Genetic Modification of Bananas
Genetically modified food (GMOs) is a term used to describe food products that contain genetically modified organisms (Jumba, 2010). According to Liang and Skinner (2004), genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genetic matter (DNA) has been changed using genetic engineering methods (p. 14). This means that the organism is subjected to chemicals or radiations that alter its genetic make-up or composition. There are also techniques that people use to generate GMOs, which include selective breeding and somaclonal variation. Bananas are plants created for “animal and human consumption, and are modified to improve the desired traits such as nutritional content or improved resistance to herbicides” (Liang and Skinner, 2004). This is mostly done through breeding, which is time consuming. On the other hand, genetic engineering is fast and accurate. Indeed, changes in technology as well as an ever-increasing world population have seen the need to come up with newer ways of ensuring food security.
The growing world population has necessitated the need for GMOs. According to recent studies, the world’s population is increasing at a rate of 1.5% annually, and it is expected to double in the next 50 years (Liang and Skinner, 2004). In some countries, like Afghanistan, the growth rate is about 4.5%. In Africa, the rate is quite higher, which means more food will be required in coming years to feed increasing world population. Since current methods of food production cannot be able to satisfy the projected demand for food, GMOs have provided a quick solution to food crisis, for now, and in future.
Taking into account several reasons, each country’s need to embrace this new technology despite the numerous misgivings about GMOs can be satisfied. According to the World Health Organization, GMOs produce crops that are drought resistance. This is a huge boost to traditional concerns about crops that are susceptible to erratic weather patterns. It is a dream of every farmer to see crops that cannot be easily destroyed by fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Embracing GMOs means that production will increase substantially, thus, giving hope to millions of people.
In addition, GMOs crops are pest resistant. Losses that occur due to pests can be devastating because they cause starvation and financial loss for the farmer. In order to stop this from happening, the farmer has to use many pesticides. Not many people would like to eat food watered with pesticides due to health precautions. Run-offs carry these chemicals and poison water. Genetic modified foods will help eliminate the use of pesticides and reduce the cost of production. Moreover, some areas require drought resistance crops due to their climatic conditions. As more land is being occupied for housing purposes because of the growing population, farmers should now start considering using the previously unfavorable lands for farming (Castle and Ruse, 2007). They will need plants that can stand long periods with little or no rain and salty soils. In some areas, the climate is quite cold. This causes a lot of damage to sensitive seedlings. A solution has been given for this already. Coldwater fish have an antifreeze gene that has been introduced into plants. These plants can now stand extremely cold temperatures that would kill unmodified plants (Green, 2005).
The threat of malnutrition in developing countries is not a myth, but a reality. Indeed, most people cannot afford a variety of foods for them to be able to change their diet. They depend on one crop (for example rice) as their main staple food, but this does not provide the necessary nutrients. Researchers have done their work and introduced golden rice that was supposed to be given to farmers freely. Due to protests against these foods, there has been a delay in their distribution.
Despite these enormous benefits of GMOs, some scientists, religious organizations, environmental activists, public interest groups, professional association, and government officials have voiced out their concerns about genetically modified foods (Castle and Ruse, 2007). They have accused the agribusiness of concentrating on profits only and ignoring the hazards inherent in GMOs. The government has been blamed for not exercising regulations to mitigate these concerns. Recent studies indicate that GMOs could lead to unspecified environmental hazards. In the past, people observed how mosquitoes developed resistance to DDT and it was likely that some insects would develop resistance to these genetically modified crops (Green, 2005).
Moreover, a recent study has shown that genetically modified corn, for instance Bt corn, caused high death rate of monarch caterpillars. These caterpillars eat milkweed plants and not corn. If pollen from Bt corn falls on a milkweed plant, the caterpillar can eat the pollen and die. It is not possible to create a toxin that can only kill the insects that damage crops (Green, 2005). In addition, many children are reported to have developed allergies to some foods such as peanuts. It is possible that the genes that have been introduced into plants can cause allergic reactions because of the new allergen that has been created. Extensive research on genetically modified foods may be necessary to make sure no harm is done to the consumers (Castle and Ruse, 2007).
