There is increasing debate regarding the likely benefits of modern biotechnology, and particularly of genetically modified food in assisting to attain society’s development and food security goals.
The challenge facing decision makers is to understand what the technology can achieve, or has achieved elsewhere and to identify what prospects the technology presents to society (Jones, 2011). There are three key concerns.
First, whether or not genetically modified food provides a sustainable food security alternative; second, what the inferences are of genetically modified food for bio-safety in addition to for human safety and health; and third, the level of current society capability of undertaking research, and efficiently track and assess genetically modified (GM) food and the role that such food plays in our society (Scoones, 2009).
Genetic modification methods enable new features to be initiated into microorganisms, livestock and crops. These techniques can be utilized to enhance productivity in addition to their capability of resisting a number of diseases. Genetic adaptation is being utilized in the wildlife field with a view of creating disease tolerance, wood quality characteristics and herbicide tolerance (Lesley, 2010).
Hence, genetically modified food is frequently viewed as the solution to food shortages. However, attaining food sufficiency is about more than simply ensuring crop productivity (Jones, 2011).
There is significant ambiguity regarding the influence on human and environmental wellbeing, and as well whether GM food will offer a sustainable alternative to food issues. This paper focuses entirely on the role that genetically modified food plays in our society and its environmental implications.
Role of genetically modified (GM) food
As resources for public industry research reduce, and the aspects that enhance private industry establishment and desires turn out to be rooted in international governance approaches, the growth of genetically modified technology and application appears definite.
The challenge for decision makers is that of responding to this indecision regarding the comparative chances and risks posed by genetically modified food: the challenge is whether to accept these novel technologies and face criticism for lack of safety measure, or to call for comprehensive research of likely threats and face criticism for not succeeding to act swiftly (Malatesta, 2008).
There are concerns regarding the genetically modified crops being developed. The aim of the developers of nutritionally improved varieties is that of distributing these crops broadly in developing nations. Population growth in such nations creates an enormous dilemma not only to food security but also to nutrition security, with 94% of world population anticipated to happen in the developing nations (Lesley, 2010).
Accordingly people have to ask: could such advancements in food sector be a promising method of improving the wellbeing of millions of people globally? The following are the roles played by genetically modified food in the society.
There are critical variations between the forms of genetically modified crops that are being integrated into developing and developed nations. In developing nations, genetically modified crops would be nutritionally improved and would be utilized in ensuring the people are getting sufficient nutrients, rather than being focused on growing outputs.
In developed world, genetically modified crops have been generated to benefit developed nations and to increase the commercial value of specific product like tomatoes that have been engineered for controlled maturing (Lesley, 2010).
In the past decade, macronutrient deficiency has been recognized as the main cause of various health issues in developing nations. Around the globe, over one billion individuals do not get adequate vital nutrients and minerals and are considered underweight.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has approximated that 14% of the total population do not have access to a sufficient quantity of food, with less than billion being undernourished. Three in seven children are malnourished and 40% have delayed growth.
There is powerful proof that the key insufficiencies are zinc, iron and vitamins. More than two billion individuals are iron deficient; worldwide, over 116,000 maternal deaths each year are associated with malnutrition (Jones, 2011).
Solution to malnutrition
One alternative that has indicated promise entails nutritionally enhanced food. It as well has the capability to be used as an instrument for enhancing the growth and nutritional value of the staple crops that make up the main food in various developing nations.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Biotechnology Applications (ISABA) is a nonprofit global agency that creates awareness among shareholders on the advantages of biotechnology in improving the level of living for people in developing world (Seshia, 2009).
Genetically modified food can enhance the nutritional value of the staple food that lacks some: micronutrients like iron; macronutrients like amino acids; and vitamins like vitamin A. Such a technology could enable individuals in developing world to get a more balanced meal.
There are some staple crops that are being technologically engineered or are in development. For example, rice is a significant staple for numerous individuals around the globe, making up 81% of the daily consumption of 50% of the globe’s population.
Rice is an elevated energy giving food, but it has nutrient shortages and is not a sufficient source of vitamin A. Genetically modified rice could be an alternative for people that are lacking vitamin A (Jones, 2011).
The utilization of genetically modified food in developing world could lower the level of chronic diseases by enhancing nutritional content. Genetically modified food could reduce underweight, with small improvements in the cognitive capability, hence lowering an individual’s capability of working.
The cost of food directly influences an outsized percentage of the population. Genetically modified food would enable people to utilize less pesticide, therefore aiding the environment, lowering productivity investments and making farming less labor intensive. This would, in turn, lower the price for consumers (Malatesta, 2008).
Threat evaluation is linked to how to analyze, control or prevent harmful forces originating from the doubtful traits of GM food and processes.
To be efficient, these evaluations require tackling all merits and demerits, and not being limited to economic costs and profitability. It needs to tackle immediate and future benefits and costs, in addition to opportunity costs like the impact on the environment.
Field tests and how GM crops react in situations similar to those following actual release are an important process in the analysis procedure, enabling food developers to deal with challenges cropping up. They play a critical task to identify threats and create a chance for alleviation and modification before full release (Jones, 2011).
Most national threat study models aim at threat-benefit evaluations that are based on financial cost-benefit kind investigation. Generally, they utilize constricted technological approaches, which aim at the features of the system and the resultant GM organism, the appearance and characteristics of the GM food and the physical traits of the recipient environment (Malatesta, 2008).
Increased utilization of herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops may create fresh threats for environmental wellbeing. For instance, glyphosate is a key chemical of genetically modified crops and is now the world’s best selling herbicide.
Because of the introduction of genetically engineered crops, environmental implication of the chemical is anticipated to increase. However, there is powerful proof that this formulation contains chemicals that are severely harmful to the environment (Lesley, 2010).
There are also fresh environmental threats from genetically modified food. The environmental implications of such therapies are largely known. On the other hand, the inclusion of genes from one crop into another may cause environmental impacts, particularly where users are not knowledgeable concerning the origins of such crops (Jones, 2011).
Creating a sustainable policy that guarantees food security, does not cause harm to the biodiversity or environment, and enhances human health has to be a priority for developing world.
Developing countries are faced with the choice of whether genetically modified food can be a solution to food security, and if so, how to manage the threats and implications related to GM technology.
To evaluate the alternatives, developing world needs to take into account the likely gains from potential output benefits and a reduction of the need for chemical utilization against the environmental implications.
Jones, M. (2011). Key challenges for technological development and agricultural research in Africa. IDS Bulletin, 36(2), 46-51.
Lesley, H. (2010). Factors determining the public understanding of GM technologies. Biotechnology, 6(1), 1–8.
Malatesta, M. (2008). A long-term study on female mice fed on a genetically modified soybean: effects on liver ageing. Chemical Cell Biology, 130(5), 967-77.
Scoones, I. (2009). Governing technology development: Challenges for agricultural research in Africa. IDS Bulletin, 36 (2), 109-114.
Seshia, S. (2009). Plant variety protection and farmers’ rights in India: Law-making and the cultivation of varietal control. Economic and Political Weekly, 37(27), 741-726.