Genetically Modified Plants: a Little Shop of Horrors (RE-POSTED DUE TO LOG INN ISSUES)
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The genetic modification of an organism’s genome has been a controversial issue in the science community since about the early 1980s. Technological advancements in genetics made it possible to alter a plant’s genome resulting in a herbicide-tolerant, insect resistant, and nutrient enhanced plant. These “super-plants” gave way to a multitude of ideas in the science field. Interest and excitement grew among pharmaceutical, agricultural, and medicinal fields of science and much research has been done to further the understanding of the capabilities and the many uses of a genetically engineered plant. However, critics fear that these GMO will pollute the genetic diversity and lead to an unbeatable “Super-weed”

Taking advantage of DNA sequencing and recombinant DNA technology, genetic engineering is a process where an organism’s genome is modified or manipulated. There are two subcategories of genetic engineering: transgenetic and cisgenetic.[Transgenic and cisgenic, you mean]Transgenetic plants are plants that have had foreign DNA inserted into their genome. Cisgenetic plants are plants that have had their own genome manipulated. Genetic modifications are made possible by the discovery of the soil bug, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, in 1977. This “bug,” along with the other gene-implantation technology, has the ability to add genes to other organisms.
A GM tomato was first introduced in American in 1994 and in Britain in 1998. However, a GM potato was found to be toxic to some lab rats and controversy and criticism surrounded GMOs. Today, GM crops are sparse in Europe because of the strict regulations and laws that require proper labeling of food that is or composed of GMOs. However, in countries such as India, China, Canada, and America GM produce is common. In 1992, theFood and Drug Administration determined that foods with genetically engineered byproducts were not significantly different than conventionally grown foods. Companies must consult with the FDA but there are no requirements to test the food's safety prior to full-scale marketing.

A recent study was done that showed that more then 70% of the United States grocery stores contain byproducts of genetically engineered organisms. Nabisco® and Frito-Lay®, are just a few companies who use foodlabel.jpgGMO in their products. Many crops are modified to be herbicide, disease, and pest resistant. Crops range from corn and wheat to lettuce and onions. Many farmers turn to genetically enhanced crops because they are more reliable and are engineered to be better suited for survival. A recent Midwest crop report had shown that the same acre of land that was planted with a genetically modified species of wheat produced a higher yield when compared to the yield recorded from wild strand of wheat during the previous harvesting season. Genetically engineered cash crops have earned farmers millions of dollars. However, even more money has been invested by the pharmaceutical companies in research.

“Biopharming” is the term used to describe the production of pharmaceuticals or other chemicals in genetically modified plants. Strict regulations and contamination failures have hindered the progress of biopharming in the US. However, European nations have taken the lead and have initiated strict policies to govern the research including all plants must be enclosed in a greenhouse. The European nations’ progress in biopharming may lead to a host of new cures and treatments for illnesses. Many supporters of GM plants say that the bacterial gene, Bt, that is inserted to produce an insecticidal toxin is harmless to humans. Furthermore, GM crops can grow well in unfavorable conditions and may help world hunger along with protecting the environment form the misuse of pesticides. Some crops are engineered to be more nutritional, taste better, allergen-free, and have a longer shelf-life.

Critics label GM food as “Frankenstein food.” They feel that there could be possible unseen side [effects]affects from ingesting such foods. Another concern is that the insecticides that the crops produce with speed up the evolution of pests that are resistant. A possible problem that may occur is that these crops and plants may become “superweeds” and crossbreeding with other plants and would wildly contaminate the environment. However, a solution to this problem was found and named the “Exorcist system.” This is where the GM crops would not produce fertile seeds therefore eliminating the possibility of “genetic pollution.”
Studies have been conducted to determine GMO’s negative environmental impact. However, these studies have resulted in inconclusive evidence, stating that it is too early to tell the long term impact of GMO in the environment and the affects[effects] in the body after human consumption. The biggest threat the GMO is genetic pollution. Scientist say that the Exorcist System is not fail save. [fail safe]. There is a possibility of cross pollination with another plant species resulting in an ‘immortal” superweed. [needs more is it immortal?]

The helpful uses and applications of GMO are endless and can possibly lead to new discoveries in the pharmaceutical field to help lead to cure diseases. Genetically modified plants give hope to many third world nations where food is scarce and the climate makes growing crops quite difficult. However, the unknown environmental affects [effects] should raise concern and questions for companies and scientist who aggressively use GMO. The scientific community should approach GM plants with caution because of the possibility of a random mutation where the plant might not respond to the Exorcist System and therefore releasing fertile seeds into the environment. More regulations should be enforced by the government. Not knowing the negative affects [effects] doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. More research should be continued on GM plants and strict regulations and monitoring of these plants should be enacted.