March 11th, 2015 by asia
America is the land of opportunity and plenty. We set trends in every area from our cavalier lifestyle, music, entertainment and technology. Other countries tend to emulate American ways of fast food, convenience, and consumerism. Always pushing the envelope one has to pause and wonder, have we gone too far? What started as convenience foods, pre-packaged, market to busy moms and commercial watching kids, has blown over into a new type of bioengineered food industry.
When it comes to our food sources we assume that safety is being considered, and trust the FDA’s approval since it’s scientifically backed. In the dynamic new field of biotechnology, biotech companies with their team of scientists aim to increase our food production by gene manipulation, splicing, replicating, and even cloning genes. Considered the first forage in 1980, a pioneering biotech company Genentech succeeded in cloning the gene for BST, which was shown to increase milk production in female lactating cows. Monsanto invested 300 million to join the party and the two collaborated to produce a recombinant version, by using genetic engineering cloned the rBST gene into E.coli. One of the side effects of rBST, is that it causes udder infections in cows, whereby necessitating antibiotic treatment. Findings from two meta analyses indicated an average increase in milk output ranging from 11%–16%, a 25% increase in the risk of clinical mastitis, 40% reduction in fertility and 55% increased risk of developing lameness. Though no conclusive health risk has been found by drinking milk treated with rBGH, the detrimental affect to the animal and possible health risk to humans caused rBGH to be banned in Canada, Japan, Australia, and all 25 countries of the European Union. But in the land of the free, and the home of the brave, we are brave enough to take some risks, and disconnect ourselves from the animals conditions in order to have more of what we ordered, in this case milk, promoted heavily by the national dairy industry.
Fast-forward to current and the new buzzword in food is GMO, genetically modified organism, the science of creating new strains of fruits, vegetables, grains, and animals. Consider the GMO Naked birds, as they are known, born featherless to reduce one of the steps in processing the chicken, cumbersomely known as plucking the feathers. Unfortunately is has negative results on the animals reproduction as without wings the male can’t easily mount the females. Many of us have been very weary of lab produced food, whether it be the first commercially available genetically modified food was a tomato engineered to have a longer shelf life, called the Flavr Savr tomato, or the 80% GMO corn and soy that has infiltrated most commercially packaged food. But since scientist say GMOs are safe, that is, there is yet to be a case provable where GMO’s caused illness, we the consumers should feel safe, and stop our decade long criticism.
In my previous GMO writings, I concluded that although scientists deem GMOs safe, I felt the larger picture of overall sustainability needed to be addressed for our planet, and our responsibility as the “caretaker” role we have assigned ourselves and what this means in terms of animal rights and protection assessed. After reading classmates posts on the GMO debate, we all seemed unified in our understanding that science validates the safety and importance of GMOs, still we feel uneasy at the same time about gene splicing, and altering genetic code when it comes to our food.
College biology textbooks often come from a very neutral view, even somewhat advocating for GMOs, since they open with DNA function, move into decoding DNA,and explore current trends of gene splicing and transporting as it is gives us insights into disease. Through DNA modification and replication the future eradication of some diseases like sickle cell anemia are in our horizon. As we journey further into the realm of the gene manipulation we still do not know what most of our DNA does, nor how, or to what extent it governs traits. In other words, we do not fully understand how evolution works at the molecular level. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project revealed that there is much more to genome function than is encompassed in the roughly 1% of our DNA that contains some 20,000 protein-coding genes — challenging the old idea that much of the genome is junk. At least 80% of the genome is transcribed into RNA. Similar to Black Matter in the Universe, we may not know its purpose, but more than likely it contributes to the whole, and without it, the Universe would be different, thus affecting us in some capacity. My point is that though we think most of DNA is useless and serves no major purpose, each organism has a unique DNA sequence, and changing it, or creating new strains could pose a serious threat to the Earth, humanity, and all organisms at large.
If we were truly concerned with feeding the worlds population as many GMO advocates espouse, we would be doing it now, as we have a surplus of food in many affluent countries, and waste wantonly. What all this is really about is money and power, again in the hands of a few corporations that will control food growth via owning patents to seeds, like Monsanto. We could have enough food for everyone for human’s existence, if we focused on sustainability in all areas, which would mean curb excessive waste of all organic materials, and stop over producing, which is creating pollution, and waste that has no where to be thrown away. American’s are the most obese people in the world and our obsession continues to grow like our waistlines for more.
Ball, Phillip. “DNA at 60: Still Much to Learn.” Scientific American Global RSS. Scientific American, 28 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.
“Bovine Growth Hormone.” Food Water Watch General. Food and Water Watch, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.
Fagan, John, Michael Antoniou, and Claire Robinson. GMO Myths and Truths. Rep. 2nd ed. Vol. 1.0. Great Britian: EarthOpenSource, 2014. Print.
Khan, Amir. “America Tops List of 10 Most Obese Countries.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 28 May 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.
Phelan, Jay. “5-6.” What Is Life?: A Guide to Biology. 2nd ed. New York: W. H. Freeman &, 2013. 170-263. Print.