The world population is growing at a rate that could inevitably surpass our capacity to feed it. Some argue that we have more than double the acreage to feed every human being in the world, yet every day millions starve from lack of nutrients or calories to survive. Even in the U.S, child hunger is a national campaign and there are “815 million hungry people worldwide- one in every 9”1. Genetic engineering has the power to increase product yield and improve nutritional content, proving to be a large contender in the battle against global hunger. Studies show that despite critics’ claims that genetically modified crops are too dangerous to use, the risks are virtually nonexistent and the benefits are too much to ignore. Anti-GMO critics are trying to scare consumers based on field research that is either partially or completely untrue. But GMO-fans are confident that we can do a lot of good with this technology.
We need genetically modified foods to keep up with our growing population, tackle nutritional deficiency, and end global hunger. With growing concerns of the effects of climate change, scientists are looking to our food supplies. As the environments change, so does our ability to grow crops for both human and animal consumption. Global temperatures are rising and soon only the hardiest natural crops will survive the elements without genetic engineering. In 1995 geneticist Pamela Ronald identified the Xa21 gene in rice and implemented it to other breeds of the crop to withstand blight and bacteria. In 2014, she localized a called Sub1 and used it to develop a kind of rice that could withstand flooding for up to 2 weeks. One study showed that “people in developing countries faced with famine and malnutrition are likely to benefit from attempts to improve the protein content of food crops, as well as the amount of vitamins and minerals they provide”3.By 2014, the rice was thriving on more than “four million flood-prone acres, increasing farmers’ yield threefold when their fields are inundated.”3.
Without the use of genetically modified crops, over time climate change and changing environments will diminish our food production to the point where we will no longer be able to prevent the oncoming famine and resulting panic. Regardless of the earth’s maximum potential to grow caloric and nutritional food, we have to think about what we can realistically produce. Nutritional deficiency is a serious issue, affecting around 90% of Americans, one study shows4. Even the healthiest among us humans are routinely lacking in at least one mineral or vitamin, routinely Vitamin E, A, or D. And still we actually encourage these nutritional lackings through the widespread usage of fad dieting. Those in some Asian and African nations especially face famine and ultimately starvation due to these risks. In 1999, the ‘Yellow Rice Project’ was introduced to solve a simple problem; millions of people in Asia were dying due to nutritional deficiency and starvation. One of their most readily-available and cheapest staples was white rice, but it was severely lacking in nutrients. Scientists set out to genetically engineer a rice, later termed “Yellow Rice”5, that had a surplus of Vitamin A.
Over the course of its development, it was later improved to have 10-20 times the amount of Vitamin A found in the original rice. Millions of lives were saved due to this breakthrough. It wasn’t a perfect cure for world hunger, but it was certainly a gateway to what we could accomplish with genetic engineering. Even today, scientists are trying to breed tomatoes with the vitamins of pineapples, and vice versa. We will not and should not stop trying to improve the nutritional values of our food intake. Anti-GMO enthusiasts will throw every argument under the sun at consumers to convince them that genetically modified crops aren’t safe to eat, with routinely misguided or simply untrue information.
There are routinely gaps in research knowledge and findings are often presented in biased manners. That being said, research studies have been conducted to test the safety and risks of GMOs, with few findings of inherent risk. “They want more studies. They’ll always want more studies.”, one scientist grumbled5. In the early 1900s, local farmers in Hawaii were losing crops due to a bacteria that infected a local papaya. Local scientists took action. They isolated a protein in the bacteria that made the papaya resistant to disease.
Thousands of crops and the livelihoods of those farmers were saved. And despite the fact that in the decades since, millions of people are those papayas without any negative side effects, and thousands of research studies have been conducted to test and verify its safety, anti-GMO critics still insist that genetically modified foods aren’t safe. Ironically, its argued that “virtually all the food we eat has been genetically improved in some manner”5 with no adverse side effects or recorded illnesses. Every food you can find at the produce section today has already been enhanced somehow to be bigger, tastier, or more appealing visually. Have you ever seen a commercial strawberry next to an organic strawberry, or compared the taste of a store-bought apple to that of one fresh picked from an organic orchard?
GMOs are not to be feared and they’re nothing new. Neither side of the GMO issue is completely right or wrong, and both sides do have valid concerns. We do need to pay attention to underdeveloped countries and continue to battle global hunger. While we see no risks or dangers whatsoever for using genetically modified foods, naysayers are right that we should continue research to ensure public safety. Geneticist Pamela Ronald developed the ‘flood-proof rice’ alongside her organic farmer of a husband, Raoul Adamchak. Despite her husband’s stance on organic farming, the two agree that each side has its part to play.
Ronald believes that we should use both techniques of feeding the planet versus one or the other, arguing that only by combining forces will we be able to feed the expanding population in a sustainable and efficient way. Genetic engineering is not an idea or a thing, it’s a process that we use in many other ways unrelated to food production without blinking an eye. We need genetic engineering to improve our current methods of food production. Without help from both sides of this issue, ultimately we won’t be able to keep up with the global population, which will decrease one way or another. GMO foods have never harmed us any more than organic foods and frankly offer more potential to battle global issues in food production. We must encourage the use of genetic engineering to battle world hunger and vitamin deficiency against the rapidly growing population.
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