Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods produced through modification of various genetic make-ups, using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques involve selective breeding and creating somaclonal variation. GM foods have been in the market from the early 90’s but have gained more popularity in the past decade. However, since its inception, this technology has been faced by various criticisms from economic views, religious, safety, to ecological issues.
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To develop these foods, there is always a pioneering project to create and test the foods. However, these projects encounter various problems which have led to the failure of some of the projects.
For a project to be successful, there are various issues that must be considered, below are guidelines which are worth noting when undertaking such projects. Foremost, it is recognized there are several procedures involved in the project development with the main ones being, initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closing. One of the fundamental issues that determine the success of any project is the planning stage of a particular project.
This is the function of the project management, who should determine which resources will be required (both human and material resource) along with a budget of the costs that are anticipated. For the successful execution of a project, the managers of the project should have a documented Project Management Plan (PMP) and a Project Execution Plan (or PEP). The PMP will be a stipulation on how the project will be managed, controlled, and the stakeholders involved, while the PEP will be a guideline of how the project will be implemented.
The PEP stipulates the time required for each activity, resources, constraints, deadlines and other critical dates in the schedule. In addition to a plan, the management should also adopt a project management model that guides it the execution of the program, although the model chosen can be changed at different stages. Some of these models include: Critical Chain Project Management, Extreme Project Management, Event chain methodology and the Process-based management model.
Communication is another major issue in project planning; there must be an effective communication channel for the project to be successful. Each member involved must be clearly aware of the responsibilities assigned to them.
Here should also be a communication guideline on who is responsible for giving information so that anyone who needs clarification will be able to get it and to avoid conflicts of responsibilities. Another essential tool for project implementation is the Project Success Plan. This shows what the project is meant to accomplish in a given time.
The plan should be formed once the project’s participants have been chosen and it should be communicated to the members and should continuously be used as a reminder of the mission of the project when the team gets out of track, or there are anomalies occurring. The plan should also include the rewards of the project once it has been executed to motivate the members by informing them of the benefits accruing from the project.
Another vital consideration is the project management: genetic engineering projects face administration problems because no one wants to lead in case it fails, but everyone usually wants credit if it succeeds.
Projects, therefore, require proper leadership for them to succeed and there are three majors’ issues that the administrators must focus on. “Project managers must focus on three dimensions of project success, completing all project deliverables on time, within budget, and to a level of quality that is acceptable to sponsors and stakeholders” (Nordlee, 2009, p. 334).
Plans made always do not turn out exactly as expected; therefore, managers should be aware of this by being prepared for any anomalies. Planning the reform should be a routine task for managers and they should seek ways of perfecting in the job. Genetic engineering projects often take a long time before they are complete; some even take years without results.
A specific timeline should be set for the project, with all relevant issues been considered when doing this and more importantly, quality. Qaim (2003, p. 90), gives an example of the “Standard ISD model that ensures professional standards and best practices are built into a project.” This model helps in maintaining quality and also reduces the work involved, therefore helping the managers in dealing with time and budget pressures.
Genetic engineering projects are also faced with many disputes on the intended benefits of the project; some participants may want crops that are disease-resistant while others wish to drought-resistant plants, therefore, causing a conflict of interests.
Projects need sponsors formal approvals, authority permission among other stakeholders and forms of support. This is to prevent imminent risks, however, “anyone who has the power to reject or to demand revision of deliverables after they are complete must be required to examine and approve them as they are being built” (Stanley, 2010, 43).
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Project accomplishment is connected to detailed examination of the importance of the project deliverables. It is evident that when a project achieves deliverables that are intended to meet a carefully documented requirement, the project is likely to be successful. Therefore, the project administrators should ensure that the recognized requirements of the project before undertaking it.
Genetic engineering projects often start and then come to a stop at a certain point due to lack of resources. Most of these projects are expensive because of the equipment, expertise and complex development environments that they require. Others take too long and therefore sponsors start to lose hope and pull out.
The project implementers should make sure that they have been accorded the necessary resources required for the project on time. Managers should identify and inform the sponsors on the benefits of the project so that they can win their trust and be awarded excellent resources. This will enable them to do a perfect job that will need no revisions afterward.
They, therefore, should maximize the resources given to do the job right so as to prevent wastage of resources that could be incurred repeatedly. The responsibility of the project administrators should be stipulated so that it is clear on who will be held responsible for the performance of the project. Notably, “managers must have the authority to acquire and coordinate resources, request and receive cooperation, and make appropriate binding decisions which would have an impact on the success of the project” (Rao, 2010, p. 2)
The sponsors of the project must participate in the development of the project not to remain passive. They should be involved in approving the benefits expected, involve themselves in all stages, examine interim achievements without disrupting the project development process, and ensure there is proper documentation of the project’s progress. The managers should also ensure that the project is adequately funded and supported by continually advertising it and its benefits.
Genetic engineering has many benefits to the society worldwide, although the benefits are hardly recognized. There have been many successful projects in the medical field and also in agriculture. For example, there are GM crops that can now release toxins to kill insects that invade them and others are also resistant to viral diseases, therefore, making farming cheaper since there is no need for herbicides.
