2) Negative Repercussions
3) Rationale and Policy Recommendations
Terms used in white paper
Animal as just machines paradigm
Herbicide resistant crops
Recombinant bovine growth hormone
What is GMO? GMO stands for genetic modification of organisms. A gene is an instruction in our cells and each of our cells contains tens of thousands of these instructions. Genetic modification involves the exchanging of genes between unrelated species that cannot naturally exchange genes with each other. Sometimes the result of exchanging these genes are unpredictable, for example a farmer might have saved a seed from a favorite plant, hoping to get another plant that looks exactly the same rather this farmer might get a plant that does not look similar in any way with what he had in mind. The result of this exchanging of genes might be that this farmer might get a plant that looks different in terms of color, smell, height or shape.
The impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMO) on the human race are issues that need to be addressed, particularly when one takes into consideration that GMO deals with one of our basic inheritances, which is the environment. The environment provides one of our indispensable needs, which is food, without food human beings would die from starvation. The genes within nature have already been defined by nature but with the coming of technology, man has been manipulating these genes in order to get products, which they feel are beneficial to them (for example putting more vitamin A in rice) or that are more aesthetically pleasing (for example green ketchup).
The ability to do this comes with several risks. Nathan Battalion, the assistant professor at Hartwick College, introduces these risks when he explains
“that we are confronted with what is undoubtedly the single most potent technology the world has ever know- more powerful even than atomic energy. Yet it is being released throughout our environment and deployed with superficial or no risk assessments- as if no needs to worry about its unparalleled powers to harm life as we know it- and for all future generation”(Rifkin 2001).
Battalion argues that society has not evaluated the impacts of the introduction of GMO on the environment, people, and the ecosystem. It is imperative that environmental organization be involved in any decision-making policies on how or if GMO should be introduced into society.
The questions that environmental organizations ask are what would be the effect of GMO on the environment and the ecosystem? The ecosystem as we know, is the relationship between humans, animals, birds and the physical environment. It is important to understand that changing one part of the ecosystem would ultimately have an effect on other parts of the ecosystem. The goal of any environmental organization is to ensure that the environment is preserved for future generations. This is an issue that is very important, when one considers how many creatures are now extinct as a result of human intervention (e.g. Poachers) or environmental intervention (e.g. change of weather on dinosaurs). It becomes scary when one considers that the introduction of GMO might have the unpleasant effect of depleting the environment of its remaining wildlife. This issue will be discussed further in this paper.
The first issue that will be discussed is the effect of GMO on the ecological environment; again, this ecological environment includes humans. The topics to be addressed when looking at the ecological effect of GMO are those issues of herbicide resistant crops, biodiversity, and super weeds. The main question that should be asked when one looks at the ecological risk of implementing GMO is what would be the result of tampering with nature by mixing genes among species? Jeremy Rifkin, an environmental scientist, addresses this question by saying in his interview on genetically modified foods that
“when you introduce a genetically modified organism into the environment, it is not like introducing a chemical product, or even a nuclear product. Remember, genetically modified products are alive. So, at the get- go, they’re inherently more unpredictable in terms of what they’ll do once they’re out in the environment. Secondly, GMO’s reproduce. Chemical products don’t do that. Third, they can mature. Fourth, they can migrate and proliferate over wide regions. And fifth, you cannot easily recall them to the laboratory or clean them up”. (Rifkin 2001)
What does this unpredictability mean to us? Since species sometimes exchange DNA, the altered gene could link with another species and mutate, resulting in a new disease which humanity is not prepared to defend itself against.
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