Biotechnology and the Growing Food Crisis by Mitch Platter

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When I was listening to Tuesday’s lecture on Biotechnology, I had several different thoughts going through my mind. How could the use of biotechnology help our ever-changing planet? What are the negative consequences to these advancements, if any? So, for my blog, I have decided to do a little research into the pros and cons of biotechnology, specifically in the production of food.
The use of biotechnology to create new sources of food has several positive aspects. By the year 2050, it is predicted that there will be some 9 billion people on our planet, all of which will require healthy, nutritious food to eat. In our planet today with roughly two billion less people than this estimate, we have failed to provide food for all of these people. How can we expect to feed two billion more people? The answer to this question can be solved through the use of biotechnology in food sources. By genetically modifying plants, or creating “GM plants,” the problem of global hunger can be significantly reduced. For example, biotechnology has already been used to create “insect resistant” crops. This development allows for farmers to use less insecticide which produces healthier, safer crops. GM crops have also been produced that reduce the amount of ploughing required, which results in enhanced soil quality and a decrease in CO2 emissions resulting from ploughing. Genetic modifications have also been used to create more nutritional plants, as well as drought resistance plants, that can grow in climates usually unthinkable to the given variety of plants.  Although these genetic modifications, if used widely, could not entirely solve the problem of global hunger, they could greatly help.
So one might wonder, what is holding us back from utilizing this seemingly perfect option? The answer to that is the moral problem behind genetically modifying plants or animals.  Although people who believe genetic modifications are harmless argue that it is just another step in gene modification, and that people have been breeding crops and animals to get desired results for hundreds of years, this is not quite true.  Gene modification allows for the transfer of genes across species barriers, something that would not be possible no matter how much cross breading or breading within species. It is also argued that gene modifications could have unforeseen consequences. Genes work in complex systems, and the introduction of foreign genes into an organism could potentially cause great damage. The beneficial aspects of GM crops can also be called into question. Evolution suggests that even if we create plants that are resistant to insects, natural gene modifications will eventually cause insects to find a way to surpass this immunity. It can also be argued that some “herbicide tolerant” plants that have been created could transfer this quality to weeds, creating super weeds that are immune to eco-friendly weed killers, causing a whole new problem.
Although several pros and cons have been addressed in this blog concerning genetic modifications, this is only the beginning of the debate, the likes of which I do not have time to address in this blog. However, the main point comes down to the fact that we need to find a way to accommodate all the people we have put on our planet.

Here are the articles in which I obtained most of my information:

http://www.biotechnology.gov.au/index.cfm?event=object.showContent&objectID=D2D25898-BCD6-81AC-1580E45464029EE0
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7905567.stm

By Mitch Platter.

279 Responses to “Biotechnology and the Growing Food Crisis by Mitch Platter”

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