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Advantages of GMOs-Part 2

August 9, 2012

Since World War II the United States’ role as a world power has increased.  We have provided aid, sometimes very desired and sometimes not, to many people in nations where living conditions are hard and a choice of food is one of the many amenities that are lacking in the culture. Remember the photos I posted of the typical weekly food families around the world eat? If not, check it again.

A typical reaction to seeing the poorest of those families is a desire to help and it was with that simple concept and the understanding that the world’s population will continue to grow, that the technological advances  permitting  genetic engineering of food to increase the food supply was put into place.

The proponents of GM (genetically modified) foods indicate that they can help meet this need because of the following attributes crops can have:

  • Pest resistance: Inspects can destroy crops, resulting in a huge financial loss for farmers and decreased local food supply. Farmers can chose to avoid using chemical pesticides, which many consumers do not want to eat and run-off from the land can cause pollution of nearby water sources.  Instead the farmers can opt to use GM seed that includes a genetic code for the plant to be resistant to pests.
  •  Herbicide tolerance:  Removing weeds usually means pulling them by hand or tilling, or killing them by spraying with herbicides.   Spraying is time-consuming and expensive and the herbicide could harm the crop plant or the environment. Crop plants genetically-engineered to be resistant to one very powerful herbicide would reduce the amount of herbicides needed. Specifically, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup ®. A farmer grows these soybeans which then only require one application of weed-killer instead of multiple applications, reducing production cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run-off.
  • Disease resistance: There are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. Plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.
  • Cold tolerance: Unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings.
  • Drought tolerance/salinity tolerance: As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously considered unsuitable for plant cultivation. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places.
  • Nutrition: Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Medicines and vaccines often are costly to produce and sometimes require special storage conditions not readily available in third world countries. Researchers are working to develop edible vaccines in tomatoes and potatoes. These vaccines will be much easier to ship, store and administer than traditional injectable vaccines.
  • Phytoremediation: Not all GM plants are grown as crops. Soil and groundwater pollution continues to be a problem in all parts of the world. Plants such as poplar trees have been genetically engineered to clean up heavy metal pollution from contaminated soil.
  • In addition, GMO animals can:
  • Create synthetic proteins more economically, and in sufficient quantities: Genetically engineered sheep, for example, can produce milk containing a human blood clotting factor that can be used to treat haemophilia, and Alpha 1-antitrypsin, which can be used to treat emphysema and cystic fibrosis.
  • Create animals that could be used in the future for providing replacement organs and tissues to human patients. For example, organs like hearts and kidneys can be harvested from genetically modified pigs. As these modified pigs carry a human protein regulating complement, the chances of organ rejection are reduced.
  • Create more productive and disease-resistant farm animals. For example, cows that produce more milk, pigs that produce leaner bacon, sheep that produce more wool.

Lots of great advantages. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the steps taken…or not….to test these results to see if they are safe.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2012 7:19 pm

    Problem is that I’ve been reading studies where the results aren’t exactly living up to the hype. Resistant bugs are already popping up.. so pest surpression is highly questionable. Apparently yields aren’t quite living up to expectations either. As for herbicide resistance…. I not sure I like the vision of eating foods that have been doused in herbicides. I’ve also been hearing rumbles that the weeds are doing their own adaptation to this never ending, escalating crap shoot with our food supply. I tend to prefer Europe’s approach of first proving something is safe rather than using the general population as guinea pigs to determine safety.

    Sorry, but this particular post sounds like you’ve drunk the Monsanto Kool-aid. The theory sounds marvelous, but the actual practice falls way short and unintended consequences aren’t looking too good.

    • August 9, 2012 7:25 pm

      Yeah, I know….it will be presented in full…..what a mess! The purpose of this part fo the essay was to try to understand why it seemed to be a good idea. In the name of progress…….

      • August 9, 2012 7:28 pm

        Good to know. This post had me thinking you were swallowing the propaganda whole. Can’t wait to see what you come up with for the “after”.

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