Genetically Modified Crops Essay

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Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically modified crops (GM crops) climb to the top on the hotly debated issues list of society. In 1996, no GM crops were cultivated on a commercial scale in the United States. In 2002, 75% of soya, 71% of cotton, and 34% of all maize grown in America is GM ("Grim Reaper" 1). Many issues surround this controversial topic such as safety, ethics, and foreign relations. Many of these concerns are well stressed in mass media, but sometimes biased views are the only ones presented. Safety with human health and the effects on the environment appear to be the strongest and most discussed subject matter. While issues of concern accompany the usage of GM crops, argument can be made to
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Plants were bombarded with "gamma rays, protons, neutrons, alpha particles, and beta particles" in order to create any valuable mutation ("History" 5). Induced mutation breeding, starting in the 1950s, used ionizing radiation or toxic chemicals to produce desirable mutations. "Thousands of mutation-bred crops have been commercialized in North America and Europe" (Miller 12). Another more recent example using a traditional method is a new manmade species of wheat. An entire extra genome from quackgrass was bred into the wheat through a wide-cross. This is where a crop and a related wild species are hybridized; many genes are inserted into plants to create varieties that cannot exist in nature. Instead of one specific gene, tens of thousands are being used in animal feed and human food in this wheat hybrid.

Introducing new genes into the environment for human benefit has been done since the domestication of plants. Nick Middleton from Geographical Magazine said, "There is absolutely nothing new in principle about biotechnology and genetic engineering. It is simply that the techniques we use to achieve these age-old aims have become more precise as our understanding of the processes involved has improved." (Middleton 2) The technique has now become as precise as to breed only one gene in one generation of plants. An example of such a specific gene is used with bacteria that produce insulin. The gene

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