Genetically Modified Grain Essay

3243 words - 13 pages

Genetically Modified Grain

Thesis: Genetically Modified Grain has many benefits and problems which have become very controversial. While these problems need to be addressed, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. GMO grain should be grown and foods containing them should not be required to bare a label.

Introduction

Genetically improved crops are not a new phenomenon. Plants have been selectively crossbred for centuries to develop heartier and more productive hybrids. Now, Biotechnology offers us the ability to transfer desired traits into plants much faster and more selectively by merely transplanting the desired gene into the grain. Genetically Modified Grain (GMO grain) is now available to the public. It has the potential to revolutionize the agriculture industry by giving us the potential to substantially increase yield, lessen the strain on the environment, improve economics for farmers, and help meet incredible demand for food that will come as the population nearly doubles in forthcoming decades (Knutson, 1999). However, GMO grain also has its drawbacks. It has been extensively tested, but ultimately, the long-term health outcome to humans and animals is unknown. GMO grain is highly technical and expensive to research and develop. There is the possibility that larger companies will form a monopoly. Also, there are many ethical issues to consider including the development of terminator technology-a gene inserted into seeds that causes the next generation of seeds to be sterile.

Benefits

One example of a genetically modified seed that is commonly used today is Bt Corn. The Bt gene that is used comes from bacteria-Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.). It has been used in sprays and powder form for years. Recently, this gene was isolated and successfully incorporated it into the DNA of the corn. The corn then goes on to produce a protein that is deadly to insects, and corn borers specifically. This protein is not toxic to humans; it is broken down in the digestive system. Bt corn does not completely eliminate the need for insecticides, but greatly helps.

In 1997, 4.5 million acres were planted to Bt. hybrids (Beeler, 1998). Today, 30 to 40% of corn and 50% of soybeans are GMO crops (Hein, 1999). This is quite a substantial percentage of our crops considering that many consider the existence of GMO crops to still be controversial. More than thirty genetically engineered plants are permitted for sale by law world wide (Hein, 1999).

Knutson, Texas A&M professor, estimates that we will not be able to feed the global population in the next 50 years unless we continue to increase crop production. In fact, we must triple farm output over the next 50 years to meet growing demands for food (American...1999). Biotechnology offers farmers capability to significantly increase yields without sacrificing huge tracts of forests and wetlands to low-yield crops and pasture.

We can not significantly increase yields without the helping hand of...

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