Identify a food source that has been genetically modified. Discuss two benefits and two disadvantages of the introduced genetic modification.
Take a position on whether or not you believe that genetically modified foods have a role in helping to increase the available supply of food.
The precautionary principle states that no action should be taken or product introduced when the science is inconclusive and unknown risks may exist. It is currently invoked in the debate over whether or not genetically modified foods pose environmental and human health hazards.
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Using selective breeding or genetic engineering, foods can be genetically modified. In genetic engineering, a gene from another organism is inserted into a different organism in the hopes that the desired gene product or protein will be produced. This is called a transgenic organism. GM foods have been available since 1996. Soybeans, corn, rice are all GM foods. Most of the corn has been genetically modified in the U.S. to resist herbicides, insect pests, or can be vitamin enriched. Genes from Bacillus thuringiensis have been inserted into the corn DNA. Corn is extremely important as a food source for humans and cattle, it is used to make fuel and many corn derivatives are added to many foods we eat. It seems as if genetically modified foods would have higher crop yields. However, studies done on the U.S. crops-- soybeans and corn concluded that their yields were not any greater than if not modified. A benefit would be that less herbicides and insecticides could be used to grow food if the plants were resistant genetically to pests. Some scientists argue that GM foods are needed to solve world hunger problems, while others say that there is enough food in the world, but the problem is in its distribution. By genetically modifying food, it speeds up the adaptation of crops to the environment and can yield crops with the most desirable traits. Others say that over the past 20 years, crop and livestock yields have not increased substantially. GM foods not only reduce the use of pesticides, they have also reduced the need for tillage of the soil, reducing erosion. In the future, GM foods may contain the genes to produce drugs and vaccines besides being something good to eat. Also, fish can be modified to mature faster. However, since this is still a new technology, the safety of these foods is not determined by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, they rely on the manufacturer's word that the food is safe. Therefore, this is not an easy issue to resolve.
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