Should Crop Species Be Genetically Modified?

Genetically modified crops have been altered through genetic engineering by introduction of new genetic elements, elimination or alteration. Examples of genetically modified cash crops are corn which accounts for 31 percent, cotton 13 %, soy bean 51% and canola 5% of agricultural production. In 2007, twenty three countries were growing GM crop which included 17 high income and upper-middle income countries and 6 lower income countries. The global leader in GM crops is the U.S leading by 57.7 million hectares with a 6 percent increase in crop production over the previous year of 2006 (McKeown, 2008, online).

Genetically modified crops are likely to carry the bad genes with unknown effects to the new crop. Actually, this gene manipulation was applied at the time when food production was given high priority that its safety and the public did not look at its risks factors. Over the past years, diseases associated with food consumption have been on the rise that led scientist carefully examine genetic modification (Halford, 2008, p.16).

Crops should not be genetically modified because GM crops increase pesticide use and once we increase pesticide use, we are likely to suffer many diseases that may shorten our life span. Reports from the United States revealed an increase of 4 percent on pesticide use between 1996 and 2004 since GM crops were introduced. There have been 19 reports of glyphosate-resistant weeds and this has continues to increase over the years. These weeds have now multiplied to 15 more species up from the initial 2 species in 1990. Due to this farmers have been advised to diversify herbicide use or increase glyphosate application all together. GM crops are said to increase yields and nutritional value of crops, however, no commercially available crops are modified to back this claims. Recent studies have shown that GM crops reduce yield performance. In India for instance, cotton crops production have collapse and reduced yields making poor farmers resort to suicides. The nutritional related traits that have been promised over the years have never come to light (McKeown, 2008, online).

Genetically modified crops transfer food allergens across crop species facilitating the creation of new viruses, creates gene flows, spread the contamination pesticides to non targeted crops thereby killing them. It increases the strength of weed species which could possibly eliminate weed species. Promotes the development of pest resistance eliminating the use of Bt known to be the safest pesticide. Animals are also affected since their toxicity in increased as they feed on the crops. Genetic restrictions technologies (GURTs) have been proposed to prevent the appearance of GM traits on seeds in order to keep GM crops from being replanted by farmers thereby transferring the contaminations. This proposal has been turned down since researchers claim that GURTs use may pose environmental risks. GM crops also threaten local agricultural knowledge and experimentations, components important for agricultural research. GM is growing to influence agribusiness and seed companies. These crop traits are found in the majority of global GM crop hectares and the companies control over 23 percent of the global seed markets. Monsanto was has been discouraging farmers from saving seeds for replants making them depend on seed companies which does not seem to solve the problem at all as the companies also store this seeds (McKeown 2008, online) (Green facts, 2004).

Another area of concern is the overlap of GM crops and climate change. Some researchers claim that the use of GM crops on producing biofuels would cut down on oil prices. They claim that 7 million hectares of corn would produce ethanol and 4 million hectares of soybeans would be used to produce biofuels. The shortcomings of this research is that there are no commercial GM crops available for biofuel production and also this production would result to a higher lifecycle greenhouse emission that what we are currently using thereby posing environmental risk (McKeown 2008, online). Peterson et al (2000, p.13) indicates that GM crops would reduce the in-field biodiversity essential for reducing the ecological services provided by agricultural system. Increase of pesticide use could also kill untargeted organism such as caterpillar and butterflies thereby eliminating them. Sterilising traits in crops and ornamentals prevent farmers from selecting their own seed supplies.

List of References

  1. Green Facts Digests, 2004’ Genetically Modified Crops, Food & Agricultural Organization, Web.
  2. Halford, G. Nigel. 2008, Genetically modified crops, Imperial College Press.
  3. McKeown, A. 2008, Genetically modified Crops Only a Fraction of Primary Global Crop Production, WorldWatch Institute.
  4. Peterson, G., Cunningham, S., Deutsch, L., Erickson,J., Quinlan, A., Raez-Luna,E., Tinch, R.,Troell, M., Woodbury,P., & Zens, S. 2000, ‘The risks and benefits of genetically modified crops: a multidisciplinary perspective’, Conservation Ecology 4(1): p.13.