Genetic engineering is a new technology that enables genes to be modified within an organism or transferred from one organism to another. Through genetic engineering, scientists can modify the blueprint and therefore the characteristics of an organism - or transfer fish genes into tomatoes. This enables the transfer of qualities deemed desirable from one organism to another - for example, to create tomatoes with a longer shelf life, or crops that are resistant to insect pests. Genetic engineering is seen as a potential means to increase crop yields, eradicate certain diseases, and otherwise improve human life.
The problems and hazards with genetically engineered food can be reduced to some simple and straightforward points: (1) The foods are inherently unsafe to consume and may be dangerous; (2) Genes released into nature cannot be recalled; (3) Science does not know enough to be able to assess the environmental hazards; and (4) The genetically engineered food products are of little if any value to humanity.
The USA exports $50 billion worth of agricultural products a year, of which a growing proportion is genetically engineered. Argentina in 1999 was the second-largest producer of transgenic crops. Many countries wish to separate genetically modified crops from other crops, so that the consumer can tell what she is buying. Canada, Mexico, the USA, Argentina, and Australia, all countries that increasingly produce genetically modified crops, are against the separation.
The deep concerns about the safety of genetically modified food in Europe are not shared by Americans. A 1999 survey showed that more than two-thirds of the respondents would buy produce "enhanced through biotechnology". However, although 73 percent had heard about biotechnology, only 40 percent realized that GM food was on sale in supermarkets. The many genetically engineered foods currently available include soy beans (which are used in 60% of processed foods), corn and corn syrup, tomatoes, yeast, dairy products, and canola (rape seed oil). Because of the widespread use of many of these substances, in a few years it may be almost impossible to find foods free of genetic engineering.
One concern about some genetically modified (GM) crops, such as maize used as animal fodder, is that they include a gene for antibiotic resistance. Fears that genes for antibiotic resistance could jump from genetically modified foods to bacteria in the gut may be fueled by new research from the Netherlands. The results show that DNA lingers in the intestine and confirm that genetically modified bacteria can transfer their antibiotic-resistance genes to bacteria in the gut.
1. The government of USA has decided that genetically engineered foods do not need to be labelled. Therefore, American consumers cannot know or choose what they are eating, and they have unwittingly become guinea pigs in a global nutritional experiment driven primarily by political and economic forces. Even food certified "organic" may be at risk of becoming clouded by genetically engineered organisms. US-based companies with operations in other parts of the world are finding their policies driven by this US mentality.
2. Genetically engineered crops constitute a greater environmental hazard than herbicides, which at least are known quantities. Advocating the benefits of genetically modified food plants on the basis that they require less herbicides during cultivation is similar to advocating some preparation that makes people immune to common cold while ignoring that regular use may kill people or make them seriously ill.
3. Genetic engineering and conventional breeding are worlds apart. Breeding does not manipulate genes. It just arranges mating of selected parents. Cross breeding has been practised for many years. It is an exact science. Moreover, nature does not allow genetic information to be transferred across species. Crossbreeders can mate a donkey with a horse, but they cannot mate a fish with a tomato. Genetic engineering overrides nature's inherent reproductive barriers, and the outcome of such genetic mixing is unknown.
4. Genetic engineering may produce mutations or unanticipated side effects, such as toxins, allergens, or lowered nutritional value in foodstuffs. The insertion of a foreign gene may lead to the appearance of unexpected substances that may be toxic or allergenic. Indeed antibiotic-resistance marker genes are routinely used in the the production of genetic modification of plant crops. It could result in some dangerous organisms becoming resistant to antibiotic. It could accidentally create new poisons and diseases. It could result in weeds and insects becoming resistant to pesticides and herbicides.
5. Our current knowledge does not provide us with the means to predict the ecological long-term effects of releasing organisms into the environment. So it is beyond the competence of the scientific system to answer such a question.
6. Existing genetic structures have evolved over millions of years into an infinitely complex, interconnected ecosystem. Now, in just a few decades, most of our food crops are being changed through genetic engineering - and no one can accurately predict the long-term results of such changes for the ecosystem or for human health.
7. Genetically engineered organisms, bacteria, and viruses will inevitably make their way into the larger ecosystem, where they will reproduce, migrate, and mutate. They will pass on their new characteristics to other organisms. Once released, genetically engineered organisms will never be able to be recalled. The potential result is irreversible biological pollution and the upset of ecological balance.
8. Genetically engineering crops to be more resistant to pesticides allows farmers to use more pesticides with less fear of crop damage, which in turn will lead to greater pollution of our soil and groundwater.
9. Animals genetically engineered to be larger, to carry specific diseases for research, or to serve as pharmacological factories are frequently sickly, crippled, or otherwise abnormal. Thus, eating genetically engineered animals or animal products could lead to unforeseen risks for human health.
10. The use of GE technology in agriculture, is imprecise and grossly sub-optimal. It is based on an understanding of genetics that is 15 years out of date. We need to step back and even withdraw these products until we've looked at them more carefully.
1. Genetic engineering in agriculture is is nothing new. We have been manipulating genes for thousands of years in breeding.
2 Gene manipulation is a way of improving the genetic make-up and quality of food. 3. There is no evidence that presently developed genetically engineered foods are harmful to health or the environment.
4. Genetically engineered foods will save the world from global famine through greatly improved crops.
5. Farmers will not need to use so much pesticide for crops that have been genetically engineered to resist pests, thus benefiting the environment.
6. If we wish to preserve wildlife, it is better to do so explicitly, rather than encouraging farmers to act against their best economic interests by refusing to buy better quality seed.