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GMOs Friend or Foe?

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https://askabiologist.asu.edu/world-without-gmos

Genetically Modified Organisms are the result of a laboratory process where genes from DNA of one species are extracted and artificially put into the genes of a different plant or animal. This process can be beneficial for farmers because it keeps away pests, reduces the cost of food and increases production, and can help farmers reduce their carbon footprint; however, the some people argue that GMOs can have adverse effects to the health of humans and animals.

With that said, should we make nutritional food more accessible for low-income families, improve food security, and reduce poverty at the risk of potential negative health and environmental side effects?


UN Sustainability Goals

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Goal 2 relates to the GMO topic because genetic modification can aid in our global health issues. For example, genetic modification can increase crop yield, shelf-life, and nutritional value of certain foods. With that said, low-income families and developing countries suffering from malnutrition can have access to long-lasting, cheaper, but still nutritious food.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well Being

Goal 3 relates to the GMO debate because while there are many advantages to GM crops, there are also disadvantages. For example, people have better access to nutritional foods, but they also become at risk for potential allergies and sometimes long-term effects like cancer or disease.

Goal 12: Sustainable Health and Consumption

Goal 12 emphasizes that we should promote resource and energy efficiency in our production and consumption. With that said, GM crops decrease pesticide use and increase yield, which decreases the amount of energy and water put into the agricultural business and contributes to the conservation of our natural resources. Along with conservation of resources, the longer shelf-life of GM crops may reduce our amount of food waste.


Bioethical Principles

Autonomy:

The Bioethical Principle of Autonomy gives the consumer the right to self-determination regarding healthcare. With that said, nutrition is a key component to the consumer’s health, and genetically modified crops may be in violation of this principle. For example, Is the consumer fully informed about the long term risks and benefits of consuming GM crops? Does advertising coerce the consumer’s decision and interfere with their autonomy? Is false advertising or inability to release full disclosure of the product a violation of autonomy?

Beneficence:

It is clear that there are advantages to using GM Crops; however, are those advantages in the best interest of the consumer? For example, the consumer benefits from GM crops because it can increase the crop yield, enhance pesticide resistance and improve nutrition, but there is the potential for long-term health effects. So, Should we use GM crops to benefit populations suffering from malnutrition and risk potential long-term health and environmental concerns?

Non-Maleficence:

The principle of Nonmaleficence requires that the procedure does no harm to the consumer or others in society. GMOs have the ability to alleviate suffering of populations affected with malnutrition, so in this case genetic modification would be abiding by the principle of Nonmaleficence. At the same time, GM crops can induce potential allergies or antibiotic resistance, and GMO farms can contaminate non-GMOs crops through cross pollination. It is a concern that GM crops will negatively impact the environment, a farmer’s economic prosperity, and the population’s health.

Justice:

The idea of Justice is that the risks and benefits of a procedure must be equally distributed in society. With that said, is the allocation of nutritional foods equal among all populations? By genetically modifying crops, are we adhering to the principle of Justice by making nutritional foods more accessible to low-income families?


Risks vs Benefits of GMOs

Five Ethical Concerns:

  • Potential harm to human health
  • Potential damage to the environment
  • Negative impact on traditional farming practice
  • Excessive corporate dominance
  • The ‘unnaturalness’ of the technology

Potential Benefits:

  • Improved nutrition
  • Enhanced pest resistance, increased yields, and new products
  • Reduction of poverty
  • Improve food security
  • Profitable agriculture in developing countries

One of the main issues with our growing population is the question of: How are we going to feed this many people? Certain biotech companies have found genes in crops that are found to withstand harsh weather condition; therefore contributing to a farmer’s crop yield. The discovery of GMOs has increased the crop yield for farmers without requiring them to expand their land use. Furthermore, by increasing their production, the farmers are able to profit off of their crops even more. While farmers benefit both economically and agriculturally from GMOs, people who suffer from malnutrition or live in food deserts have better access to nutritional foods. If GMOs were more widely accepted, they could serve as a catalyst for the solution to world hunger. One example of a GM crop to help developing countries suffering from malnutrition is Golden Rice.


