GM Crops Introduction
The fact that Genetically Modified (GM) crops are changing the world is certainly indisputable. The question that remains is what kind of change it is? As such, there is a division between the scientific community and the rest of the world in answering this question; with GMO supporters justifying them for their advantages while those in opposition citing their disadvantages. This essay will look at both the advantages and disadvantages of growing genetically modified crops, to try to provide an answer to this question.
Benefits of Growing Genetically Modified Crops
The global population has more than doubled in the last decade. This increase in population is placing more demand on the already scarce food resources. Genetically modified crops provide a sustainable solution to food security by ensuring stable, consistent, and plentiful supply of food. Furthermore, natural plants are too far vulnerable to too many factors and are becoming less dependable (Jacobsen, Sørensen, Pedersen, & Weiner, 2013).
In many countries, especially those in the developing world, people are living with less than a dollar a day. This petite consumer power means that the access to regular meals is a problem. The fact that genetically modified crops can yield larger quantities, ensures high supplies to the market, leading to lower food prices hence providing the poverty-stricken individuals with the opportunity of having more than a single meal a day.
For many years, scientists and environmental conservationists have sought ways of protecting the environment from harmful chemicals used in pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers. Genetically modified crops are not entirely dependent on chemicals to ensure productivity. These crops are modified to resist persistent plant diseases that would otherwise be a threat to the natural plants and the traditional ways of cultivation. Therefore, the use of GM technology ensures that the yield remains high and consistent, keeping market supplies high and prices low.
Scientists are also able to modify the crops gene to increase flavor and overall nutritional value. This approach is not only beneficial to the modern day working class, who barely pay attention to what they eat, but also to the mothers and children facing malnutrition in parts of Africa. Supplying these foods to these people gives them a chance at a healthier life without placing a burden of cost on well-wishers. Furthermore, it is possible to store genetically modified crops over longer periods of time; meaning that these crop products can retain their nutritional value on long-distance transportations, thereby reducing the cost of refrigeration and increasing transportation distances.
The first major drawback of genetically modifies crops is the risk of cross-contamination between these crops and those around them. The modified genes from these crops can transfer from plant to plant, through the primary reproductive unit of a plant, the pollen grain. When these pollen-grains land on the surrounding plants, there is a likelihood of a ‘superweed’ emerging. These super weeds are more resistance to insecticides and herbicides and pose a significant threat to farmers (Mannion & Morse, 2012).
Most critics of genetically modified crops state that cases of food allergies have been rising since GMO crop products hit the retail shelves. However, scientific research has so far been unable to prove the link between the allergies and genetically modified crops. Furthermore, since these crops have antibiotic properties as an inclusion, there is a possibility of increasing the resistance to some antibiotics. Even though, some research or studies are necessary to prove that this is the case.
It is quite costly to develop a new strain of genetically modified crops. These limits the development and production to only a few individuals who may not entirely understand farmer needs. The high costs discourage investors who want to get into GMO development as there is no guarantee of return of investments upon completion.
To some consumers, especially those who have had reservations about the entire genetic engineering program, may find it quite difficult or threatening to consume a crop that has undergone genetic modification. Another group of individuals cite religious reasons for not consuming GMOs. As such, the popularity of these crops still remain too diminutive.
Like all other products meant for the consumer market, genetically modified crops undergo a lot of testing. However, sections of the scientific community and the general public still insists on more testing, specifically on the determination of long-term effects. Uncertainty or factual evidence may fuel this persistence, but it shows the level of mistrust people have on genetically modified crops. However, scientists and GMO supporters are insistent on the level of testing such crop products (Domingo & Bordonaba, 2011).
Alternative Solutions to Food Shortages
Regardless of the several debates brought by genetically modified crops, they still offer a viable solution to food scarcity, with their low costs, high supply, and drought or disease resistance. Since not many countries are willing to adopt GMO crops at the national level, there is a need for the implementation of alternative solutions.
One such solution is the use of irrigation methods and adopting small-scale greenhouse farming. These methods reduce the reliance on rain-fed agriculture enabling farmers to have plentiful harvest throughout the years if implemented appropriately. Moreover, the farmers have control over what they grow, when to grow it, and what quantity to produce. The overall costs of such are also considerably small. The farmers are therefore able to ensure that they produce what they need and when they need them.
Certainly, genetically modified crops have both advantages and disadvantages. However, the detriments highlighted above, such as food allergies and resistance to antibiotics, still need research for their further justification. Other drawbacks, such as the cross contaminations, are legible and need intervention. Nevertheless, no one can ever put aside the advantages that these crops possess. GMO crops are capable of offering workable solutions to the ever present food shortages. Although other solutions such as greenhouse farming and irrigation are also viable, genetically modified crops have far greater potential.
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