Genetically Modified Food: The World’s Greatest Conservationist

According to Geonumbers.com, 37% of crops are lost annually to pests.  According to Businessweek, this year alone, the United States has had a 12% decrease in crop production because of droughts.  This means that almost 50% of all U.S. crops are destroyed before we even have a chance to utilize them, not to mention the amount of food wasted by spoiling. This is where GMOs come into play.

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are animals or plants that are modified to possess certain traits, which can range anywhere from containing various vitamins and vaccines to enzymes that will make the organism survive in an otherwise uninhabitable area.  In fact, Alan McHughen , authors of A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food, claims that, “scientists are developing better crops: more nutritious rice, potatoes that absorb less oil in frying, and sugar beets with modified lower-calorie sugars.” (225)

 

In this context, GMOs could be modified to both ward off pests and survive in inclement weather.  An example of this in practice is the Bt Potato. Bt is short for Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil  bacterium that was first used in potatoes, but has since been used on other vegetation.

This compound accumulates toxicity through sproulation, meaning that as it spreads to other crops, the toxicity increases.  After attaching to the crop’s soil, these spores remain dormant until ingested. As we all know, insects eat crops, many actually lay their eggs in or around vegetation, this compound was designed to combat this.  What is special about this toxin is its ability to discern between larval insects and other organisms.   If an insect larvae consume the toxic spores, the spores coat the inner lining of the stomach which prevents nutrition intake.  The insect stops feeding and dies. However, if any other organism ingests these spores, they are unaffected (McHughen, 47).  This is the much better alternative to over-planting, which depletes the soil, or constantly spraying various pesticides, which ruin the fields and can be harmful to people. What’s more, GMOs can even increase the yield of one plant, something that we desperately need.

Anthony Trewas, an author in Food Ethics claims that by 2025 there will 2.3 billion more people on the earth, and the earth simply cannot support that many additional people.  He also claims that GM processes can actually increase a plants output by 35%.  Author Alan McHughen agreed claiming that,  “traditional varieties and landraces of most crops cannot compete in yield or quantity, in this regard cross-breeding yields more money to farmers and costs the consumer less” (60). This means that the more organic ways of crop production are not sustainable with our growing population.  These crops can literally feed billions of people healthier and more sustainable food without straining the environment any further.  If taken to its logical conclusion, this process could even cure world hunger, after all, if you can increase the output of a plant, you can and will have more food than you would otherwise.  It is a win-win.

GM and other Biotechnologies are the way of the future.  We are growing in number at an alarming rate, with no way of supporting everyone.  Without implementing some kind of way to feed these people billions will go hungry.  So don’t be afraid of GMOs, they are here to stay and can really be helpful in the long run.

Sources:

McHughen, Alan. A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food.  New York: Oxford University Press 2000. Print.

Pence, Gregory E.  The Ethics of Food.  Lanham: Roman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2002. Print.

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Annotated Bibliography

Coleman, Isobel.  Democracy in Development. Council on Foreign Relations. May 4, 2012. 7 November 2012. <http://blogs.cfr.org/coleman/2012/05/04/more-on-genetically-modified-crops/>

Coleman’s blog offers a different perspective on the effects of Genetically Modified Foods in other countries, especially those that are impoverished.  She also offers a very realistic view of the role GMOs will play in the future and seems to embrace them on the notion that the foods have not shown any signs of harming people.  She also explains that these modifications are good because they allow more people to get nutrients that they otherwise would not.  This information was used to get a better understanding of a different view.  This blog also gave us a lot of the pros to the technology and described the economic impacts of GMFs.  Because it was written by someone not directly benefiting from the products’ consumption, it was much more reliable. I think that it would be really helpful to look at the effects of GMOs in these countries after they have been exposed to them for a longer period of time.  Considering that this technology is relatively new, we cannot yet make definite claims as to the safety.  So while this is very convincing, it is a bit presumptive.

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Genome Program. Biological and Environmental Research Information System (BERIS). May 11, 2009.  November 9, 2012. <http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/cloning.shtml>

This is a very interesting and useful source because it provides all of the facts for cloning, including the differences and status of the technology today.  The author also includes definitions of cloning, the various types, and explains the process.  Finally, this article presents the uses of cloning, which really help our argument that the technology should be incorporated into today’s society.  We also found it interesting that the first animal cloned was a tadpole in 1957.  This is a far cry from the abilities we have today, and This is helpful because it gives the facts on cloning without the various biases associated with this controversial topic.  This is also a site sponsored by the government, which really solidifies credibility and accuracy.