Golden Rice Debate:

https://www.producer.com/2018/04/health-canada-obligated-approve-golden-rice/

Golden Rice is a Genetically modified crop that has been altered to improve its nutritional value. This rice has been altered to produce beta-carotene which is converted into Vitamin A when metabolized. Therefore, Golden Rice can be essential in aiding developing countries with their malnutrition issues, prevent millions of deaths and alleviate suffering of those who have Vitamin A deficiencies. Moreover, Golden Rice can serve as a catalyst for more possibilities of enhancing foods through genetic modification. However, because this is a genetically modified crop, there has been backlash from the non-GMO community which has ceased its expansion. For example, concerns include potential allergies, antibiotic resistance, a threat to biodiversity, and other human and environmental safety concerns. Also, there is a socioeconomic implication that GM crops may negatively impact local farmers who cannot compete with large scale biotech companies. The Golden Rice Debate is a prime example of how complex this topic is and how GMO use may create controversy.


Biotech companies have been able to enhance certain species so that they are more nutritionally dense. This tactic has proven to aid those who live in poorer countries because they better can access and afford the nutrients they need. Moreover, bioengineered foods also have improved flavor, color, and a longer shelf-life which is more desirable for consumers. Genetically modified crops can aid malnutrition-related issues in developing countries and help our global health issues.


How can we avoid these potential health risks from GM crops?

I went to my local farmers market and asked a farmer about his alternative gardening techniques.

How do you keep away pests? Do you use pesticides? If not, what do you use?

  • Using neem oil
  • Covering his crops
  • Intercropping: a planting technique where he plants certain crops around others, so that pests are not interested.

How do you fertilize? Do you use chemicals? If not, what do you use?

  • Using chicken droppings and worm castings
  • Composting: using coffee filters, tea bags, restaurant scraps.

GMOs have allowed the potential for more efficient production, a decrease in chemical use, and making produce more desirable for consumers; therefore, GMOs leave a beneficial impact on our population. Biotech companies have partnered up with the agricultural business to help improve our crops in more ways than one. Whether it is a plant that produces its own insecticide or one that can grow in a dry or cold area, these new species lead to major environmental advantages. In other words, we are becoming more environmentally sustainable through GMOs because we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving resources, and decreasing both land and pesticide use. GMOs are a tool for improving our carbon footprint and feeding our global population, without compromising crop production or nutritious value.


Works Cited

  • https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/503e/945c2ddeb74bbae2215023b0c76b61c9e67e.pdf
  • http://www.skanschools.org/tfiles/folder471/abcs_of_gmos.pdf
  • http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/press_room/SciAm-final.pdf
  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20850572
  • https://med.nyu.edu/highschoolbioethics/genetically-modified-organisms-“golden-rice”-debate
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COMMENTS: 6
  1. April 27, 2019 by Ella Peterson Reply

    I really enjoyed reading your webpage. You were very unbiased and considered both sides of every argument. Thank you!

  2. April 27, 2019 by Erica Reply

    Hi! Thank you for bringing up this topic! In your final little blurb, you talk about how GMOs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help conserving resources, could you elaborate on that? I don’t really quite understand how they are helping do either of those things because from what I understand, GMO’s should be pretty bad for the environment (damaging/a threat to biodiversity etc).

  3. April 27, 2019 by Anna.Lee Reply

    Hi Elizabeth!
    I think your topic is extremely important and relevant to today’s society. I love how you present both sides and clearly outline the concerns and benefits. I was wondering how advertising positively or negatively impacted GMO crops? If something is advertised as “organic” would that increase the price and dissuade someone from buying a GMO product?

  4. April 29, 2019 by Anjali.Mirmira Reply

    Hi Elizabeth! Awesome page! I found your topic to be very interesting and informative because I did not really know anything about GMOs until I read your page. I found it particularly interesting how GMOs have the ability to aid those who live in impoverished communities. In terms of GMOs as an industry, how expensive would it be for this technology to be applied in countries with the lowest GDP in the world? Should the design/implantation methods of GMOs be viewed as another infrastructure completely, given the growing demands and benefits?

  5. April 29, 2019 by Aneesha.Kumar Reply

    Hi Elizabeth! I loved reading your project. You presented the information really well! You discussed how GMOs could be used for reducing world hunger but what would be some ideas you have for making GMOs more widely accepted?

  6. April 29, 2019 by Nick Reply

    I really enjoyed your page and found this information on gmos very interesting. I am intrigued to find out Gmos cause more sustainablilty than health concern , but why do some people prefer organic over gmos

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