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Genetically modified seeds - Assignment Example

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Genetically modified (GM) seeds are patented and are used widely to increase global agricultural productivity particularly for soybeans, corn and other crops grown on a large scale. Currently it is estimated that about 70 percent of the food you buy in the grocery store has an…
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Genetically Modified Seeds Introduction Genetically modified (GM) seeds are patented and are used widely to increase global agricultural productivity particularly for soybeans, corn and other crops grown on a large scale. Currently it is estimated that about 70 percent of the food you buy in the grocery store has an ingredient that was grown from a genetically modified seed. With a growing population, the efficiency of crop production is a priority. However, there are growing concerns about uncontrolled release of genetically engineered plants into the environment. It is not possible to determine what will happen to these seeds and how they will influence the ecological system. This report summarizes public awareness on GM seeds, their benefits, risks, safety concerns, environmental concerns; and makes recommendations based on these findings.
Objectives of the Study
1. To establish a sense of awareness on the issue and overall attitude about genetically modified foods.
2. To establish the percentage of food in grocery stores that contains an ingredient grown from genetically modified seeds and whether that percentage is surprising.
3. Examine the benefits and risks to farmers and consumers from using genetically modified seeds.
4. To analyse the controversy around the labelling of genetically modified foods
5. To make recommendations on the use of genetically modified seeds and whether focus should be put on sustainable farming rather than use of genetically modified seeds.
Sample Design
This study uses simple random sampling. The population of the sample includes individuals in the neighbourhood who were randomly selected. Findings are based on case data to derive general conclusions. To meet the objectives of this study, a questionnaire focussing on the objectives of the study was established.
Findings
Public awareness
Most people said that there is little public awareness about GM seeds. However, eight out of fifteen respondents said that over 70% of foods in grocery stores contain an ingredient grown from GM seeds, which did not surprise them. The results showed that most consumers do not have entrenched knowledge about the benefits and risks of genetically modified seeds. However, most people are suspicious that GM seeds pose health and environmental risks. People are generally uncertain about consumer benefits from GM seeds. Environmental threats posed by GM foods are the leading contributors of these uncertainties. Although most people are concerned about safety of GM seeds, more concern is on the risk these seeds pose to the environment.
Benefits of GM Seeds
When asked on benefits of GM seeds to consumers and farmers, nine out of fifteen respondents indicated that GM seeds have richer nutritional value, higher quality and are better priced. Five of the respondents claimed that GM seeds are drought resistant, pest resistant and weed resistant. Most respondents were aware that the seeds would ensure adequate food supply for the booming population. Six respondents argued that GM seeds would lead to high quality foods free from chemicals needed to keep pests and weeds away. Eleven respondents felt that GM seeds would greatly benefit farmers in producing high yields and reducing production costs.
Risks
Results indicated concerns about future potential of GM seeds especially on the acceptability of transferring genes from animals to plants. Effects arising from such transfers were the main issues raised. Potential long-term effects of eating GM foods and the environmental impact and biodiversity of GM seeds arose. Women generally showed more concern regarding health issues than men. Respondents were particularly worried that releasing GM seeds into the environment is a slippery slope. They felt that once released, there would be no turning back; and in future, there would be no choice since non GM foods would be contaminated. A few respondents argued that instead of focussing energy on GM seeds, this energy can be diverted to sustainable farming.
Labelling
Consumers felt the need to make informed decisions on GM and non-GM seeds. They aired great concerns on the need for clear labelling. Some suggested that a logo should be placed on foods for clear identification. Respondents called for public knowledge on safety assessment of GM foods. They also felt the need to be informed about the bodies responsible for food safety. The most interesting finding was that those concerned about GM foods claimed that it affected their eating habits. Respondents argued that media ‘scares’ on GM seeds heightened their mistrust. Sensational views aired by the media made them insist on the need for accurate food labelling.
Conclusion
Much discussion with the respondents helped to instil more insight into GM seeds. The degree of interest influenced people’s attitudes and behaviour regarding the seeds. Most respondents felt that it is important that there should be accessible and unbiased information on GM seeds. This will go a great way in changing peoples’ attitude, knowledge, behaviour and awareness of issues related to GM seeds. Food labelling needs to be clear to eradicate suspicions on GM foods. Also, organizations concerned with food safety should clear the air on major controversies regarding GM seeds. Read More
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