Genetically Modified Foods
A recent article reports that countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, specifically China, are relaxing previous restrictions on the importation and research of genetically modified crops. This is because of the increasing demand for food from growing populations, which often results in hunger epidemics. Genetic engineering has focused on producing plants which thrive in cold weather, droughts, nitrogen poor soils, among other desirable characteristics like herbicide and insect resistance. On the one hand, genetic engineering does (more efficiently) what farmers have been doing for centuries-artificial selection through crossbreeding. These developed traits allow for less fertilization (less chemical sprays in the environment and chemical residue on the foods) and higher yields to feed the public. On the other hand, the public has voiced concern about the health effects of GM crops, or “Fraken-foods.”
GM crops are already in widespread use, especially in the US. According to this article from C&EN,
In 2007 GM crops were planted in 23 countries across 281 million acres, a larger area than all the farmland in Europe.
Rice, corn, cotton, and soybeans are the major targets. There is talk about requiring products made with GM crops to be labeled, and some companies are voluntarily labeling already. Companies like Silk who use soybeans (the most GM crop) gladly label that they do not use GM beans.
I think the question here as in many of our debates is how much science should interfere with nature. I’m actually not sure where I stand on the issue: I see both sides. It is the purpose of science to find a way to keep up with the growing needs of the world, and food is the most basic of these demands. But at the same time, it is often difficult for scientists to accurately predict the full repercussions of their developments. Are the risks worth it? Both for our bodies and the environment?