The second lecture about the contemporary ethical issues was also as fascinating as the first one. However, I was familiar with all the topics; hence I decided to choose another topic for my reflective diary which I think is one of the most interesting ethical issues around the globe currently. Genetic engineering is also one of the most debated ethical issues currently and it has greater importance to us compared to other topics. This is because it affects us the most from going to shopping to visiting a restaurant compared to other issues. Most of the shelves in our food suppliers are full of GM crops and foods, and it has become normal for us to consume. I would like to bring our attention to whether we continue or stop consuming Genetically Modified Food.
Genetically Modified Food is one of the most and latest technological breakthroughs achieved by the modern science. It is one of the hottest issues that we are facing currently and unlike early times, Genetically Modified crops are available in almost all the food stores. It is simply done in the laboratory by using genetic information from one organism and inserting or modifying it into another organism. GM crop farming is expanding rapidly around the world and its worldwide sales have rocketed from an estimated $2.3billion in 1999 to a staggering $28 billion in 2009. Genetic Modification of crops has improved our lives by allowing us to develop crops which are resistant to pesticides and herbicides and capable of growing bigger in harsh climatic conditions; nevertheless, it poses threats to human health as well as the environment. The use of Genetically Modified Crops has disadvantages which far much outweigh its benefits; therefore we should stop consuming it.
Many advocates assert that Genetically Modified Food is produced without using pesticides and herbicides; therefore, they contain less of these chemicals which are good for our health. This claim considers only one aspect of the argument and everyone agrees it would be better for our health if we find a means to stop using these harmful chemicals. However, one should also consider that since crops are resistant to pesticides, there is a possibility of transferring the resistant gene to bacteria thus resulting in the formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria which can cause fatal diseases. Marth Herbert (1999) explained this and said “though the possibility that bacteria in our guts could pick up antibiotic-resistance genes found in many GM foodstuffs is not high but if it happens, in principle it could exacerbate the already worrisome spread of disease-causing bacteria that have proven able to withstand our antibiotics”(p.41). Another claim of Genetically Modified Food supporters is, Genetically Modified Seeds have made possible to grow crops in places with unfavorable climate conditions. It is true that owing to Genetically Modified Seeds farmers are able to grow crops in places where farming was difficult. Yet, these seeds are very expensive and most of the small scale farmers could not afford, and even if they afford they are forced to grow only the few Genetically Modified seeds which are available now. The technology of making Genetically Modified Seeds is difficulty and needs a lot of investment and this is what makes it costly.
Genetically Modified Food might cause many complicated and unknown health problems. The worst effect is no one knows the risks carried by GM food and Biotech industries ignore them aiming to make profit. The regulatory and tests done with GM food are inadequate and it is nonsense to argue without testing it carefully. The catastrophic incident of Genetically Modified Tomato called “FLAVR SVAR” in 1989 was enough as an illustration. No tests were done when this tomato was produced and it was available on the shelves, however the problem arose when many consumers fell sick. Its consequences killed 37 people and left another 1500 permanently disabled. It was very late when the doctors found out this and removed it from the market.
Despite constantly overlooking the negative side of Genetically Modified crops by patrons, it is beyond the slightest doubt that Genetic Engineering could also bring long term and severe impacts on environment. The advocates contend that Genetically Modified crops are resistant to pesticides and herbicides which will reduce the use of these chemicals. They say the damage caused by these chemicals to the ecosystems will be less, however, they ignore the possibility of these resistant genes may be transferred to weeds and bacteria which will create resistant weeds and bacteria. Since these new weeds and bacteria are resistant to the existing pesticides and herbicides, it will force us to develop more powerful and potentially harmful pesticides to eradicate them. Furthermore, the resistant weeds might combat with the natural crops, thus resulting in loss of biodiversity. In addition to this, Genetically Modified crops can pollute the organic crops and lead to loss of organic crops. Lastly, we will either stop using biotech products or wait until irreversible catastrophes happen to our environment.
All in all, scientists have done great job and they took a marvelous step forward to the world of science; however, have they done enough precautions and tested adequately to prove that Genetically Modified Food is safe for us as well as our environment? Absolutely, they have not. I agree that gene modification has enabled us to develop crops which have their own pesticides and herbicides and also they enabled us to grow crops in place with extreme weather conditions. However, Genetically Modified Crops have harmful effects on ecosystems and they might lead to health hazards. These two reasons mentioned above are the ones that force us to forget the little benefits that Genetically Modified Food offers; hence we should not listen to the contentions put forward by egocentric individuals who own the biotech industries.