Since time immemorial farmers have been using diverse methods to select and cross-breed the animals they rear and plants they grow in order to improve the quality of output they get. Even naturally, plants and animals cross-breed to get offspring’s with superior characteristics. These traditional methods are however slow, unreliable and in most cases do not result in the desired outcomes. On the contrary scientists have devised a method where instead of allowing nature act at its own pace, they can hasten the process by simply taking the desired genes and modifying them in the laboratory in order to come up with the offspring that have all the desired characteristics. This process is known as genetic engineering and results in genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Despite genetic engineering’s obvious benefits, there has been a worldwide controversy over the process because of its unpredictability and safety issues. A conflict is therefore apparent in the whole world over whether we should ignore the skeptics for the sake of increased food production where the needs have reached critical levels especially in third world countries, or take a more cautious approach and guarantee the safety of humanity before accepting these ‘poisonous foods’.
It is therefore on the background of these conflicting views that I find it necessary to engage in a study that will demystify the true nature of this great debate. The study is particularly important to me because in addition to reinforcing what has been learned in class, I will be in a position to advice people who don’t have knowledge on this issue to make better decisions. The subsequent paragraphs briefly describe the arguments of both sides of the debate.
According to the proposers of this phenomena, the genetic engineering process results into foods, animals and microorganisms who’s DNA has been altered by the addition or removal of certain segments of their DNA in a process known as gene splicing. The gene splicing process enables the resultant organism to be in possession of desirable traits such as hunger resistance, pest resistance among others. Foods produced through this process are consequently known as genetically modified foods. This process is more or less what happens naturally when species cross-breed to produce off springs with better traits.
Opponents of GM foods have however termed the comparison of genetic engineering and traditional crossbreeding a fallacy. The reason for their opposition is premised on the fact that traditional cross breeding is based on sexual reproduction between similar organisms whereby genes are moved to related genes and they fuse in the cells. On the contrary what scientists do is to remove a gene from one species and join it randomly into the DNA of a completely unrelated species thus interfering with its natural sequence. In addition because the transplanted gene is alien in the new environment it cannot work without being artificially boosted. Consequently, not only does the transplanted gene produce unprecedented effects, but it produces the effects in an uncontrolled manner that is not coordinated and natural to the functioning of the organism.
Proponents of GM foods stand their ground and maintain that in order to solve the current food problems in the world, the use of technology must be embraced and accepted by all. Opponents on the other hand maintain that the haphazard use of technology especially in food production puts humanity in general at risk due to the safety concerns raised due to the uncertainty of the scientific processes.
This topic brings out the true picture of the dilemma in which technology and its potential benefits have placed humanity in. The controversy clearly portrays the need for regulation of technology so as to avoid the possible dangers which it might bring. Above all the debate is intriguing because no side will eventually have the last say.