From this discussion, it is clear that genetically modified crops are beneficial to all people. This is because they propose a solution to hunger and starvation that have been present in the world over the years. People witness unprecedented cases of starvation and hunger in several parts of the world every year, especially in developing countries. These misfortunes can be solved by embracing this new technology. Moreover, GMOs reduce reliance of herbicides which are harmful to the environment. I suppose that GMOs are helpful, and people should not be discouraged by possible drawbacks. Instead of saying that GMOs are harmful, opponents should propose a viable alternative which will solve the problem that bedevils the world. Since critics are yet to come with a better option, GMOs remain the only viable option for now.
GM Banana in Uganda
According to scientists, genetically modified bananas could bring a lasting solution to the problem of malnutrition in many of the third world countries (Jumba, 2010). Uganda remains one of the countries, which takes pride in growing the breed and has taken pride in doing it despite the craving threat of that disease that is adversely affecting the crop. This threat has been reported to be spreading across Uganda and even to the neighboring states in the region. This has resulted in annual heavy losses in the crop production. According to Tenkouano & Pillay (2010), the banana xanthomonas wilt (BXW) is a disease which is threatening banana production in Uganda producing districts. The disease was first reported in October 2001 and was noted to cause early ripening and rotting of fruits. In addition, it causes wilting and death of the plant. BXW has the ability to spread at a very high rate once it is established in a region and if not properly managed, the disease can reduce the yields to zero within a short duration. Considering the fact that bananas in Uganda are an important form of food security and a key source of income for over 20 million people living in the lake region, measures of controlling it should be taken. The banana crop has several advantages such as being a source of staple food, protecting soil erosion and a regional export. In attempt to control the disease, there has been massive destruction of infected plants leading to loss of food and income. This has also caused soil erosion on the bare surfaces left after the plant destruction.
Estimates on research done recommend that the third of the world’s population suffer from anemia, which is commonly known to as iron deficiency anemia. Accordingly, this disease remains a key nutritional problem affecting infants and young children in India. A survey carried out in 1998-1999 indicated that over 70% of children between six months and three years were anemia victims. Anemia prevalence among expectant mothers and adult men is also high ranging from 70% to 24% respectively (Jumba, 2010). This problem has been explained by low dietary intake and inadequate availability of iron. Cases of chronic blood loss are increasing because of the hookworm infestation and malaria in the region. As a result, primary measures taken in order to prevent anemia and iron deficiency should be a priority in developing control over curbing the disease. The government of India has responded to this crisis issue by launching an initiative with the aim of achieving a hemoglobin level of 12 grams for all adolescents. The initiative will help to increase the amounts of iron taken which involves promoting diets with a wider variety of iron in foods, and provide teenagers with iron folic acid tablet every week. Although the strategy is expected to help reduce prevalence of anemia, infants and teenagers who have limited capacity to eat large quantities of fortified foods will not benefit significantly from the strategy (Jumba, 2010).
Worms have the ability to infect both human beings and animals and, in many cases, can spread from one individual to another. Worm infection can result in severe sickness and disease. Worms feed is their host tissue and blood, but their infection can be treated successfully. Though a number of worms can live within the human body, many people in the word are infected with a single type of intestinal worm infection which, if ignored can cause hazardous effects (Liang and Skinner, 2004), The major worms, which have been a threat in Africa, are roundworms, flat worms, pin worms, and whip worms. More often than not, symptoms of worms are found among children and can cause severe complications to the victim, which may even lead to death.
