Opinion

Bioengineering is the present, not the future

You are eating food that is genetically modified. If you missed that debate, you might benefit from knowing that the practice actually helps. Increasingly, and unbeknownst to many, genetically modified organisms (GMO) are being used in our foods, safely and efficiently. But in a nation as divided as America, the debate over scientifically altered foods… Read more »

You are eating food that is genetically modified. If you missed that debate, you might benefit from knowing that the practice actually helps.

Increasingly, and unbeknownst to many, genetically modified organisms (GMO) are being used in our foods, safely and efficiently. But in a nation as divided as America, the debate over scientifically altered foods remains contested, mostly because of a population that is by and large uneducated on the subject.

Many consumers see GMOs as science messing around with their groceries. Really, bioengineering is the battleground for coping with international hunger and survival of a world that is slowly Americanizing its diet; meal portion sizes are growing and adding more meat. Genetic manipulation of food sources remains the only solution, without radically altering our way of life and what we eat.

There is a natural tendency to avoid the latest advances in any field, none more so than in nutrition. That being said, the average consumer might be interested to know that gene splicing has many long-standing trials in several products we use everyday. For example, GMOs have been employed without incident to create an enzyme used to process cheese.

Also through genetic engineering, scientists have isolated the gene responsible for making human insulin, and by inserting it into a type of bacteria it can be created and used without danger by diabetics.

Consumer concern often arises when corporations ban use of GMOs. Heinz, Iams, and Gerber, among other companies, have halted use of all GMO products. However, what isn’t as well known is that these corporations ceased their use because customers wanted it that way. If Frito-Lay can sell more chips by promising to not use bioengineered products, then Frito-Lay is not going to use bioengineered products.

These corporations are part of an ever-lessening group of companies and people who choose to avoid genetically manipulated foods. Many consumers don’t know they are even using GMOs and so are clamoring for labels on products that use bioengineered products, but really just the opposite should be done. Genetic manipulation is drastically increasing and so products void of bioengineering are now the specialty items.

This is a brilliant example that shows the average consumer seems to be unaware of the universal effect genetic manipulation has already had. Some are scared of scientific intervention in foods, but further application of GMOs is absolutely necessary to answer the world’s increasing need for grain.

As the world digests more meat, the world requires more grain, because feeding an increasing level of animals requires an increasing amount of grain. Assuming that mainstream America is nowhere near commonplace vegetarianism, large scale organic farming is not a feasible solution to reach sustainability. Therefore, GMO use must increase. Such an influx of demand for crops can only be reached by assuring production levels with genetic manipulation.

The possibility of increasing and stabilizing production is an idea unique to genetics in agriculture. Simply put, by splicing a gene from a plant that can survive cold weather and putting that gene into, for example, a strawberry, strawberry production can increase by assuring survival through poor weather conditions and also offering more locations for strawberry farming.

Scientists have also had success combining genes to create crops that are immune to pesticides. With such plants in place, farmers can then use pesticides that will wipe out harmful plants and animals without harming crops, assuring a healthier, larger crop yield.

Some argue that weeds may take on those very same immunities to pesticides, developing what some call a breed of “superweeds.” Such an occurrence would render many pesticides useless. But what these opponents of GMOs may not understand is that the only way for weeds to take on pesticide immunity is if that particular weed is closely related to a nearby plant that was genetically altered to have a greater resistance to pesticides. Many of America’s crops, like cotton and corn, don’t have related weeds in the country.

With the scientific community mostly agreed upon the safe continuance of GMO study and execution, only the debate over necessity could continue. Our current international diet, led by mainstream America, demands an increase of crop yield. That increase can only be answered with genetic manipulation.

We have reached a point in our society where, without drastically changing our way of life, we must look to science to solve the problem of feeding the world. Increasing the use of GMOs is essential to secure the future of crops not yet planted and safeguard the future of generations not yet born.

Christopher George Wink can be reached at cwink32@yahoo.com.

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