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Genetically Modified Foods

Food made from organisms that are attributed certain traits through genetic engineering

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Genetic modification. Are we really improving our food, or are we just messing with nature?

  • May 13, 2009
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"If we are what we eat, with all the genetically modified and imitation foods we now eat, what the heck are we?" - anonymous

 If you want to judge genetically modified food, you should first know what genetic modification means.

Basically, you can see GM (I'll use ‘GM' because it's short for Genetic Modification) as a way to ‘improve' plants and animals. By making adjustments in the DNA, the plant or animal gets, for instance, a higher quality or a higher resistance to diseases and/or parasites.

What researchers in the biotechnology do, can be explained quite easily. They take genes (genes are holding information, which is for example used to build cells, but also holds information about genetic traits) from one type of plant or organism and ‘insert' them into another type of plant (or organism).

You can see GM as this : Plant A has for instance a weakness to cold. Now, farmers don't really like that and researchers have decided to make sure that the plant will have a higher resistance to cold. They look for a plant, or organism (think of microbes) and take out specific information (that specific information is the reason for organism B's resistance to cold) from it's DNA. Then, they place that piece of information inside the DNA of plant A. That way, plant A will be more endurable to cold weather (just like organism B).

 Now, there are a few reasons to vote ‘for' GM. Let's make a list of them :

  • Plants will have a (higher) resistance against diseases
  • Plants will have a (higher) resistance against cold
  • Plants can produce bigger fruits and vegetables (of a higher quality)
  • Animals will grow bigger (and faster) due to GM and their flesh and 'products' will have a higher quality
  • ‘New' organisms can be ‘created'

The fact that plants have a higher resistance to cold means that in the near future we could say goodbye to the greenhouses (that wouldn't be such a bad thing, now would it? The light that comes from the greenhouses causes the sky to turn ‘yellow', so when night falls, it won't be dark at all. This is not a problem for people, but what about the animals?).

If you look at a ‘normal' potato plant, not every potato that can be harvested from it has a ‘high' quality. This means that the vegetables need to be sorted on quality. A-quality, which is the best quality, is more expensive than the other qualities. But, now GM came along, scientists can make sure that (almost) every fruit or vegetable, that can be harvested from a plant, will have a high quality. As a result, the high quality vegetables are less expensive. The same goes for mass production, which can be made possible by GM.

But what about the downsides of GM? Let me also list them for you :

  • GM crops can cause allergic reactions.
  • GM research costs a lot of money
  • GM causes loss of nutritional value
  • Antibiotics lose their efficiency
  • (new) Viruses and pests can evolve, this can have big consequences
  • GM can be seen as ‘messing with nature', people might oppose to that
  • GM crops can cause harm to animals
  • You don't know what you're eating because most of the times food manufacturers are not able to tell you if their food contains something that is genetically modified
  • Other crops can be ‘contaminated' by the GM crops if pollen from the GM crops are blown to a field with 'normal' crops
  • The environment takes damage from GM
  • GM is expensive, this means that some country's won't be able to afford it.
  • Mass production of crops will be bad for small farmers. Because, GM crops are rather cheap, people will be eager to buy GM food. The food industry will be dominated by big companies.

 (many thanks to Yahoo.com)

We all know that GM has not been around for a very long time. This means that we – still – don't know much about it. A lot of health hazards can occur, without us even knowing.

And what about the long-term effects? We might be able to know, no predict, what GM food can do to an individual for a short period of time. But what happens after twenty years? Thirty, or even forty? There is no-one who can answer that question because there is no-one who thought of testing GM on a long term. Maybe they did, but it would cost a lot of money and take a lot of time. Most governments don't think it's necessary to spend a lot of time and money on research if they think it's safe. Why not? Because they are all driven by money.

"Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible." – Phil Angel, the director of corporate communications at Monsanto

 So in this world, this society, it seems that money is more important than the lives of thousands of humans and animals. 

"Genetic engineering is like performing heart surgery with a shovel. Scientists do not yet understand living systems completely enough to perform DNA surgery without creating mutations which could be harmful to the environment and our health. They are experimenting with very delicate, yet powerful forces of nature, without full knowledge of the repercussions.''- Mark Schoofs (I believe)

 Not only should we ‘fear' for what happens in the (near) future -  due to the absence of information - the resistance to antibiotics and of course the possible side effects. But we should also fear for the impact it could, and will, have on our environment. Our food will contain more and more pesticides, like safe-foods.org says, due to GM, crops are able to create their own pesticides. And the most, frustrating, thing is possibly the fact that once the genes are inserted into the crops or animals, and those are being ‘released' into our environment, there is no way to contain the genes. Recalling them would be simply impossible. So, if they made a mistake, we're doomed to live with it.

Personally, I'm against Genetic Modification. Not only because we have no clue what will happen in the near future, but also because I believe we have no right to ‘mess' with nature. Who are we to think we can make our food ‘better' and control it, if we can't even control ourselves? Hunger for power, money and the fact that we think we are the smartest animals on this planet (we may call ourselves human and think we stand above the other living creatures, but we're still animals) are the reasons why GM was introduced in the first place. There is nothing wrong with the way our food was before.