As highlighted above GMO stands for genetically modified organism or the genetically engineered organism (Jumba, 2010). This involves employing techniques in the genetic engineering field in order to change the genetic material of the organism. This has been made possible by the DNA technology whereby scientists use DNA molecules from different sources combining them to form a single molecule with a new set of genes. Thereafter, the new set of genes is transferred into an organism to give it modified genes. Therefore, it can be concluded that genetically modified foods are constituted of genetically modified organisms. The basic principle of producing these genetically modified organisms is adding new genetic makeup into the organism that was made possible by scientists who discovered the DNA in 1973. The GMOs are used mostly in medical and biological research, when testing a new medicine, and in agriculture. Recently, the most embraced part of this technology is its application in producing patent-protected food crops that have the ability to resist herbicides or have the capability to generate pesticide proteins within a plant.
Monsanto Company is one of the largest multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations in the world. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, and the second largest genetically engineered seed producer with its headquarters located in Missouri (Allen, 2008). The company faced great opposition in the past especially by the US Environment Protection Agency identifying it as a “potential responsible party” because its products pollute the environment. The company’s production in genetically modified foods has been resisted in Europe with the company being forced to label its GMO products that would severely affect the company negatively because labeling would stigmatize foods. Monsanto Company has secured a large genetically modified soybean market in Argentina especially and there are claims that its use has resulted in an increase in soya production. This has raised the living standards of the farmers because of the increase in profits earned from the sale of the surplus. It has been noted that serious cases of soil degradation have occurred in Argentina because of the failure of farmers to rotate the crop. This damage on soil has majorly occurred due to the increasing demand of soya; hence, farmers have no time to do crop rotation. Monsanto Company has continued to face critics in India, Europe, and South Africa (Allen, 2008).
Syngenta is a company that is a leader in crop rotation and a specialized chemical manufacturing company (McBeath and McBeath, 2010). The Company’s objective and goal is to work with communities living in rural and semi-arid regions of the world and improve their lives. In addition, its crop protection is aimed at meeting the increasing demand for human food, animal feed, and fuel. In order to fulfill its objectives and goals, the Company has wide variety of products with the ability to help growers curb weeds, insects, and diseases which threaten and reduce production. Likewise, it also funds and supports agricultural programs in the third world countries. Syngenta has major eight areas of productions due to which it develops product, markets, and sells them all over the world. Examples of these products are herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, professional products, field crops, vegetables, and flowers (McBeath and McBeath, 2010).
The fungicides have been proved the best. They do more than just controlling disease, and ensure that the crop’s potential to produce is improved. The herbicides are important throughout the life of the plant from planting to harvest time because they help in controlling weeds, fighting resistance, and improving the protein yield in the plant. Syngenta is facing stiff competition from other companies in the same field along with Monsanto Company, Bayer Crop Science, Dow AgroSciences, and DuPont. However, Syngenta enjoys advantages of having good reputation in the public and established market. The commonly produced brands of Syngenta include Actara, Amistar, Calisto, Lumax, Thiamethoxam, and Golden Harvest that are highly selling on the market. Syngenta is also giving back to the society by ensuring sustainable food security is achieved. The company is achieving this by funding a non-governmental organization called Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The company has also ventured in bio-fuels to carry out research programs that help develop renewable sources of energy (McBeath and McBeath, 2010).
In my view, any company that produces chemicals should work hard to ensure that their products do not pollute the environment. The governments should formulate severe laws that protect our environment, ban, punish, and bloc activities of companies, which violate this provision. Although it is very hard to have products that are perfect, producers should ensure that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages accompanied by their consumption. I consider that if companies like Monsanto really have cared for the people, they would have labeled their products to enhance identification’ by users. This is extremely dangerous that the companies do not want the public to distinguish GMO products. In addition, they should allow consumers to exercise their right to choose. This shows lack of love and care for the consumers because not only Monsanto, but other GMO companies also have not started labeling their products yet and this has made many people use their products without knowing about hazards.
Despite the various benefits that we have reaped from advancement technology, the adverse effects of the same cases are catching up with humankind since genetically modified foods and other chemicals are causing sicknesses to the consumers among other side effects, which are reducing the lifespan of consumers.