Geneticists of plants can isolate a specific gene from a plant that can tolerate droughts and insert that gene into a different plant allowing it to become tolerant of droughts. Not all genes can be transferred from one plant to another however, there are some advantages to GMOs.
Advantages of GMOs
- Frost can destroy sensitive seedlings so one example of application is an antifreeze gene from cold water fish that has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. These plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings.
- As the world population grows and more land is utilized for housing instead of food production, farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable places.
- Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated. For example, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in third world countries.
- Some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to pesticides and many people are concerned that insects will become resistant to certain pesticides or other crops that have been genetically-modified to produce their own pesticides.
- Another concern is that crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weeds will cross-breed, resulting in the transfer of the herbicide resistance genes from the crops into the weeds. These 'Super weeds' would then be herbicide tolerant as well.
Other concerns in the long term effect of GMO foods on human health, how we digest the food and absorb nutrients, etc. Genetically-modified foods have the potential to solve many of the world's hunger and malnutrition problems plus they can help protect and preserve the environment by increasing crops and reducing reliance upon chemical pesticides and herbicides.
There are many challenges ahead for governments, especially in the areas of safety testing, regulation, international policy and food labeling. Many people feel that genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the future and that we cannot afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous potential benefits. However, we must proceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment.
What is the Solution?
A possible solution is to create buffer zones around fields of GM crops. For example, non-GM corn would be planted to surround a field of GMO corn, and the non-GM corn would not be harvested. Beneficial or harmless insects would have a refuge in the non-GM corn, and insect pests could be allowed to destroy the non-GM corn and would not develop resistance to the pesticides. Gene transfer to weeds and other crops would not occur because the wind-blown pollen would not travel beyond the buffer zone.
Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit www.sgfit.com or write to Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.