All About Popular Issues Staff. Pros and Cons of Stem Cell Research.  2012.  9 November 2012.  <http://www.allaboutpopularissues.org/pros-and-cons-of-stem-cell-research.html>

This blog is very useful because it not only presents the ins and outs of Stem Cell Research, but also describes the different views and why people are for or against it.  This blog also describes some of the scientific research associated with this process.  Another good thing about this blog is that it is unbiased.  We can use this blog to make arguments for stem cell research and can use it to get see and refute the opposing side.

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Should an Ancient Religion Be Involved in at 21st Century Problem?

This week’s refutation comes from the Catholic News Service, an article by Nancy Frazier O’Brien claiming that stem cell research is “immoral and unnecessary.” O’Brien is viewing Stem Cell research from a religious perspective, and believes that stem cells are harming more lives than helping. O’Brien  aligns perspective with that of the National Catholic Bishops conference which states that stem cells “cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research.”  However,  O’Brien and the Bishops do not understand the potential benefits for stem cell research, and that these cells are being developed and treating diseases such as juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, and even blindness.

According to Euro Stem Cells,  stem cells can cure spinal cord injuries by replacing the nerve cells that have died as a result of the injury. These remarkable cells generate new supporting cells that will re-form the insulating nerve sheath and act as a bridge across the injury to stimulate a re-growth of these damaged cells. The teachings of the Catholic church always promotes going by extraordinary means to preserve life and it is highlight through their doctrines, however many Bishops  turn their backs to the benefits of stem cell research.

O’Brien believes that stem cells are threatening the respect for life, but what she fails to see is that these embryos are saving lives, and groundbreaking research is curing ailments that threaten life. The Guardian reports that stem cells are curing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in monkeys. The brain cells that have died off previously are being grown through stem cells are causing them to function normally and reverse movement problems caused by Parkinson’s in monkeys. Scientists believe that these reproducing stem cells can be transplanted into dopamine-producing cells that will treat the disease. The potential benefits of stem cell research outweighs the harm, and stem cell research will continue to help cure future diseases which otherwise would not be curable.

Fleming, N., & Sample, I. (2011, November 6). The Guardian. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/nov/06/stem-cells-brain-parkinsons-disease

O’Brien, N. F. (n.d.). American Catholic . Retrieved 8 11, 2012, from American Catholic.Org: http://www.americancatholic.org/News/StemCell/default.asp

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First method of Stem Cells: Gene Therapy

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth.  In many tissues, they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is still alive.  Stem cells are distinguished from other cell types by two important characteristics. First, they are unspecialized cells capable of renewing themselves through cell division, sometimes after long periods of inactivity. Second, under certain physiologic or experimental conditions, they can be induced to become tissue or organ specific cells with special functions.   Given their unique regenerative abilities, stem cells offer new potentials for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease. However, much work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease, which is also referred to as regenerative or reparative medicine.

Stem cell research has a chance to better the life of all living organisms and create cures for serious health hazards.  We should take advantage of this research and begin to fund for stem cells in our country.

The first type of research that is extremely important is the idea of Gene therapy, which “is a technique for correcting defective genes responsible for disease development” (Hillber, Mark).  Most commonly, a normal gene is inserted into the genome to replace the “disease”-causing causing gene.  Other ways to use gene therapy in order to “fix” the gene make up would be, swapping the “disease”-causing causing gene for a “healthy” gene through homologous recombination (Hillber, Mark).  When this diseased-gene is replaced it creates a healthy string of DNA completely erasing the illness.  This is a major advancement for people with serious illnesses such as cancer.  

Strategies of gene therapy for cancer are “enhancing immune cells to increase anti-tumor activity, for example by introducing genes that encode cytokines”(Li, Guojun).  Another way would be to “kill tumor cells by inserting toxin genes under the control of a tumor-specific promoter”.  If gene therapy can create ways to increase the health of those suffering from cancer, the benefits for smaller diseases can be unimaginable.  With all gene therapy does, is it acceptable to treat all diseases using this method?  “In the last two decades, gene therapy has moved from the conceptual stage to technology development and laboratory research to clinical translational trials for a variety of deadly diseases” such as cancer, HIV, etc. (Timmons, Mark).  With the seriousness of what gene therapy actually does, it should only be applicable for those serious diseases that are life threatening.  Other diseases have many different ways to go about curing or treating.  Stem Cell research is the answer for curing many severe diseases that affect humans and we must come together to fight for the use of its benefits.

