Genetically-Modified Food

1264 words | 5 page(s)

GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) are plants or animals whose genes might have been altered to incorporate desirable traits such as resistance to adverse climate conditions or addition of nutritional elements such as Vitamin B. While genetically-modified food/crops producers like Monsanto and Dow have had their fair share of negative press recently, many Americans don’t realize that they consume a fair share of genetically modified ingredients. According to Center for Food Safety’s Bill Freese, GMOs are found in 60 to 70 percent of all food items sold by supermarkets in America . It is apparent that GMOs are bigger part of global food supply chain than most people realize. GMO should be embraced on a wider scale because it will significantly enhance global food production as well as address hunger and malnutrition challenges.

GMO crops yield significantly greater yield than traditional crops in a given land area. According to Sir David King, former chief scientific advisor to the British Government, GM crops in India and China have resulted in crop yield per hectare which is 7 to 10 times the yield usually generated by traditional farming methods. According to environmental watchdog GRAIN, roughly 70 percent of the developing countries are net importers of food and 80 percent of the hungry people in the world are small farmers. World Bank estimates that use of crops for fuel has further forced 100 million people into poverty . The implication here is that GMO can significantly increase crop yield and will be especially beneficial to developing countries by making them self-sufficient in food production. Currently, most of the developing countries are net food importers which could change through widespread adoption of GMO. It is also reasonable to assume GMO may be keeping food prices low in the U.S. due to the simple of supply and demand and as noted above, most of the food items sold by superstores have one or more GMO ingredient. This tremendous boost in yield may also help solve hunger problem and will also ensure that use of crops for other purposes such as fuel production doesn’t create food scarcity and result in higher food prices, forcing more into poverty.

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GMO can also help us address hunger and malnutrition issues, particularly in third world countries. In addition to demand for food exceeding supply and low productivity, nutritional deficiency is also an issue in many developing countries. GMO crops can be engineered to add nutritional elements such as Starch and Vitamin A . 854 million people worldwide were affected from malnutrition between 2001 and 2003 and 820 million were from developing countries. Countries like India and Bangladesh have extraordinarily high rates of underweight children that often surpass regional averages and the rates are even high in many countries in Africa . Many people in developing countries often rely on single crop such as rice . Thus, GMO can be used to help fight hunger and malnutrition in developing countries whether due to lack of food or overreliance on a single crop. Since it is possible to make crops more nutritional, it would further alleviate pressure on the food chain.

GMO will also help increase food production because it will make it possible to put land to agricultural use that is not suited to traditional crops. As the GMO experiment in Virginia proved, GMO will result in greater yield than traditional crops, even on a flat soil. In addition, GMO can also make use of soil high in salinity that are not suited to traditional agricultural methods. This is because GMO crops can be engineered to be salt-tolerant which will allow us to make use of 25 million acres of land lost to salinity each year . Thus, GMO will result in greater yield also due to the fact that it can adjust to conditions that may be too harsh for traditional crops. In other words, GMO may artificially increase land supply available for food production, a significant proportion of which is in third world countries.

Like any public issue, GMO also has its fair share of opponents. One of the major concerns of opponents of GMO is potential side effects such as unintended gene transfers to other plants . The experts do not deny unintended gene transfers to other plants could occur but one should not ignore the fact that even the best of technologies may have unintended costs and potential risks are eventually understood and managed effectively over time. Just because a technology produces certain concerns is not reason enough to abandon or significantly limit its applications. The criteria should be weighing benefits against costs and going ahead only if the benefits of the technology exceed the costs to the society. In this case, GMO will result in significantly greater benefits for the human civilization as compared to potential costs. One should also not ignore the fact that unintended genetic effects may also occur when we cross-breed plants . Thus, most potential costs of GMO may not be entirely new but something we have been dealing with for quite a time now.

Another criticism of GMO has been that making no distinction between GMO and traditional crops when selling them to the public constitutes violation of consumers’ right to know what they may be consuming. Many countries in Europe have recognized the consumers’ right to information and EU actually requires disclosure labels from producers of GMO. But FDA in the U.S. treats GMO crops and traditional crops as same despite the fact that most Americans have indicated in research surveys they want disclosure labels in order to be aware when they may be buying GMO food. (2 percent of American survey respondents called for mandatory GMO labeling while 55 percent indicated they would never consume GMO food . This fear of lost sales may be the reason many producers of GMO food have not voluntarily embraced labeling and they may not be legally required to do so but this could be considered deceptive marketing. The solution may be for GMO food producers to embrace labeling and even better for FDA to require so. There may be hesitant among consumers but over time they may change their attitudes as it becomes clear GMO food is as safe as traditional crops yet it helps keep food costs down in the U.S.

GMO has not been without controversy and has had its fair share of criticisms. One criticism is that it may lead to unintended gene transfers in other plants and another criticism is consumers’ right to know what they are consuming since GMO food is not legally required to disclose its GMO nature. There are still many unknowns but some experts believe GMO can alleviate hunger and food shortages issue and in addition could also lead to more nutritional diet among the world’s poor. GMO may also been keeping food prices low in the U.S. since it is part of many items consumed by Americans regularly such as milk. As one expert reminds us, majority of the food items in superstores across the U.S. have food items with one or more GMO elements.

  • Caldwell, M. (2013, August 5). 5 Surprising Genetically Modified Foods. Retrieved March 8, 2014, from
  • D’Souza, C., Rugimbana, R., Quazi, A., & Nanere, M. G. (2008, July). Investing in consumer confidence through genetically modified labelling: an evaluation of compliance options and their marketing challenges for Australian firms. Journal of Marketing Management, pp. 621-635.
  • Pinstrup-Anderson, P., & Cheng, F. (2007, September). Still Hungry. Scientific American, pp. 96-103.
  • Rauch, J. (2007). Will Frankenfood Save the Planet? Science and Society, pp. 152-163.
  • Whitman, D. B. (2000, April). Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? Retrieved March 8, 2014, from

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