Genetically Modified Foods

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The world has come to a point where anything and everything can be customized; yet never could one have foreseen the customization of life forms. The term “genetically-modified organisms” (GMO’s), is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques (Whitman, 2000). GMO’s offer dramatic promise for some of the greatest challenges of the century, however, like all new technologies, they also possess risks more imperative than benefits. Controversies accompanying GMO’s commonly focus on human and environmental safety, economic dependence of farmers and other natural suppliers, and food security in relation to consumers and the world. The world strives for the safety and protection of the environment and ultimately the people inhabiting it. However, attempting to revise, alter, and hopefully improve the world’s most prominent and widely used products does not come unaccompanied. Genetically modified organisms have numerous effects that have become apparent, and many more that have yet to surface. The unintended relocation of transgenes that occurs through cross-pollination has a great potential to cause harm to other organisms. Those organisms eventually hybridize with close wild relatives, now scientifically enhanced, and produce undesired effects, many of which are still unknown. When hybrids survive and reproduce in the wild, the spread or introduction of transgenes into wild gene pools will occur and will create new invasive species. This risk is not farfetched: seven of the world's thirteen major crop plants have mixed their genes with closely related wild species to form new weeds (Wolfenbarger and Phifer, 2000). This has eliminated the genetic uniqueness of some plants and contributed to the extinction of numerous natural resources. Since the recommended distance between GMO crops and regular crops is only three meters, it is reasonable to assume that cross-pollination is nearly guaranteed. The variability among living organisms on earth vanishes when organisms are genetically distorted. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms can also be transmitted. The best-known example of this is the use of B.t. genes in corn and other crops. B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces crystal proteins that are deadly to insect larvae. B.t. crystal protein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to produce its own pesticides against insects such as the “European Corn Borer.” The Corn Borer, significantly affects the production of crops such as corn as well as other products, including cotton and many vegetables.

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