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Name Instructor Course Date Genetically Modified Food: Benefits and Drawbacks. Genetic Engineering is one of the cutting-edge tools in contemporary biological science. One of its main applications is in the field of biotechnology, where is used to develop products in the fields of agriculture, medicine and food production…
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Research Paper: Genetically Modified Food
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Download file to see previous pages Genetically Modified Food is food which is “produced from plants, animal and microbes that have had their genetic code modified by the selective introduction of specific DNA segments through the use of gene splicing” (Winter and Gallegos, 1). The growing emphasis given to these new technologies is understandable: food security assumes great significance in the light of the estimated doubling of the world population to eleven million by 2050. Economic growth and poverty alleviation in developing countries is closely linked to agriculture. Enhanced food production, sustainable agriculture and conservation of natural resources all mandate the application of new technology to augment conventional methods of food production The first field trials of transgenic crops were conducted in the USA and France in 1986 and have now extended to 24 countries and about 56 crops (Clive and Krattiger, 1). Although Genetically Modified Foods promise many benefits in ensuring an adequate food supply for the growing world population, they also raise various safety concerns. The benefits of Genetically Modified Foods derive from the introduction of genes which confer herbicide tolerance, resistance to virus diseases, insects and fungus and enhanced product quality, such as modified ripening for better shelf-life. (1) Pest resistance: Crop losses from pest infestation can be significantly reduced. By introducing the gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) into transgenic plants, these genetically modified crops produce a toxin which is used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is safe for human consumption. This makes the plants pest resistant. As a result, the quantity of chemical pesticides required decreases substantially. The health hazards of chemical pesticides is reduced, crop loss decreases and the environmental risk of run-off from agricultural wastes poisoning water supplies is diminished. (2) Herbicide tolerance: By introducing genes from bacteria which convey resistance to some herbicides, the crop is made resistant to a particular herbicide. This ensures that there is no need for multiple applications of weed-killers, lowers production costs, protects the crop and reduces environmental damage. (3) Disease Resistance: The introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants makes the plant virus resistant. This substantially increases crop yields. (4) Drought and salinity tolerance: Transgenic plants which can withstand long periods of drought and high salt content in soil and groundwater can be grown in inhospitable areas. This increases the area under agriculture. (5) Nutrition: Food crops can be genetically engineered to increase vitamin and mineral content. The ‘Golden Rice’ created by researchers in Switzerland is an example of such a crop. It has a high content of beta-carotene which can combat the Vitamin A deficiency common in Third World countries. (6) Pharmaceuticals: The development of edible vaccines in crops such as potatoes and tomatoes promises to lower the production and storages costs of vaccines. (7) Phytoremediation: As an off-shoot of research into Genetically Modified Food, plants such as poplar trees have been engineered to clean soil polluted by heavy metal (Whitman). On the negative ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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