Thursday, December 16, 2010

Harvest of Fear

Should we Grow GM Crops?

Instructions: Read the page and click YES or NO, reach the YES or NO...etc until you’ve read all the arguments -- You will need to do this 12 times in order for your votes to be tallied. Navigate the site, each of the bold headings below are links within the site

1. What is a GM Crop.
The term GM foods is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology methods. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance quality traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. Genetically modified ingredients, in the form of modified enzymes, are found in virtually all breads, cheeses, sodas, and beers. This occurrence commenced in the mid-1990s with the mutation of crops such as soy and corn from food companies pooling raw materials from several sources into a single processing stream. Industry, government, and many academic scientists solicit the benefits of GM foods for agriculture, ecosystems, and human health and well-being, including feeding a world population bursting at the seams, which seems to be in high demand.

2. List 2 arguments FOR the growing of GM crops.

1) Advocates hold that GM foods will bypass old traditions and crops with their fast-paced development. They will be better for society as a whole, with some products already in the works while following the guideline for a low-calorie diet (containing sugar beets and oils with lower saturated fat content), and others bearing higher nutritional content (high-fiber corn and high-starch potatoes). Consequentially, the change in diet leads to healthier habits and an increase in energy levels. GM corn has lower fungal toxin content than non-GM corn, and farmers typically produce GM crops using fewer pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Food scientists hope to genetically modify crops to add vitamins and minerals to help poor, malnourished third-world countries. After all, vitamin-A deficiency kills two million children each year, and another 500,000 become permanently blind. Scientists are already studying ways to inject pharmaceutical vaccines into tomatoes, therefore finding an alternative to shots.
"The benefits of biotechnology are many and include providing resistance to crop pests to improve production and reduce chemical pesticide usage, thereby making major improvements in both food quality and nutrition."
--World Health Organization Expert Consultation on Biotechnology and Food Safety

2) Farmers can avoid crop losses due to insect pests and bring their produce to market at less cost. Instead of spraying the plants with weed killers, GM soybeans can be made genetically resistant to a single broad-spectrum herbicide. This allows the grower to make a single deposit of weed killers instead of multiple attempts. Int he winter months, technologies are being developed in the lab to help farmers reduce losses from sudden frosts, which can kill young plants using antifreeze gene.
"I am particularly alarmed by those who seek to deny small-scale farmers of the Third World -- and especially those in sub-Saharan Africa -- access to the improved seeds, fertilizers and crop protection chemicals that have allowed the affluent nations the luxury of plentiful and inexpensive foodstuffs....While the affluent nations can certainly afford to pay more for food produced by the so-called organic methods, the one billion chronically undernourished people of the low-income, food-deficit nations cannot."
--Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel-Prize-winning agriculturalist and father of the Green Revolution

3. List 2 arguments AGAINST the growing of GM crops.
1) One of scientists and environmentalists’ greatest worries is that GM crops could have a negative affect on the gas levels in the air and the well-fair of other species in the wild In 1999, monarch butterflies were chronicles as ill, which peaked students’ at Cornell University interest, Their studies exhibited that the ratio of 56:100 percent of monarch larvae that survived during the test was extremely disturbing. The control and variable included feeding the larvae milkweed plants covered in GM corn pollen, opposed to milkweed leaves with traditional corn pollen lived. Why is this so vital to the environmentalists? Approximately 50% of monarchs in the U.S. spend their summers dining on milkweed in corn-growing regions, and this point has never been brought to their attention before. On the other hand, the case of mosquitoes that became tolerant of DDT has been suspected to result in a category of 'superbugs' resistant to pesticides integrated into GM crops. In this same way, ‘superweeds’ are expected to convert to be immune to a broad-spectrum weed killer once they have come in contact with an herbicide-resistant gene from a closely related GM plant. This caused some geneticists to go directly to the source. What they found was even more perturbing; GM crops themselves can become weeds. Canadian farmers have reported that herbicide-resistant canola plants have annexed wheat fields within close proximity with the exemption of a feared superweed.
"Ecologists are unsure of the impacts of bypassing natural species boundaries. Consider, for example, the ambitious plans to engineer transgenic plants to serve as pharmaceutical factories for the production of chemicals and drugs. Foraging animals, seed-eating birds, and soil insects will be exposed to a range of genetically engineered drugs, vaccines, industrial enzymes, plastics, and hundreds of other foreign substances for the first time, with untold consequences."
--Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Remaking the World

