Technology thrives today. It is omnipresent, to the point where it has become almost unnoticeable. There is technology in communication, in transport, in design, and in advertising. At a glance, food does not seem to be a place for technology. For centuries, people have gradually mastered the intricate science of breeding to produce the best foods possible. But now, a new and radically different way to modify foods has arisen. It is much faster than traditional breeding, and it promises to create unimaginable species from which humankind can greatly benefit. It is genetic engineering.
Genetic engineering modifies a specific gene or set of genes of an organism to change it favorably. A gene is a hereditary unit that carries the information for certain features of an organism. Hence, a person with blue eyes has a gene or a group of genes that code for the color blue in her eyes. Every characteristic of every organism is somehow linked to its genes. Therefore, knowledge of what each gene does and how it can be modified is valuable and has the potential to achieve feats never conceived before. For example, it is theoretically possible to produce a fruit that is not only cheap and easy to grow, but that contains the vaccine for a certain disease (Franco).
The process to modify genes in an organism is relatively simple, especially if the organism in subject is a plant. Adelaida Franco, a biologist from the University of the Andes who has worked at the Vegetable Crops Department at the University of Florida, explained the procedure: A device known as a “gene gun” is used to shoot genes into cells of the plant located in a petri dish. Most of the cells are destroyed during this process, but some survive and successfully integrate the new genes into their DNA. These cells are nurtured to produce new plants. Then, the healthiest plants are chosen to reproduce. The final result is a set of new, genetically modified plants (Franco).
Genetic engineering seems promising then, and it is. Nevertheless, it also seems far fetching and futuristic, but is not. The general population is already eating genetically modified foods—abbreviated as “GM foods”—in some way. For instance, in the book “Biology: Life on Earth”, biologists Teresa and Gerald Audesirk, together with Bruce E. Byers, cite the U.S. Department of Agriculture as follows: “in 2005… 72% of the corn, 79% of the cotton, and 87% of the soybeans grown in the United States were transgenic; that is, they contained genes from other species…” (Audesirk, Audesirk, and Byers 258). Similarly, the 2010 documentary “Food, Inc.” states that “now 78% of the processed food in the supermarket has some genetically-modified ingredient” (Kenner).
There are three areas to consider when examining whether GM foods should be used and marketed or not. These are possible effects on human health, environmental outcomes, and economic issues. The theoretical capabilities of GM foods are endless, but there...