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Genetically Modified Foods: We Must Proceed Cautiously

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INTRODUCTION

Genetic engineering (GE) or genetic modification (GM) are both terms used to describe methods “ to cut up and join together genetic material and especially DNA from one or more species of organism and to introduce the result into an organism in order to change one or more of its characteristics”. Genetic technologies in crops involve the use of GE to change the make-up of certain plants in order to improve their quality or quantity. This essay will critique the following inference that:

For centuries human beings have used conventional techniques of selective breeding and cross-breeding of animals and plants to add desired characteristics and reduce or eliminate unwanted ones. New genetic technologies should be welcomed as providing more efficient, effective and controlled mechanisms for improving the quality and quantity of food which can be produced from limited resources of land.

ARGUMENT FOR THE STATEMENT.

The genetic integrity of crops has been altered by farmers in an effort to improve efficiency for over 10 000 years. They can be seen as pioneer genetic engineers, altering plants by crossbreeding them with others using the knowledge of inheritance of traits. Long before GE was thrust into the limelight, selective breeding assumed scientific status, allowing very direct control over crop evolution for the benefit of society. Plant breeding was confined to making crosses within and between crop species which occur naturally, and nature itself evolved. For example, the apple tree has evolved so that its seeds are enclosed within a core, and various animals in turn have evolved so that they can digest the fruit, and distribute the seeds as they do so. The dynamics of nature are changing in a way that can be seen as more natural than unnatural and GM food is simply an outcome of natural progression.

World population is projected to reach 7.7 billion by the year 2020. As a result there is constant pressure to produce enough food for all. The advancement of agriculture is a moral imperative for reducing poverty and hunger, and promoting equity in poorer countries. The United Nations mandate on food is as follows:

Food should be available to all in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, be free from adverse substances and acceptable within the culture concerned. Such foods should be acceptable in...

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