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Genetic modification or engineering of food entails changing the DNA make-up of the seeds used to grow certain food crops and pharmaceutical plants.
As a result, genetic modification aims at altering the characteristics of plants so that they can be grown within a short period, to suit the prevailing climatic conditions, to resist the damage from pests, diseases, and weeds, and to increase food production (Windley, 2008, p. 1).
Therefore, research studies note that genetically modified foods hold the key to solving the current issues regarding the global food production patterns. Conversely, critics of these modified foods have raised several concerns regarding the safety of these foods and their effect on the environment and traditional varieties of food crops.
Thus, this essay presents discussions on the concerns raised over the safety and effect of genetically modified (GM) foods, and the benefits of these foods in order to assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
The Concerns regarding GM foods
Most researchers are concerned about the safety of GM foods to human health. Here, the researchers note that there are no human studies regarding the effect of GM foods on human beings and therefore, one cannot certainly state the effect of these crops relative to their digestibility, their present and future impact on human health, and their effect on the human microbiota (Windley, 2008, p. 1).
In addition, studies note that most GM foods contain a lot of pesticide and herbicide residues, which are potential risk factors in the development of different food allergies (Bant, 2008). Conversely, other studies posit that some GM foods such as GMO potatoes can lead to the development of pre-cancerous lesions in the intestinal tract, testicles, and the liver of test animals (Windley, 2008, p. 2).
Additionally, there are concerns over the long-term effect of GM seeds in that their increased use threatens the existence of natural seeds. Here, most researchers note that GM seeds have found popularity in different parts of the world whereby they have been replanted over the years and therefore, raising concerns in that they may lead to the lose of the natural seeds.
Furthermore, natural plants may lose their nutritional profile and the cost of farm inputs may increase because farmers will be forced to purchase seeds, which were previously available for free (Windley, 2008, p. 2).
Furthermore, there are concerns regarding the effect of GM foods on the environment. Here, the critics of GM foods argue that the increased use of herbicides and pesticides may lead to the emergence of resistant strains of weeds and insects, which may become potentially harmful to the environment (Bant, 2008).
Moreover, certain GM crops including pharmaceutical plants may escape from containment fields to the food crop fields and therefore, contaminate the natural crops (Marvier, 2007, p. 59).
Benefits of GM foods
Despite the increased criticism against GM foods, they are important in terms of guaranteeing the global food safety because of their potential to increase the yield and the nutritional content of some food crops (Bant, 2008).
Additionally, GM crops can survive in different climatic conditions and therefore, they have the potential to expand the cultivation areas and resources relative to the diminishing natural resources. Furthermore, GM crops are designed to resist herbivores, insects, and herbicides. As a result, there is maximal utilization of the limited resources to realize increased yields with GM foods (Bant, 2008).
Furthermore, most GM foods can endure long-distance transportation, which does not normally favor most natural crops such as greens. As a result, GM foods can expand the shelf life of foods and thus, reduce the costs incurred due to food spoilage (Bant, 2008).
Additionally, since most developing countries rely on grains as the only staple food, they can derive several benefits from GM crops, which aim at diversifying the nutritional profile of food grains. Moreover, most GM crops have been designed by excluding potential allergens in the original plants and therefore, GM foods have increased the range of food crops available to farmers (Bant, 2008).
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Lastly, scientists have designed genetically modified pharmaceutical plants, which possess the ability to produce large quantities of drugs and vaccines. As a result, genetic engineering of plants allows the increased availability of pharmaceuticals while reducing the cost of health care provision in the world (Marvier, 2007, p. 59).
The essay presents discussions on the benefits and concerns regarding the production of GM foods and pharmaceuticals. The discussions above note that GM foods and pharmaceuticals hold several benefits amid the intense criticism regarding their safety and their effect on the environment.
As noted above, most critics base their arguments on assumptions while the benefits of GM foods cannot be overemphasized. As a result, there is the possibility that the benefits of GM foods outweigh the concerns over their safety and potential impact on human beings and the environment unless the claims made against GM foods are supported by factual and statistical data.
Bant, O., 2008. Genetically modified crops: boon or bane? Illumin. Web.
Marvier, M., 2007. Pharmaceutical crops have a mixed outlook in California. California Agriculture. Web.
Windley, S., 2008. Genetically modified foods. University of Sussex: AAC Reading Pack. Web.