Other GM crops produce nutrients that they release in the soil, therefore, making it fertile while others grow faster than their original pace, thus, making food available at all times (McHughen, 2000, p. 156). There are so many benefits of genetic engineering depending on the intended objectives of the project; hence project managers should therefore commit, sacrifice and be ready to act as salespeople or marketers at times for the success of their projects.
The managers should also hire competent team members, the best qualified and experienced, even if it implies more costs because there will be assured quality in them. The manager should shield the members from any external disruptions and also ensure that all the resources they require are available.
If a project is being sponsored by an organization with other operations; the organization should create a project management office to ensure that all projects are awarded the necessary attention and also control resources being utilized. The Project Office will “review the organization’s overall mission and strategies, establish criteria for project selection and funding, monitor resource workloads, and determine which projects are of high enough priority to be approved to prevent project jam” (Martineau 2001, p. 269).
Projects will always be faced with risks in their development due to uncertain events that characterize the real world. Some of these risks include environmental outbursts, chemical exposures, experimental mishaps, unforeseen delays, the control room at risk of flooding and many others.
Each project is faced by different risks, but there are those that are common in all and therefore, the managers should be prepared for such by being alert. Projects, therefore, require effective monitoring and controlling so as to mitigate these uncertainties. This can be done through: Measuring the ongoing project activities, monitoring the project variables (cost, effort, scope, etc.) against the project management plan and the project performance, and identifying corrective actions to address issues and risks (Holmes 2010, p. 14).
A risk is an uncertainty and could have a positive or negative impact on the project. Possible Risks should be identified during the initial stages of the project so that the team can be prepared for any future occurrences that could compromise the success of the project.
These risks should also be communicated to the team members as soon as they are identified to alert everyone. Risks can be identified by collecting information from the public or the media. After that, the project management team should research on the possible solutions to the hazards that have been applied before.
Project implementers should also note that risks are not only negative but could also be positive; hence it is advisable always to be updated on possible risks because some could cause uncertain events that can turn out to be advantageous to the project. The project manager should keep a record of possible risks and their effects to avoid confusion if anything happens. “Risk tasks could be conducted to identify or analyze risks or to generate, select and implement responses.” (Lai et al. 2006, p. 435)
A common problem in genetic engineering projects is ownership rights; when a project ends up being successful, wrangles begin on who is to be accredited for it and especially when huge revenues are involved. For example, the modification of vitamin A had over 70 people claiming ownership leading to many conflicts.
Genetic engineering projects are carried out by scientists who have different theories and methods in conducting their research. Sometimes the scientists are required to bring together ideas to come up with concretes idea and thus they should be ready to cooperate and share the benefits of the project according to the agreed-upon plan.
The genetic engineering projects also face a lot of criticism from various religions which claim that the GM foods are ungodly. Project’s managers should ensure that the clergy is well enlightened on the benefits of the plans to avoid conflicts. The religious community should be informed that the world’s population is growing and there is no food to feed everyone through traditional methods and the only way to produce enough food for them is through these projects.
Rejecting these foods amounts to allowing people to starve, which is not a religious value. All these issues should be well anticipated and clearly stipulated before the initiation of the project to avoid such conflicts which can make a project to lose its stakeholder’s credibility or even halt its progress.
In case a project is affected by a risk that impacts on its implementation process, the team should concentrate on minimizing its effects on the project. This could involve change of suppliers of technology, sponsors, or even members of the team involved. The critical issues involved in risk management are: “risk avoidance, risk minimization and risk acceptance.”
If the risk cannot be avoided, then its effect should be minimized and if not, the project should be dropped immediately to prevent further loss of resources on an already failed project. Lastly, project managers could practice project maintenance (Boucher 1999, p. 342): “This is a continuous approach which involves, continuing support of end-users, correction of errors, and updating the technology being used in the project.” It is necessary for project managers to prepare a risk management plan to mitigate the imminent risks or distractions.
In conclusion, the above genetic engineering project guidelines are equally essential in any project if it is to succeed and should be fundamentally considered in the project management plan.
Boucher, D., 1999. The Paradox of Plenty: Hunger in a Bountiful World. Food First, pp. 342.
Holmes, B., 2010. Altered animals: Creatures with bonus features. New Scientist, pp. 14.
Lai, L. et al., 2006. Generation of cloned transgenic pigs rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Nature Biotechnology, pp. 435–436.
Martineau, B., 2001. First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Foods. CA: McGraw-Hill.
McHughen, A., 2000. The Potential and Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods, Pandora’s Picnic Basket. London: Oxford University Press.
Nordlee, J., 2009. Identification of Brazil-Nut Allergen in Transgenic Soybeans. New England Journal of Medicine, pp. 334.
Pollack, M. and Shaffer G., 2009. When Cooperation Fails. The International Law and Politics of Genetically Modified Foods, pp. 24-26.
Qaim, M., 2003. Yield Effects of Genetically Modified Crops in Developing Countries. The Science Journal, pp. 900–902.
Rao, S., 2010. Genetically Modified Tomatoes Can Last 45 Days On The Shelf. Discover magazine, pp. 2.
Stanley, H. et al., 2001. Assessing the impact of Cry1Ab-expressing corn pollen on monarch butterfly larvae in field studies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98, pp. 11931–36.