Genetically Engineered Crops

By: Alexa Bartone and Nichole Crawford

What is it?

Genetic engineering (GE) is the process of creating or changing a combination of DNA, and implanting it into something, to give it the traits and characteristics desired. This is most commonly found in the crops we grow today. Certain foods are legally approved by the FDA to be GE. So, companies that produce these crops artificial make their crops, with the desired traits. The product of a genetically engineered crop is the genetically modified organism (GMO).

How is it being used currently?

Advantages of Genetically Modifying Crops

The main reason crops are being genetically modified is to create a more efficient, and profitable way of producing food. By genetically modifying crops, this is reducing farm costs. It also increases the amount of crops yielded per acre, which leads to an increased profit for corporate food producers. There is no nutritional benefit from genetically modifying crops, but it is mostly used for its economic advantages.

Disadvantages of Genetically Modifying Crops

There are many disadvantages from this process, but the most obvious one is that a natural food source is being artificially produced. Many people have allergies to GMOs, which prevents them from eating a large amount of the food sold worldwide. Since most all foods have an ingredient relating to corn, and most corn is artificially made. Genetically modifying crops can also change it's nutritional value. A vegetable that is made organically is obviously healthier than a crop whose seed was made in a science lab. Finally, genetically modifying crops can spread disease faster. If there is a bacteria or flaw in artificial gene that is put into a seed, it can affect thousands of other crops not just that one plant.

What organisms is this affecting?

A major issue seen in America today is corn being fed to livestock, which is not natural. The cows, pigs, and chickens that we are eating, are no longer being fed grass, but corn. Since most of the corn made is artificially produced, this creates a large problem in the livestock industry. Many livestock are developing bacteria, from the artificial ingredients in the corn they are eating. Any bacteria or disease that a cow has, for instance, can be passed onto humans when turned into beef. This is a very dangerous process, that may have a large affect in the future.

Affects on the Environment

One benefit on the environment that genetically engineering crops has is that is decreases the use of pesticides on a farm. When these crops are made, they have a tolerance to more moderate brands of pesticides. So, instead of farmers using pesticides that are toxic, and can harm their crop, they are able to use milder ones that are not as toxic and dangerous for the plant. On the flip side, GMOs also negatively impact the environment. When a crop is genetically produced, through pollination or the wind, a naturally produced crop can be affected by these artificial genes. For instance, if corn are artificially grown on a field that is next to a field of naturally growing tomatoes, wind may blow the artificial genes and contaminate the naturally growing crop, putting its consumer at risk.

Economic Affects

Clearly, if a farmer produces a large number of a certain crop for a small price, it will be beneficial for his profit, and for the profit of the commercial companies selling the GM crops. However, for small-scale farmers and farms in developing countries, it may be difficult to afford such expensive GM seeds for the crops.

Affects on the World

Most of the GE crops recently became legalized to commercially be sold in the late 1990s. So, this phenomena of artificially producing crops, and selling them is done by many other countries around the world as well. In some countries, any food that contains GMOs must be labeled. However, in most countries companies still do not have to tell you if the food you are eating is genetically modified, which may cause a worldwide uprising of people demanding to know more about the food they are buying. Many people do not even know what GMOs are, or that they may be eating it in their everyday meals.
What's a GMO?
Jimmy Kimmel conducts an "on the street" Q & A to see how much people really know about GMOs. This video shows a lack of knowledge in the world of what GMOs are, how common they are in your food, and how they can damage your body.

Affects on the Future

Due to the artificial production of certain crops, foods are now lasting longer before they rot or turn bad. So in future, fruit that used to rot in 2 or 3 days, may be able to last for weeks at a time. Genetically modifying crops may also include modifying how it tastes in the future. Scientists are also looking for ways to improve the nutrients that a food gives you, through genetically modifying its genes. Unfortunately, since so many companies and crops are being artificially made, in the future, all the food we eat may be made from GE crops.
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