If only we would use GM to make sure everyone on this planet would have something to eat, maybe then I would think of accepting it (however, the downsides of GM makes it impossible to accept it, since I wouldn't want other people to die because of it). But that's not happening.

We're all part of it, whether we want it or not and there are only three options we have left. We should either go back to where we started and grow our own, biological, crops and keep our own cows and chickens in the backyard. We could also just close our eyes to this and forget about it, not accepting the fact that this is happening right now. Or, we could unite and stand up against this. It's your choice…

"If it is left to me, I would certainly not eat it. We are putting new things into food which have not been eaten before. The effects on the immune system are not easily predictable and I challenge anyone who will say that the effects are predictable." - Professor Arpad Pustzai, world-leading nutritional science expert.

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May 13, 2009
Even before GM, there were the pesticides for plants and the growth hormones for animals. Neither can be good for us. The main problem with technology is that, if we can do something, we never have the wisdom to stop and ask whether we SHOULD do that thing. We just go ahead and do it, especially if it involved dollars and profit.
May 14, 2009
Yes, the growth hormones, making for example only small chicks look (and weigh) the same as full grown chickens within a small amount of time (and not to forget all the water they inject into them to make them weigh even more), is well known to increase cancer risk. If only there would be more people in this world, who fulfil leading positions, who could just look further than wealth and power.
May 14, 2009
Another side effect is early puberty for children. I'm old, I admit, but when I was younger, boys and girls entered puberty at around 12-13. Today, it's around 9-10. Is that a desirable effect? Even younger children capable of having children? That does NOT sound like a good thing to me. If you ask politicians, though, they only mention the financial benefit to the farmer/grower. They obviously don't care about the side effects.
May 14, 2009
The fact that young girls are ‘capable' of having children is one thing, but no-one can convince me that it's good for the health of a young girl to get pregnant. Take a look at this, a 12 year old mother and her own mother is so proud of her… Here in Holland it also seems that younger and younger girls can (and will) get pregnant. When I went to a store a few weeks ago in search for a birthday present I saw two young girls, probably aged 10 or 11, buying condoms. Is that normal? No (ok, they do buy them, but still). Anyways, it also seems some politicians just don't have a choice, in this quite corrupted world. Getting fired seems to be the least of their problems when they tell the ‘real' truth.
May 14, 2009
My granddaughter is 9 now, and I do worry about her. The world is not as it was, and most of the changes seem to have unpleasant side effects. You can't stop eating, so you get whatever is in the food, doctors seem all to happy to push pills for whatever ails you and yet the possible benefits of a more natural medicine like hemp is ignored because the companies can't make a profit. Your review will undoubtedly wake some people up, but I wonder how to wake up the people who can really do something about this. There have been a few scifi writers who have dealt with possible repercussions, but, of course, who pays attention to scifi writers?
May 14, 2009
Also, doctors are know to practice the very fine art of ‘symptom contestation'. Got a headache? Take ibuprofen. Your feel nauseous? Here, take this pill, also you should rest for a while. And in the meanwhile you're dieing from a brain tumor. Erhm.. back to the original subject. By doing nothing those people aren't going to wake up I guess. But maybe this could be a start? Hm, I think books aren't what they used to be. People only think of it as a form of entertainment, sadly.
May 14, 2009
How sadly true. I liked your review comments a lot. I hope there are those on this forum who will read it and be in the position to do something about it. Thanks.
May 13, 2009
Thanks Melissa! I knew you were the chosen to share your knowledge and passion on the subject :) I agree with you on all points, wish there was a way for the world to get out of this mess. Have you heard about the farmer suicides in India who drank Monsanto pesticides, I don't remember if I mentioned it to you?
May 14, 2009
Thanks, does one good to hear that. Indeed, we've brought this ‘destruction' so far already that even if we just stopped and didn't go through with GM, we should wonder if this world isn't too far gone already… And about those farmer suicides in India. I haven't heard about it before. It seems like this is something our media is not willing to show…
May 13, 2009
Great review on a difficult subject. I am conflicted on the topic as there are certainly pros and cons and i don't understand the science involved. If it can lessen starvation and hunger, then it may be worthwhile, however it does seem like advancements are happening so rapidly that there is little oversight and thought to unintended consequences.
May 14, 2009
Thank you. The problem is that they're not giving those advancements enough time. When they discover something new that might be a way to make lots and lots of money, it seems they don't really care about the consequences.
About the reviewer
Melissa ()
Ranked #348
I'm a gamer, a dreamer,a philosophist, a self-proclaimed writerand many other things.    I study journalism (maybe mainly because I love to write)      Besides studying and … more
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About this food


Genetically Modified (GM) Foods are made from organisms that have been given specific traits through genetic engineering, unlike similar food organisms developed through the conventional genetic modification of selective breeding or mutation breeding. GM foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. Typically, genetically modified foods are plant products: soybean, corn, canola, and cotton seed oil, but animal product s have been proposed. Foods can be modified in such a way that pesticides become part of the genetic makeup of the product so less pesticides need to be used externally. Insects no longer consume the crops and the result yields pleasant looking produce that is only consumed by humans. There are no short or long-term studies on the effect of GM foods on the human body or the environment. 

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