Genetically Engineered Foods Essay

1586 words - 6 pages

"Functional foods", also commonly referred to as prescription foods, are one of the most recent and divisive topics in the areas of biotechnology and genetic engineering today. The overall purpose of these foods is to enable the addition of different ingredients into a food genetically in order to potentially tackle a health-related epidemic. With the harsh public criticism around the world aimed against genetically engineered food, biotechnology companies have began to alter the motives behind the creation of such foods. Instead of genetically modifying crops for purposes of appearance or convenience, a second generation of genetically engineered foods has arisen: "functional foods". With the foods' potential humanitarian benefits and solutions to malnutrition and deficiency diseases, biotechnology companies have been well at work with new projects. Overall, the most recent genetically modified foods have been made in an attempt to reduce global malnutrition, a growing problem despite, ironically, the increase of wealth in the world. One dominant example of a functional food is the creation of "Golden Rice", a creation that is currently highly controversial in Asia and around the world, developed as a fortified food to be used in areas where there is a shortage of dietary vitamin A. (Weiss, 2001) This essay will explore the science behind this genetically modified crop of rice and the advantages of modifying such a controversial plant.Stored in the liver, Retinol or Vitamin A is essential to a well-balanced diet and is necessary for proper immune system function, bone formation, reproduction, and wound healing. Vitamin A deficiency occurs after a prolonged lack of intake, and early symptoms of vitamin A deficiency are night blindness, follicular hyperkeratinosis, increased susceptibility to infection, and anemia. A prolonged deficiency of vitamin A will often lead to the deterioration of eye tissue as a result of progressive keratinization of the cornea, and an increased risk of cancer is thought to be the result of depletion in vitamin A reserves. (Vries, 2005) Everybody needs to have vitamin A included in their diet, but young children are especially susceptible to the deficiency. Because many of the children who live in countries where there is a dietary deficiency of vitamin A rely on rice as a staple food, the genetic modification of rice to make rice produce beta-carotene was seen to be a simple and relatively inexpensive alternative to vitamin supplements or increased production of animal products and leafy vegetables. Theoretical analysis of the potential nutritional benefits that Golden Rice may bring show that although consumption would not eliminate the problems of blindness and mortality, but would indeed lessen the frequency of such problems and lessen the number of people who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. On top of solving the problem of Vitamin A deficiency, golden rice could also help solve problems of Iron deficiency common...

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