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Genetically-Modified Products: Harmful or Helpful?


Copyright (c) 2013 Morgan D

Since their introduction, genetically-modified products have always been given significant media attention. This attention mainly focuses on its safety profile. This has led to public debates between opponents and proponents of utilization of genetically-modified products. These debates have mainly revolved around whether genetically-modified products are harmful or helpful to humans, other life forms in the planet, and the ecology .

The thesis statement for this article is that genetically-modified products are helpful. With the evolution of human needs in the contemporary world, genetically-modified products are exceptionally helpful, as they have the potential to meet these needs as they evolve. Since the advent of the industrial revolution, human population has increased exponentially. This was facilitated by the increased food production that was a result of the earlier agrarian revolution. In 1950, the global human population was about 2.5 billion. In 2000, it hit 6 billion. The rate of the global population increase was an astounding 70 million people per year. This threatened to outstrip the food supply, and thus, lead to mass starvation and its consequent outcomes; such as wars, malnutrition related-diseases, increased level of crime and death .

Bioengineering genetically-modified products started in earnest in the 1980s. Genetically-modified foods had higher yields, and, were more resistant to plant diseases and pests. Also, genetically-modified organisms produce probiotics and some important human hormones such as insulin. Currently, human needs are continuously changing, and the traditional modes of satisfying them are becoming more and more obsolete as these needs evolve. Hence there is a need to come up with exceptional solutions to solve these problems. The most feasible solution lies in bioengineering genetically-modified products .

Genetically-modified organisms do produce genetically-modified products. Genetically-modified organisms are life forms whose genotype has been changed through recombinant DNA technology. Recombinant DNA technology encompasses transmission of genetic material from the donor organism to the recipient organism, and subsequent incorporation in the genotype of the recipient , and subsequently its expression.

Transfer of genes can either be a horizontal gene transfer or a vertical gene transfer. There are three types of horizontal gene transfer: transformation, conjugation and transduction. Vertical gene transfer involves the transfer of genes from an organism to its offspring. Transformation involves the uptake of DNA fragments from the external milieu, and, incorporation of this DNA into the organism's genotype before its subsequent expression. This mode of gene transfer is used in molecular biology and biotechnology to introduce novel genes into organisms' genotypes. Transduction occurs mainly in bacteria, and, it makes use of a virus called bacteriophage T9 which is used to transfer genes from one bacterium to another. Conjugation involves exchange of genetic material during cell-to-cell contact. Most gene transfer agents are members of the relatively innocuous virus family, alphaproteobacteria.

Genetically-modified products have several advantages which are described below. Genetically-modified cereals are pest resistant, hence they can be stored for long times in silos without spraying pesticides on them. Such cereals are not damaged by weevils or bean pests, thus, the population consumes healthy cereals.

Genetically-modified seeds produce crops that are herbicide-tolerant. This requires only a single application of herbicides, hence reducing agrochemical waste run-offs, thus, protecting the environment. Also, these seeds produce crops that have the property of disease resistance against diseases caused by mico-organisms. This has consequently increased the yield of these plants. Such plants have been postulated to have the capacity to produce enough food that can abate the current global food crisis .

Genetically-modified seedlings have the property of cold tolerance. Thus, frostiness cannot obliterate such fragile sprouts. This consequently increases the crop yield. Plant biologists have been able to create plants that have the dual properties of drought tolerance and salinity tolerance. Such plants can be grown in areas with low humidity or in areas where the salinity of the soil is extremely high. This consequently increases the food output in the globe as more semi-arid and arid lands are put into agricultural use .

Genetically-modified foods have the capacity to eradicate malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. Plants whose products contain the entire spectrum of macronutrients and micronutrients have been produced using genetic engineering. Such food can be used to eradicate malnutrition and deal with under-nutrition in third world countries.

In the field of pharmacotherapy and immunology, molecular biologists have been able to produce comestible vaccines in potatoes and tomatoes. Such vaccines can be transported and stored easily. Insulin produced by genetically-engineered bacteria is used to control type II diabetes mellitus; and, to treat type I diabetes mellitus. This improves the quality of life .

Genetically-modified plants are also used for phytoremediation. This involves sequestering and removing pollutants, such as heavy metals, from the soil and underground water bodies. Opponents of genetically-modified products cite the following reasons as the detriments of using them. These reasons can be categorized into three classes: economic considerations, environmental risks and safety of human wellbeing . There are two main economic concerns. First of all, it is difficult to enforce patents, and this has led to patent infringements. Secondly, the process of bringing genetically-modified products to the market is long and expensive (Kaprinski 200).

There are three main environmental hazards. First of all, genetically-modified plants produce toxins or utilize large quantities of soil nutrients, thus, causing unintentional harm to other beneficial food crops. Secondly, they have reduced the effectiveness of pesticides. Finally, there has been inadvertent gene transfer to other organisms. If these organisms are parasites, they are imbued with resistance to pesticides, and, a longer life span.

There are two main risks to human health. First is allergenicity which is caused by allergens that are protein products of the genes transferred. Secondly, it has been hypothesized that genetically-modified products do cause adverse health effects . The United States government has policies which control the production, use and sale of genetically-modified products. Thus, most of the concerns raised by these opponents were considered during the formulation of these policies.

In conclusion, genetically-modified products have the capacity to solve most of the contemporary food crisis, while at the same time protect and revitalize human ecology. Hence, genetically-modified products are helpful. I do personally prefer genetically-modified foods as they contain all the necessary nutrients. In finality, genetically-modified products hold the key to the survival of the world.

 


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