn can benefit consumers by producing healthier, more nutritious, and more organic corn. Genetic engineers believe that science breakthroughs, like this one, will solve the worldwide dilemma of starvation and hunger.
Farmers began primitive genetic breeding many years ago by selecting seeds from their best plants, replanting them, and gradually improving the quality of successive generations. (Johnson and Raven 238) Science has come along way since that time. Scientists have developed corn that is resistant to insects. Crops that are resistant to insects and do not need to be sprayed with pesticides, many of which can harm the environment, are safer (Johnson and Raven 238). They are safer because the harmful chemicals used to spray the crops will not be introduced into the environment. Biotechnology seems confusing and complicated on the outside, but is actually quite simple.
Biotechnology allows the transfer of only one or a few desirable genes from one organism to another. This precise science allows plant breeders to develop crops with specific beneficial traits and without undesirable traits (Monsanto Agricultural Biotechnology). The function and structure of DNA from different organisms is essentially the same. It is simply a site that gives instructions and directs cells to make proteins that are the basis of life. Whether the DNA is from a microorganism, a plant, an animal, or human, it is made from the same materials (Monsanto Agricultural Biotechnology).
A researcher's first step is to "cut" or remove a gene segment, representing a desirable trait, from a chain of DNA using enzyme "scissors" to cut an opening into the plasmid, the ring of DNA often found in bacteria outside the cell. The researcher then "pastes" the gene segment into the plasmid. Because the cut ends of both the plasmid and the gene are chemically "sticky" they attach to each other. To complete the process, researchers use another enzyme to paste the new one in place.
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Genetically modified crops are helping to reduce costly farming inputs and to increase yields on a per-acre basis. Insect, weed and disease pressures that can take big bites out of yields are reduced, so are the chemical agents and labor normally used to control them (Biotechnology Industry Organization). When costs come down and yields go up the productivity picture is brighter.
Gm foods promise to meet the needs of a booming population in a number of ways. These ways include pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, nutrition and pharmaceuticals (Johnson and Raven 238).
*Pest Resistance- Crop loss for farmers from insect pests can be staggering, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers don't want food that has been treated in such manners because of health hazards. Growing GM goods can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides (Johnson and Raven 239).
*Herbicide Tolerance- For some crops, it is not cost effective to remove weeds by physical means such as tilling, so farmers will often destroy weeds, a time consuming and expensive process, the requires special care so the herbicide does not harm the crop or the environment (Johnson and Raven 239). The plants will already have the herbicide inside of them. This will save farmers time and money.
*Disease Resistance- There are many types of viruses, fungi, and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically engineered resistance to these diseases (Johnson and Raven 240). Without these diseases to decrease crop yields farmers profits will skyrocket.
*Cold Tolerance- Unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An anti-freeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants. With this gene, plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that would normally kill unmodified seedlings (Johnson and Raven 240-241).
*Drought Tolerance- As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow plant crops that can withstand long periods of drought (Johnson and Raven 241). Theses crops will be able to be grown in many places, so third world countries such as Afghanistan will be able to produce their own food.
*Pharmaceuticals- Medicines and vaccines often are costly to produce and sometimes require special storage conditions not readily available in third world countries. Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in some foods (Johnson and Raven 242). These edible vaccines will in a way kill two birds with one stone. They will hopefully feed people, those less fortunate, and increase health rates because those people will have the vaccines and nutrition requirements they need to survive.
The built in protection of GM corn results in healthier corn plants that are better able to withstand adverse weather and disease (Monsanto Features and Benefits). Fewer insects mean that growers can harvest higher quality grain with reduced risk of infection. Although there are many different kinds of GM Corn that offer these benefits Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) corn is one of the most popular.
Corn is the second most important food crop behind wheat. Corn is used for grain and oil. It is important in human food products and animal feeding. The United States is one of the major leaders in corn production. Genetically engineered corn has been filled with Bacillus Thuringiensis bacterium (Bt). Bt naturally produces an insecticide that kills certain insects (Stephan et. al. 36). The Bt technology is valuable because it prevents damage from some of the most serious corn pests without use of insecticides that are among the most toxic of pesticides used in agriculture (Peg 1). Marty Sachs, a geneticist at the university of Illinois, says it is safer, cleaner and quicker than some other breeding methods because scientists have more control over the process (Burghart). Reports by the leading biotechnology companies show that Bt corn increases yield by as much as ten to fifteen percent. This leads to the belief that the continued use of Gm seed will increase the profit potential for farmers by increasing yield, decreasing expenses and saving time (American Corn Growers Association). On farms these transgenic crops have worked out reasonably well (Stephan et al. 37).
Farmers are always looking for ways to increase their productivity while becoming more efficient (Monsanto Features and Benefits). Growers will no longer spend money on inconvenient insecticides. Benefits like this on offers maximum profit potential. Gm corn is approved for food and feed uses in the United States, Japan, and some parts of Europe (Monsanto Features and Benefits). Some farmers state that GM corn increases productivity and reduce herbicide and insecticide use (American Corn Growers Association). Growers expect about ten more bushels per acre. For many farmers genetically modified crops are working pretty. They make it easier to keep weed at bay, acting as insurance against the destructive corn borer. Numerous consumers and researchers think of genetic engineering as simply another step in the breeding process (Burghart).
Many people feel that genetic engineering is an inevitable wave of the future and that we must proceed with enthusiasm for this technology (Burghart). Genetically modified foods have the potential to solve many of the world's hunger and malnutrition problems and to help protect and preserve the environment by increasing yield and reducing reliance upon chemicals.