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Genetically Modified Foods Essay

1567 words - 7 pages

In order to truly comprehend all of the possibilities that genetically modified organisms can bring to today’s society, one must first know how these organisms, specifically plants, are created in the laboratory. In order to begin the process of creating a genetically modified organism, one needs three items: the desired gene to be transferred, which is referred to as the trans-gene and is usually obtained through the use of restriction enzymes, the organism that the gene will be placed into, known as the target species, and a vector that allows the gene to be transferred into the target species (“How Are GMOs Made?,” n.d.). Vectors can be bacteria or viruses, as well as man-made objects such as the gene gun.
Perhaps the biggest field of work that has been positively influenced by GM foods and crops is agriculture. The use of GMOs in agriculture has led to benefits in pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, drought tolerance, and salinity tolerance (North Canola Growers Association, n.d.). One example of pest resistance can be found in Bt corn, also known as genetically modified maize. Bt corn has been genetically modified to produce crystal proteins that are natural products of the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacteria is naturally found in certain types of soil and the crystal proteins that it produces is lethal to the pests that regularly affect non-Bt corn. The first strain of Bt corn was introduced in 1996 and was effective in killing caterpillars and European corn borers. Another strain of Bt corn was introduced in 2003 and was created in order to kill another major pest to corn crops, beetle grubs. These pests were nicknamed “billion dollar bugs” because of the one billion dollars farmers spend each year on insecticides in an effort to eliminate the pests and stop them from destroying crops. Because Bt corn has the ability to produce the crystal proteins, it can be said that this insecticide is “built-in.” Farmers can save some of the money that they lose every year to the purchase of insecticides and be assured that their crops will continue to be protected from pests. The crop yields of Bt corn also have experienced less loss as a result of the crystal proteins. The grain quality of Bt corn is also noticeably better than the grain of non-modified corn. Overall, farmers who switched from conventionally grown corn to Bt corn spent less time spraying crops with insecticides and also spent less money on the purchase of insecticides. Farmers were also able to keep the majority of their crop yield, which in previous years had been lowered by pests. Although the benefits of planting Bt corn are clearly evident, some are still against the production of Bt corn. These skeptics are concerned about the effects that Bt corn crops could possibly have on other species in the area, such as insects that are not harmful to the corn crops or the monarch butterflies that could possibly eat milkweed plants that...

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