Controversial Issue: Genetically-Modified Food, Essay Example
Globalization has been benefitting both developed and developing countries through international trade but some people are benefitting more than others. The number of billionaires has been growing in countries outside the U.S. such as China and India but poverty is still a major problem. The good news is that technology can help solve hunger and poverty problem and one of the best solutions may be genetically-modified food. But genetically-modified food is opposed by some groups who fear there may be unknown problems. Science always finds a solution to a problem and any problems with genetically-modified food will be addressed should they arise. We should promote genetically-modified food because it will eliminate hunger, malnutrition, and may even save millions of lives.
Technological progress coupled with globalization has helped improve quality of lives as well as population due to lower mortality rates. But while global population has been increasing, the world’s land area is not. As a result, we have to achieve greater agricultural productivity to feed growing global population. In addition, people have rising income levels so they have increased their consumption levels as well, further increasing demand for food. In this area, genetically-modified food is a blessing because they allow us to achieve significantly greater productivity. Sir David King at the Oxford University claims genetically-modified crops in China and India are 7 to 10 times more productive than conventional crops provided the same farming area is used (Sharife). Thus, genetically-modified crops will not only help us meet growing global demand for food but will also help us keep food prices low and maybe even decrease them due to supply abundance.
Another way to increase food productivity besides increasing acreage yield is to put less fertile land into productive use. Agricultural experiments in Virginia have proven the effectiveness of genetically-modified crops over conventional crops. The yield of genetically-modified wheat crops is twice the conventional wheat crops despite despite flat soil. This yield is achieved without employing any conventional agricultural methods such as plowing, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides. Biotechnology techniques also allow us to produce salt-tolerant crops that could be planted on 25 million acres of land annually lost to salinity (Rauch). Thus, it will be possible to put lot of land to productive use because genetically-modified crops can withstand harsh weather as well as unfavorable soil conditions.
Food shortage is not the only problem facing a significant proportion of world population. It is not only sufficient to get food but it is also important to get all the nutritional elements necessary for healthy lifestyle. Genetically-modified food can help us address malnutrition challenge in many developing countries. It is possible to genetically add desirable elements to crops such as Starch and Vitamin A (Thomson). It is estimated that 854 million people suffered from malnutrition from 2001 to 2003 and staggering 820 million were from developing countries. Underweight children in India and Bangladesh under the age of five have malnutrition rates above the regional average and the situation is even worse in Africa (Pinstrup-Anderson and Cheng).
The benefits of scientific applications in the agricultural sector have also be recognized as well as endorsed by reputed organizations. A World Bank report expressed optimism that science and technology will ensure food security for hundreds of millions of people in rural areas. Some countries like China are embracing biotechnology on a major scale (Morrin). Thus, genetically-modified food can play a major role in alleviating hunger around the world and endorsement by major organizations also implies the benefits are enormous.
The opponents of genetically-modified food express concern that there may be unexpected results such as gene transfers to other plants and new health risks (Whitman, Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?). The experts agree that these concerns are legitimate but new technologies often post uncertainties and we only understand their potential risks as well as to control them over time. In fact, every new technology has certain shortcomings and even as revolutionary technology as internet also has its dark side. The key is to evaluate whether the risks of a technology exceed its benefits or not and in this it is apparent that the risks of genetically-modified crops do not exceed the benefits. Moreover, many of these risks are also present when we cross-breed plants (Rauch).
It is now apparent that genetically-modified food should be promoted because it will help us efficiently meet the food needs of the growing global population. Genetically-modified food helps us address the economic problem of limited land supply by increasing average crop productivity as well as putting infertile land into use. Genetically-modified food may also help us reduce food costs due to greater productivity. In addition to hunger genetically-modified food can also play a major role in addressing malnutrition which is a major challenge in developing countries like India. Last but not least, it will help improve Africa’s economy by increasing the size of agricultural sector since barren land could be put to agricultural production.
Morrin, Xenia. “Genetically modified food from crops: progress, pawns, and possibilities.” Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry 2008: 333-340.
Pinstrup-Anderson, Per and Fuzhi Cheng. “Still Hungry.” Scientific American September 2007: 96-103.
Rauch, Jonathan. “Will Frankenfood Save the Planet?” Science and Society 2007: 152-163.
Sharife, Khadija. “Is GM food the future for Africa? .” New African 2009: 8-13.
Thomson, Jennifer. “Genetically modified crops – good or bad for Africa?” Biologist 2007: 129-133.
Whitman, Deborah B. Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? April 2000. 16 December 2013 <http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php>.
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