Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Draft 1: Literature Review by Htet Wai Yan Linn

In this article, editor Deborah B. Whitman highlighted important pointers on GMO related issues regarding human health and environmental concerns. Starting up the topic on GMO, he started off the article with the definition of GMO. This pointer would definitely benefit us when we try to make the public understand what GMO means.
The term GM foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used. 
Next, he clearly stated the advantages of GMO products to make us discover GMO products' positive areas and it allows us to carefully examine GMO products to use them effectively.

 The world population has topped 6 billion people and is predicted to double in the next 50 years. Ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come. GM foods promise to meet this need in a number of ways:

  • Pest resistance 
  • Herbicide tolerance 
  • Disease resistance 
  • Cold tolerance 
  • Drought tolerance/salinity tolerance
  • Nutrition 
  • Pharmaceuticals 
  • Phytoremediation 
  • However, he also highlighted the criticisms against GM foods to make sure both the good and bad side effects of GMO are seen. This way, people would be able to weigh the good effects and bad effects to compare, whether GMO are more towards "good" or "bad" in the overall.
    Environmental activists, religious organizations, public interest groups, professional associations and other scientists and government officials have all raised concerns about GM foods, and criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards, and the government for failing to exercise adequate regulatory oversight. It seems that everyone has a strong opinion about GM foods. Even the Vatican and the Prince of Wales have expressed their opinions. Most concerns about GM foods fall into three categories: environmental hazards, human health risks, and economic concerns.

  • Environmental hazards
  • Unintended harm to other organisms 
  • Reduced effectiveness of pesticides 
  • Gene transfer to non-target species Human health risks
  • Allergenicity 
  • Unknown effects on human health  Economic concerns
    Bringing a GM food to market is a lengthy and costly process, and of course agri-biotech companies wish to ensure a profitable return on their investment. Many new plant genetic engineering technologies and GM plants have been patented, and patent infringement is a big concern of agribusiness. Yet consumer advocates are worried that patenting these new plant varieties will raise the price of seeds so high that small farmers and third world countries will not be able to afford seeds for GM crops, thus widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It is hoped that in a humanitarian gesture, more companies and non-profits will follow the lead of the Rockefeller Foundation and offer their products at reduced cost to impoverished nations.
    Patent enforcement may also be difficult, as the contention of the farmers that they involuntarily grew Monsanto-engineered strains when their crops were cross-pollinated shows. One way to combat possible patent infringement is to introduce a "suicide gene" into GM plants. These plants would be viable for only one growing season and would produce sterile seeds that do not germinate. Farmers would need to buy a fresh supply of seeds each year. However, this would be financially disastrous for farmers in third world countries who cannot afford to buy seed each year and traditionally set aside a portion of their harvest to plant in the next growing season. In an open letter to the public, Monsanto has pledged to abandon all research using this suicide gene technology.

  • 1 comment:

    1. Don't post lengthy quotes from the article, adopt carefully chosen in-text quotations instead. If you have forgotten how to do in-text quotations, refer to the IRS Google site. Don't write about the whole article but zoom in on what is most relevant to your research.