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Agricultural Genetic Engineering: Genetically Modified Foods, Arguments Of Both Proponents And Opponents And A Mediated Solution

1103 words - 4 pages

Genetic engineering, a scientific breakthrough involving the manipulation of DNA to identify a desired gene and the insertion of the desired gene into the cell of a living organism to produce a desired outcome (i.e. obtaining a gene for disease resistance from one plant and inserting it in another), has been a controversial issue for years since its beginnings in the 1980s. Many of the criticisms against this new technology are aimed at genetic engineering in agriculture. Agricultural biotechnology/genetic engineering is best known for its products, which are transgenic crops and genetically modified foods. Genetic engineering has enabled farmers and other agricultural industries to produce enhanced crops and goods that would benefit consumers both immediately and in the long run. Although genetic engineering has high potential in solving many agricultural-related issues, critics say that this technology also has the potential to have dangerous effects that may not be distinguishable now but can be significantly extensive in the future.In modern agricultural biotechnology, scientists are now able to accurately target specific genes in one plant or other living organism and insert it in another plant by either using bacteria/bacteriophages or by gene guns. Proponents of agricultural genetic engineering believe that genetic engineering is simply an extension of Mendelian genetics and crossbreeding; that is, gene modification is just a quicker way of obtaining and producing a desired trait rather than waiting for countless generations of breeding. With genetic engineering, producers can increase productivity and reduce crop failure by obtaining the gene known for contributing to the longevity of one plant and inserting it in another plant (Whitman). Agricultural biotechnologists can also create plants that are resistant to disease, insects, and weeds through genetic engineering using these techniques. If more plants that are resistant to these irritants, supporters argue, there is less of a need to rely on expensive and harmful pesticides (The Gene School). Another argument is that the attributes of genetically modified foods are especially important for those countries whose food supplies are inadequate or lack nutrients. Asia and Africa, for example, are third world countries that rely on staple crops that lack many crucial nutrients, and sometimes the missing nutrients contribute to prevalent diseases in these countries, such as blindness and anemia (both are caused by Vitamin A deficiency and Iron deficiency, respectively) (Davies 128). Staple crops that lack nutrients, like rice, can be genetically modified to increase iron and Vitamin A, thus reducing the occurrence of anemia and blindness. Supporters claim that this type of biotechnology is a safer alternative in stabilizing crop production rather than using chemicals (i.e. spraying ethylene to ripen vegetables, spraying pesticides to prevent pests from destroying plants). Supporters also...

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