2) GM crops are definitely not a big hit with human emotions. Nature takes millions of years to impact on genetics, the environment, and even what we think. What gives us as a species the right to alter it in any way that fits our needs in a time period so short that it feels as though it's overnight? Who has the capacity to be a creator? How can we determine this? Is there a test such as the one Americans gave to immigrants? Perhaps, it is similar to an IQ test? One study that scientists were patronized for was their combination of antifreeze fish genes with fruit. This really got to the public's emotions. To some, the mere existence of genetic engineering is borderline on insanity, taking religion into consideration. GM processes are also couter-productive for many while limiting their choices in a specific diet. For those who are Orthodox Jewish, obeying the kosher dietary laws would be virtually impossible if tomatoes in their salad carried a surprise gene of pig.
"If Nature has spent millions of years building a structure with natural boundaries, it must be there for a purpose. It is there to guide the evolution of life and to maintain its integrity. Using genetic engineering in agriculture is like trying to fix something that has nothing wrong with it in the first place."
--Dr. Michael Antoniou, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics, GKT Medical School, Guy's Hospital, London, U.K.

Engineer a Crop

4. Practice this simulation until you get the largest ears of corn. How many times did it take you?
It took me one try to engineer the most favorable breeding for the fifth generation.

Background Information: From cucumbers and carrots to white rice and wheat, we humans have altered the genes of almost every food we eat. For almost 10,000 years we've been engineering plants by keeping the seeds from the best crops and planting those the next season. Following this practice year after year has resulted in a slow but steady change -- and a substantial cumulative effect. We've been altering the genetic makeup of crops by cross-pollinating, too. About 8,000 years ago, for example, farmers in Central America crossed two mutant strains of a weedy-looking plant called Balsas teosinte and produced the first corn on the cob.

What’s for Dinner?

*Click on the foods on the table to see what research is being done to bioenginner the foods.

5. List two foods and desribe how they are being modified.
Background Info: Biotech companies and university laboratories are cooking up new ideas for GM foods all the time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists 7,516 field tests on new GM foods currently underway. It remains unclear which if any of these foods will pass the strict series of tests that stand between the laboratories and our supermarket shelves. Nevertheless, it's fun to sneak a peak into the future. Tuck in your napkin, pick up your fork -- well, your mouse, anyway -- and get a taste of the next wave of GM foods.

1) Potatoes: Although the approval from the food regulatory boards are still pending, manufactured potatoes are genetically mutated to absorb less oil in french fry form. Peanut oil, sunflower oil, and soybean oil are being cooked up in the lab to be more efficient foods with a lower degree of saturated fat.

2) Coffee: As many adults are familiar with, coffee contains a high caffeine content, which is not always the most highly recommended choice. With genetic mutation now available in labs, biotechnology industries are on the move with 'naturally grown' decaffeinated coffee. This new innovated coffee bean is not yet approved for public ingestion. Nevertheless, when and if it is made public without health defects, it could save farmers time and money by decaffeinating coffee beans before the harvest.

*Read the article titled “Are GM Food Sufficiently Regulated in the US?”

Do you think food should be labeled if it has been genetically modified? Why or Why not?
I do think that genetically modified food should be labeled because it is not equitable for the government to leave the public in the dark on vital issues such as the one at hand. Regardless, they choose to put a respective quantity of the general community at risk if they have allergies, follow specific diets for health reasons, religiously obey a various selection of food, etc. In 1992, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) steadfastly denied the society the right to label the specific GM foods. Wouldn't this be suspicious if they were dead-set against broadcasting the produce's constituents? The FDA's insecure claim that finally withered the crowd was that Gm foods are no different than regular food, and therefore should not be highlighted. What's more, is that their mandatory notification process, which encourages employees overseeing the biotechnology to keep an eye on the products, is supervised by no other than an FDA blue-collar worker. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stood hushed in the background, silently cheering the FDA on with their own 5,000 genetically engineered crop applications. Stephen Johnson (Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, EPA) has conjectured that the technology utilized in the produce field has been rushed to the market without an unabridged inspection by regulators. This could possibly be why Cry9C (a protein in Starlink Corn that is intended to eliminate distinct insects) in the Taco Bell shells. Cry9C has been linked to infants becoming more prone to allergies, are sensitive to smaller quantities of allergen; are particularly susceptible to allergy from novel proteins, and often have diets richer in corn than adults. In other words, if there are traces of certain allergens in foods, especially in chain fast-food establishments, 74% need to seek the help of a physician. More than half the amount of humans who ate GM foods with Cry9C were in desperate demand for a general practitioner, at the least. What's at stake here, after all? Money that can be payed off by big corporations or the lives of 74% of the population that at Taco Bell?

Finished? Go to and type "genetic engineering" in the search field. Browse some of the sites that pop up.
Write down any of the sites you visited below.

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