WORK CITED

Hillber, Mark G. “Gene Therapy.” Human Genome Information. U.S Department of Energy, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. <http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genetherapy.shtml&gt;

Li, Guojun. “Gene Therapy for Cancer.” NDSU (1996): 39-69. Print.

Timmons, Mark. “Gene Therapy for Diseases.” ASGCT – American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy. Web. 21 Oct. 2011.

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Call in the Clones!

For this week’s post, we decided to tackle arguments against cloning. Some of the most common arguments listed by The Scislands are:

1. Cloning will create a black market for stolen or discarded embryos.

2. Cloning will cause a resurgence of slavery.

3. Cloning will stop genetic improvements to a species. This is because genetic improvements usually occur through sexual reproduction, which result in a mixing of the genes of the mother and father.

All of these claims are based on irrational fears rather than fact, and have been proven false by various authors.  The first claim, that cloning will create a black market is one of the most extreme.

The first claim, that cloning will lead to a black market on organ trade is the most ludicrous of all of the arguments.  The black market for organs has been around for centuries….certainly longer than this technology. According to The Human Cloning Foundation, prisoners in China have had their organs removed unwillingly for sale on the black market, and these were humans, not clones.  So to argue that this technology would cause organ sell on the Black market is completely false.  Furthermore, this practice would be outlawed immediately because a clone is not property, but a human being.  Thus, no individual, clone or otherwise would be endangered by these black market sales.

The second claim, that cloning will cause slavery is contestable for a very similar principle.  Slavery, as we all know, is one of the oldest institutions known to man and has been outlawed in the civilized world for centuries.  To claim that cloning will increase this in wealthy nations is ridiculous.  Once again, because human clones are human, they have rights, and can thus not be enslaved. This proves that these claims are completely unsupported.   

The third and final claim, that “cloning will stop genetic improvements to a species. This is because genetic improvements usually occur through sexual reproduction, which result in a mixing of the genes of the mother and father.”  This too has been proven false.

According to a study done by Dr. Entcheva, cloned organisms can have varying traits depending on the stimuli.  In their experiment, the scientists had several enriched cultures, which they then exposed they then exposed to 5 different types of environments.  After cloning these cultures there were varying traits between them.  Surely, more genetically diverse organisms would also have  varying traits as well.

Bibliography

http://www.questacon.edu.au/indepth/cloning/arguments_against_cloning.html

http://www.humancloning.org/essays/esiann2.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC92523/

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Annotated Bibliography

Pence, Gregory E.  The Ethics of Food.  Lanham: Roman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2002. Print.

In Pence’s book, he summariazes various takes on the GMO debate.  The articles are both for and against the use of GMOs.  Some delve into the potential for the process ending world hunger and others mention the risks associated with it.

Baylis, Francois & Robert Jason. Bioethics. Volume 18 Number 1 2004

In this article, Baylis and Robert describe the landscape of Biotechnology today and the arguments for and against them.  They also describe how these technologies are redefining various industries and are giving humans the ability shape they way they interact with their environment.

Sparrow, Robert. Bioethics. Volume 20, Issue 6. November 2006

This article describes a different part of the cloning process, namely the the parenting of a cloned individual.  This is one topic that we had not thought about, but according to the essay, the individual who is the parent of the cloned individual, is the one who donated the DNA for its creation.  This seems intuitive, but in the case of adopting a cloned individual, this could become a very heated debate.

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Introduction

Hello World!

My name is Ben, and I am a Communication major at the University of Maryland. I also work in a market that typically brings in vegetables and fruits from local farms. I became fascinated with biotechnology when I was told that local farms do not use genetically modified crops because many of them are oppose to it, and do not have access to the resources.It never occurred to me that fruits and vegetables could be enhanced, and finding out that these local companies are opposed to enhancing their food made me more interested in researching the topic. After researching the multiple benefits of biotechnology, I joined this blog to advocate for biotechnology and reveal all the benefits and research. I also intend to dispel any misconceptions about biotechnology and discuss future research in the field.

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