College Life, Health

What is a GMO?

*This is from an assignment in my Biotech class. Here is the article that I summarized: GMO article

Meeting the needs to feed approximately 7.7 billion people has become a challenge over the last 35 years as the population increases. There are many conflicts aside from a growing population, such as pests and harsh climates. Genetically-modified (GM) technologies are helping to fill the gap and improve cultivation as conventional breeding is not keeping up with the demands. It is also important that GM crops not only meet targeted yields but also have nutritional quality and sustainable production. 

In 2013, Golden Rice was designed to include β-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, to help boost the immune system and prevent blindness due to malnourishment (and poverty) in half a million children. Anti-GMO activists destroyed the Philippine Department of Agriculture’s field of the non-commercial venture. Vitamin A studies show that supplements help minimize blindness and reduce the mortality rate in children ages six months to five years by 24%. The field trials took 25 years of research, patented components involved in the gene constructs, and funding. The lack of understanding about plant bioengineering creates a complex problem in the agriculture community, thus affecting the goal to meet our food supply demands. GM bacteria to produce insulin is one example of a use in the medical arena; the use of recombinant proteins are widely used in the development of medical treatments. GMO biopharmaceuticals have been established and fully accepted since the 1980s. 

In 2012, approximately 868 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition (FAO) and as of 2016 it is still estimated that 10% of the population suffers from hunger. In order to keep up with the future demands using the same area of land currently under cultivation, genetic improvement is vital. Let’s not forget about additional demands and potential issues: biofuel feedstock production, alterations in land use driven by urbanization, desertification, salinization, soil degradation, global climate change, water resource problems, and increased demand for animal protein (more land use). Introducing new traits/genes into existing cultivars can help crops to resist disease and drought tolerance, and dilute negative traits. 

The first “man-made” grain Triticale (used in bread and pasta) was developed in 1884 by crossing wheat with rye, therefore GMOs are nothing new. Gene delivery into plant cells can be delivered by direct transfer of “naked” DNA or indirectly using a bacterial vehicle Agrobacterium tumefaciens. I personally thing GMOs are important on a global level. Bioengineering offers many benefits to crop production as well as economic benefits of the deployment of crops. Biotechnology can be a solution to world hunger and malnutrition, alleviating the impact of poverty in under-developed regions. If we have a solution to increase yields and improve nutrition, why not use it?

“To date there is no evidence that DNA absorbed through the intestines following ingestion can be integrated into the germ line of either humans or livestock.”
Research conducted by the European Commission resulted in the conclusion that no scientific hazards are directly connected to the use of GM crops.  “Genetic engineering using biotechnology is no different from conventional breeding in terms of unintended consequences to the environment or animal and human health,” is another conclusion from the National Research Council.

I can hardly grow my own garden without fighting pests on a daily basis and sharing my produce with moths. I am grateful for technology so that I can go to the store and pick up large, healthy produce to feed my family and myself. Insect-resistant GM crops transgene has no impact on the plant itself. As much as I enjoy having a garden. I would starve if it were all I relied on, though the pests in my backyard are full and happy.

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