GMO Technology

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GRC 2023 Global Essay Competition Top 10

By Sieun You

GMOs, short for genetically modified organisms, are organisms that have specific traits to survive in certain adverse environmental conditions (Zilberman, n.d.). Generally, the United States cultivates the most GMOs in the world, with 71.5 million hectares dedicated to GM crops in 2019, followed by Brazil with 52.8 million hectares and Argentina at 24 million hectares (Shahbandeh 2022). However, as much as there are countries willing to harvest GMOs, certain countries such as Russia (70%), Italy (62%), India (58%), and South Korea (57%) view GM foods as generally unsafe to eat”, despite there being no clear evidence that GMOs are dangerous (“On genetically modified foods, widespread skepticism in 20 publics” 2020). I contend in this paper that many of the perceived risks of adopting GMO technology and consuming GM foods are capable of being mitigated and ultimately a global implementation of GMO technology would be invaluable in helping to alleviate world hunger.

GMO foods are “living beings that have had their genetic code changed in some way” (“What are GMOs?”, n.d.). As genes determine the physical traits of living organisms, by changing an organism’s genetic code, one can change an organism’s physical traits .d. Scientists can genetically modify plants to be pest-resistant and nutritious (“Are Genetically Modified Crops the Answer to World Hunger?” 2023). As some GMOs are modified to be pest-resistant, farmers do not have to spray pesticides which reduces the risks of citizens potentially consuming the pesticide. Moreover, the added nutritional value that GMO foods provide can be utilized to help remedy vitamin deficiencies.

However, there are drawbacks to GMOs that prevent countries from actively supporting GMO crops. Even though there is no clear evidence that consuming GMO crops creates health risks, some suspect GMO crops to be contaminated with “bacterial toxins or mycotoxins, allergens, or uncharacterized extraneous substances as impurities” (“\/” 2023). In addition, “concerns have been raised that GM crops will hybridize with related species resulting in the introgression of transgenes to weedy relatives” (James, n.d.). GMOs could unintentionally enhance the “survival and spread of weeds” (James, n.d.) which could potentially destroy the habitats of other organisms, harming the ecosystem. However, such a risk is very much avoidable, due largely in part to the advancement of CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that enables scientists to offer more precision in targeting specific genes, but it also “makes it possible to correct errors in the genome and turn on or off genes in cells and organisms quickly, cheaply and with relative ease” (“What is CRISPR/Cas9? - PMC” 2016). There would be fewer chances of unintentionally hybridizing with related species as only distinctive genes would be edited through the CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

Another concern lies in the overall lack of transparency regarding GMOs (Marris, n.d.). As previously mentioned, many perceive GMOs as a potentially toxic and dangerous means of manipulating traditional crops, and much of this sentiment is inevitable, for corporations working with GMOs have been excessively covert in not sharing the process by which GMOs are created. To reduce public skepticism about GMOs containing toxins and allergens, companies could conduct allergen testing and label their GMO products as having been rigorously tested, as consumers trust labels (“Food survey: Consumers trust and value product labels” 2023). Although GMO seeds are more costly than organic seeds, the harvesting process does not cost as much (Donley 2022). The future cost savings accrued as a result of the reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers GMO seeds significantly outweigh the premium price of GMO seeds, ultimately making the implementation of GMO technology a worthwhile investment.

Poverty is the primary cause of world hunger. (Owen 2023). The problem is extremely severe, for “each day, 25,000 people, including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes” (Holmes, n.d.). Adopting GMO crops would “increase yields by up to 37% and farmer profits by 68%” (Teh 2019). When there is a surplus of food, with the supply exceeding the demand, crop prices would decrease. As “more than 251 million people in the least developed countries are severely food insecure” (Vickers, Ali, and Balchin, n.d.), if developed countries such as America can create a surplus of crops to export to developing countries at a low price, we can make progress in helping to alleviate the hunger problem. Even if GMO technology is not used to increase yield for consumption purposes, farmers’ income would increase as “adoption of GM cotton in India has improved family income and, as a result, reduced hunger” (“Are Genetically Modified Crops the Answer to World Hunger?” 2023), indirectly reducing hunger. Even though the idea of GMOs tends to have a negative connotation, employing GMO technology would attenuate the severity of world hunger.

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Holmes, John. n.d. “Losing 25,000 to Hunger Every Day | United Nations.” the United Nations. Accessed December 10, 2023.

James, Clive. n.d. “The application of GMOs in agriculture and in food production for a better nutrition: two different scientific points of view.” NCBI. Accessed December 10, 2023.

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Owen, Jasmine. 2023. “World Hunger: Facts & How to Help.” World Vision Canada.

Shahbandeh, M. 2022. “Genetically modified crops: producing countries worldwide 2019.” Statista. crops/.

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Zilberman, David. n.d. “Agricultural GMOs—What We Know and Where Scientists Disagree.” MDPI. Accessed December 5, 2023.

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