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Kristin Hollifield Professor McAmis English 1101 Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Are you in the Mood for Genetically Modified Food? Humans are born with a naturalistic fallacy. A naturalistic fallacy is thinking that everything that is natural is inherently good for you and everything that is unnatural is unfit. Genetically modified foods are foods that involve relocating genes in plants and animals to make new traits appear. (Lambrecht, 4). Genetically modified foods are on the rise in the United States and many people do not even realize that they are buying or consuming them. “In a grocery as much as 70 percent of the processed food might contain GMO’s,” states Gene Grabowski vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers of America. (Lambrecht) With this being said, consumers need to know more about what many are opposing before they oppose it. Genetically modified foods are not made to hurt, but to assist in the evolution of crops. The breeding of plants has been around for many centuries, but not until the twentieth century did the genetic breeding of plants become part of science. Genetically modifying foods was made possible through the discovery of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. Herbert Boyer in 1973 produced the first successful recombinant DNA organism. During 1950-1984 striking revolutions were found and dramatic increases in crop alteration began to be investigated. (Nottingham). Field tests began taking place in Belgium, Germany in 1986 on tobacco plants. Then next the United

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States begins field testing on genetically engineered crops in 1987, on tobacco and tomato plants. The year 1992 was a monumental year for genetically modified foods in the United States, the FDA declared genetically engineered foods "not inherently dangerous" and required no special regulation. (Evenson, Santaniello). In 1992 Monsanto Company, made many immense contributions to overseeing the growth and production of genetically engineered crops. (Lambrecht). On June 2, 1987, as the scientists at Monsanto awaited the word to be able to plan the tomato plants that had been engineered with the Bt gene causing the plan to be insect resistant, virus resistance and resistance to roundup. The call came and the plants were placed immediately into the ground. This was the moment they had been awaiting for over five years. (Lambrecht, 38). April 27,1999 President Bill Clinton called the four scientists to the East Room of the White house, and rewarded these scientists with the National Medal of Technology. (Lambrecht). Awarding these medals with regards stating “profound and lasting contributions to our economy and quality of life.” (Lambrecht, 39). All these milestones passed over the past years have set us up for where we are today with genetically modified foods. Through out all the controversies GMO’s put forward there are many pro’s to such a sore subject. Pest resistance: Crop losses from insect pests can be astounding, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers, as well as starvation in multiple developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. (Nottingham). Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards. Run-off of agricultural wastes from use of

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pesticides and fertilizers can poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. (Weirich, 111). Growing GM foods such as Bt corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market. These GM foods that are result from pest resistance are not the only problem taken care of by altering the food. A herbicide is a substance that is toxic to plants and is used to destroy unwanted vegetation. For some crops, it is very costly to remove weeds by physical labor as well as time consuming. (Blatt). Farmers will often spray large quantities of different herbicides to destroy weeds. A time-consuming and pricey process that requires detailed work so that the herbicide doesn't harm the environment or crop. Crop plants genetically engineered to be resistant to one herbicide could help prevent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup. (Lambrecht, 38-40). Making plants resistant to herbicide also helps keep our planet’s soils from taking in more foreign chemicals than necessary. There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause numerous plant diseases. Plant biologists are working around the clock to create plants with genetically engineered resistance to these many diseases. (Evenson, 176). Unexpected frost can destroy seedlings as well as mature plants causing farmers to lose more money every time a big frost hits unnoticed by the radar. An antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. (Lambrecht, 79). With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to bear cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified plants.

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As the world population grows and more land is used for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation. Causing us to find more land to farm on, but how can you farm on unsuited land? Plants need specific conditions to grow correctly and in a timely fashion. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought and can live in soil that isn’t suited for normal plants will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places. With the world population growing the needs necessity of being able to farm in less likely places grows too. (Blatt, 68-90). Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished people rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences have created a strain of "golden" rice containing an unusually high content of beta-carotene also known as vitamin A. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a nonprofit organization, the Institute hopes to offer the golden rice seed free to any third world country that requests it. Plans were underway to develop golden rice that also has increased iron content. (Lambrecht). Medicines and vaccines often are costly to produce and sometimes require particular storage conditions not yet available in third world countries. Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes. These vaccines will be much easier to ship, store and administer than traditional injectable vaccines. There are many ethical issues related to the growth as well as consumption of genetically engineered crops. They hold potential to greatly increase the nutritional value of food as well as the productivity of crops, while at the same time provide many

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numerous options for the future. These decisions need to be known by all of humanity since everyone is directly affected by the choices. While each person can read these details and come to different decisions on the value of genetically engineered foods as well as the ethical choices being made by the companies in charge of producing these foods. The ultimate choice on genetically engineered foods should be placed onto a well informed consumer not held in the dark by those many rumors forever spreading. Genetically modified foods are rumored bad but how can any one person know until they take the time to find out.

Works Cited

Blatt, Harvey. America’s Food. London, England: The MIT Press, 2008. Nottingham, Stephen. Eat Your Genes. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Evenson, Robert E., and Vittorio Santaniello. Consumer Acceptance of Genetically Modified Foods. Camrbridge, MA: CABI Publishing, 2004. Lambrecht, Bill. Dinner at the New Gene Cafe. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

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Weirich, Paul. Labeling Genetically Modified Food. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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