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The Concerns and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Crops

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Introduction

The Concerns and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Crops The debate about the safety and need for genetically modified crops and foods has raged since the mid '90s. A lot of time and money has been spent by biotechnology companies, scientists, and governments, to convince people that there is really nothing to worry about, and that this technology will provide benefits to all. But while GM crops are now being used widely by farmers in the USA, consumers in the European Union and Japan have reacted strongly against them1. Although this has slowed the rate at which GM crops and foods are being introduced, the biotech industry is continuing to promote them. For numerous generations agriculturalists have used selective breeding to improve characteristics such as size. However Genetic Modification is very different. It is a process whereby genes are translocated from one organism to another; subsequently changing the characteristics of the 'acceptor' organism2. This transfer of genes is a difficult and haphazard procedure, and at present there is no standard way to control the outcome. ...read more.

Middle

on GM foods. But it has been severely criticised by some scientists because it is not clear what level of similarity makes something 'substantially' equivalent5. Many GM crops contain genes which provide resistance to commonly used antibiotics such as ampicillin. There is concern that these genes could be passed from food to bacteria in the guts of humans and animals. In the Netherlands, researchers used a model of a human gut to look at what would happen to GM food after it is eaten. They predicted that 6% of the genes from GM tomatoes would survive digestion and considered that the genes could survive for long enough for bacteria to pick them up. In 2002, research published by the Food Standards Agency showed this happening for the first time, when GM genes were found to have been picked up by gut bacteria of human volunteers6. Therefore this concern of genes 'jumping' the species barrier is a potentially disastrous one, because it could lead to mutations in organisms, such as bacteria, that could stop medicines such as penicillin working against them. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, many people in the world are suffering from malnutrition and hunger because they cannot afford to buy food, not because it is unavailable. Complex social, political and economic forces affect how people have access to land, money and resources. It is these forces, much more than the level of food production which determine who gets to eat, and who does not. It is not just a simple case of there being more people, so more food should be grown. There is more than enough food to feed everyone very well at the moment, yet hundreds of millions of people go hungry and nearly two billion are malnourished. For example, in 1998 it is estimated that 36 million people, including 14 million children, were hungry or on the brink of hunger in the USA9, one of the richest countries in the world! In conclusion, I feel that there are too many concerns and disadvantages associated with GM crops, to make them a viable option for food. I feel that although they do have their benefits, this is heavily overshadowed by their disadvantages, and subsequently alternative and safer methods should be introduced to replace GM crops. ...read more.

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