Genetically Engineered Foods The Social & Environmental Ramifications of GMO Foods By Akemi Parker
What is GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms)? Table of Contents Section I Section II Proposed Benefits of GMO Use and Technology Potential Negative Outcomes to GMO Technology And what is the big deal? Introduction to Genetically Modified Organisms What Does Our Government say about GMO? What Do Americans Say about GMO? Section III Section IV Section V
Section I – Intro to GMO Foods • What is Genetically Engineered Food? • In Genetic Engineering, scientists transfer genetic information from one organism into another organism (across species boundaries) creating a whole new genetically engineered organism. • This essentially involves “breaking into” the original organism’s DNA and inserting a gene from the second organism with an antibiotic-resistant marker (for tracking/tracing purposes) • Also known as: • Biotech Foods • Gene Foods • Bioengineered Foods • Gene-Altered Foods • Transgenic Foods The first engineered foods introduced to America was a tomato that had a gene from a flounder inserted into it to help it tolerate frost and cooler temperatures. It was quickly pulled from stores because consumers didn’t like the taste and texture of the tomato.
Section I – Intro to GMO Foods How is GMO technology being used today? Plant Breeding Animal Production • GMO technology is being used to help plants fight illnesses from bacteria and to become resistant to pests during growing and processing. • Examples include potatoes that can resist the Bacillus thuringiensis a bacteria that can take out an entire crop of potatoes. • GMO technology is being used to help make animals produce more, have a specific nutritional profile, and more. • Examples include cows that are designed to yield more milk or combining a goat with a donkey to have a milk producing animal that can also haul loads.
Section I – Intro to GMO Foods? What is the near & long term future for GMO ? • Some hope that the world’s food supply will increase and be able to support the ever growing population through GMO. • Some are actively working to make sure that world’s food supply will not become dominated and “tainted” with GMO foods. • The jury is still out on which side will prevail…
Section II – Proposed Benefits of GMO Increased food supply & resistance to bacteria and pests during food production process. • A drought or natural disaster? No worries! • Genetically Engineered could possible help by providing food during the recovery period. • Beetles or other pests ravaging your plants or crops? • Genetically Engineered crops could potentially help by having insecticide already built into the seed. Any pest that eats your crop will die.
Section III - Potential Negative Outcomes of GMO Breaking Natural Barriers that exist between species • Nature has built in ways to keep foreign invaders from running rampant in nature wreaking uncontrollable havoc. Bacteria are built to be able to hijack their way into cells to replicate themselves. • Until recently, it was extremely rare to find diseases that could jump from species to species. • Some are concerned that GMO technology has made it infinitely easier for bacteria (and therefore diseases and illnesses) to spread through-out all species in a way never before seen in history.
Section III – Potential Negative Outcomes of GMO Cross Pollination between unintended crops. There have been thousands of documented cases of unintentional cross-pollination between GMO and Non-GMO crops. In Canada, a farmer was sued by the biotechnology company, Monsanto, for having their genetically engineered seed in his crops. The farmer never purchased seed from Monsanto. However, his farm was located right next to a major highway used by trucks that carried Monsanto seed. When they passed by his crops, some seeds fell off the truck and blew onto his land, thereby tainting his entire crop. He was ordered to remove all the corn or pay stiff penalties for “using” Monsanto seeds without a license. Mexico is known for it’s hundreds of varieties of corn. Some top researchers speculate that there is no organic corn left on the entire North American Continent. Mexicans receiving food subsidies from America have been saving their seeds (as they have for generations) unaware of the fact that the corn is genetically modified. Of course this has lead to GMO corn cross-pollinating with an unknown amount of Mexico’s precious heirloom corn.
Section III – Potential Negative Outcomes Of GMO Increased vulnerability to disease • GMO technology uses and antibiotic marker manipulating and combining the genes of more than one organism to create a new organism. • The overuse of antibiotics in medicine has been a hot topic for many decades. With GMO technology, we are increasing our vulnerability by compromising our cells ability to resist foreign invaders. • Antibiotics are being used to promote growth in animals raised for food production as well. Bacteria such as Staphylococcus have developed a resistance to the antibiotics used to treat them. • Many people are dying today from previously treatable diseases that have developed a resistance to the antibiotic used to cure them.
Section IV-What Does Our Government Say? Regulation & enforcement of biotechnology companies. The FDA has chosen to regard GMO foods as GRAs or Generally Regarded as Safe. The Biotech companies are responsible for making sure that their products are safe to consume and they are on an honor system. Some believe that GMO foods should be regarded with a Better Safe than Sorry policy instead.
Section IV – What Do Americans think of GMO? T The sad fact of the matter is that most Americans have never heard of GMO foods and certainly don’t realize that they are eating it everyday. Our government has chosen not to force companies to label their foods as Genetically Modified (unlike many countries all over the world). The European Union & Prince Charles are two supporters of the need for food labeling of GMO products. Many speculate that biotech companies are against labeling because they do not want to be held liable for any potential health consequences.
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