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Should We Continue to Produce Genetically Modified Foods? Essay

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Genetically modified foods (GMFs) are foods that have been deliberately modified in order to create healthier and more beneficial crops for both the farmers and the society. The purpose of this report is to draw a justified conclusion about whether we should continue to produce genetically altered foods, focusing particularly on corn. Both the benefits and issues associated with this transgenic technology will be considered as well as the past, present and future of this specific technology.

Without the utilization of Bt corn it is estimated that between 19.5-41.4% of corn is lost due to pathogens and pests on a global scale. Thus, corn that has been genetically modified is able to withstand pests as well as improve its ability to adapt of the environment. This results in a crop that is hardier and contains more vitamins and minerals which positively contributes to alleviating the issue of world hunger at a lower price. Currently in the United Sates, more than 80% of corn has been modified. The main purpose of Bt corn is that is it designed to produce Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that is deadly when ingested by susceptible insects as well as the corn is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate which has fewer adverse environmental impacts when compared with other herbicides used to control weeds.

In order to create a Bt crop, a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is inserted into the cells during the embryo stage. The first step in the process is extracting the desired gene from other organisms through the utilizing of both restriction enzymes which are enzymes that recognize a specific sequence of nucleotide bases on the DNA and cleaves it as well as DNA ligase which are attached at the end of the sequence. Thus, through the process of polymerase chain reaction the desired DNA sequence that makes up the cry 1Ab gene is extracted. The cry 1Ab soil bacterium version of the gene is modified slightly so that a better result is obtained when placed into a corn plant. The DNA that was obtained is then placed into the plasmid of the bacteria which is then replicated to produce more of the DNA. Not only is DNA included by also an antibiotic resistant gene which allows the carrier cell to be amplified successfully through the process of transformation. This process involved the carrier cells being put into two different types of medium, one that has a specific antibiotic while the other does not. It is placed into the first medium where is the growth is significant and then into the second medium where the only the bacteria that has the antibiotic resistant gene is able grow. Therefore, only the bacteria that carries the antibiotic gene can carry the desired DNA. The next step in the process of obtaining Bt corn is designing the gene. For corn, the plant’s nucleotide G-C is replaced with the A-T nucleotide from the Bacillus thuringiensis. The termination sequence as well as a marker gene is also added, the termination sequence tells the cellular machinery when the end of the gene sequence has been reached whereas, the marker genes aid in the identification of plant cells that have the specific integration of the transgene and usually consists of a protein that encodes for resistance against herbicides or specific antibiotics. Step 4 is transformation where the modification is brought upon a cell through induction of new DNA. Lastly, a process called tissue culture is utilized to obtain the whole plant. The corn plant which is able to be transformed does not contain all of the optimal genes which a producer needs in the field. Therefore, the last step in biotechnology, occurs in the field where plant breeders cross this corn plant that contains the cry 1Ab gene with their top performing line to create a high yielding Bt corn variety.

The resulting transgenic corn that obtains the gene in all its cells and expresses the insecticidal protein in its leaves. When the pests ingest the toxin, it fatally damages the lining of the gut due to the formation of pores in the digestive tract allowing naturally occurring enteric bacteria such as Enterobacter as well as E. coli to enter the circulatory system. The bacteria bind to the gut wall resulting in the insect to stop feeding. Thus, within hours, the gut wall breaks down the normal gut bacteria invades the body cavity. The pests die to septicaemia as the bacteria multiplies in the blood. Moreover, as Bt corn produces the insecticide within its tissue, the toxic proteins are protected from the sun and therefore persist longer as well as corn continually produces the toxin over a season which extends its protective effects.

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The are many benefits that come with genetically modifying food. Such as there is a higher level of hardiness therefore it is more resilient in difficult growing conditions, such as droughts and is able to withstand an infestation of weeds or plants. Also, a longer shelf life without preservative which allows farmers to sell there produce for longer periods of time as well the produce is able to be exported to other countries. Another main benefit is that vitamins and minerals can easily to added which ensures a well-rounded diet. By increasing the nutritional contents, it will contribute to helping alleviate world hunger. Also, by increasing the amount of yield on existing croplands it will increase the farmer’s profit as well as lowering the price of the food for the customers, improving the economic position of the country. Moreover, by designing the corn to become resistant towards pests, the amount of pesticide used is reduced which would improve both the soil quality as well as the surrounding water quality. Thus, offering both environmental and economic benefits to the farmers. Bt crops are highly effective at combating pests such as European corn borer, rootworm, corn earworm, tobacco budworm, and bollworm.

On the other hand, there are various negative aspects regarding modifying corn such as the higher costs associated with GE seeds are not always offset financially by lower production costs or higher yields. Farmers in area with fewer weeds and pest problems may not have much improvement in terms of reducing crop losses. However, farmers value the greater flexibility in pesticide spraying that GE crops provide and the increase safety for workers from less exposure to harmful pesticides. Another concern is that broad-scale planting of Bt corn will render the toxin ineffective over time. Pests can gradually build resistance to any pesticide, and so the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that 20% of Bt field areas be planted to non-Bt corn to avoid such pressures.

In the past, Bt has been sprayed on fields as an organic pesticide; several major pests of corn that are difficult and expensive to control with chemical insecticides are susceptible to BT. When sprayed on the surface of crops, however, Bt toxins break down quickly when exposed to ultraviolet light as well as they are washed off during strong rain. Thus, it was an expensive and insufficient method. To solve this problem, several varieties of corn have been genetically engineered to incorporate BT genes encoding proteins such as ‘delta-endotoxins’ and ‘vegetative insecticidal proteins’ which are specific to various insect pests.

Thus, it can be concluded through the analysis of both the positive and negative aspects of genetically modified corn, that it is recommended that we continue to produce genetically modified food as the positives outweigh the negatives. Moreover, the negatives can be overcome with future technologies such as gene editing. Therefore, corn should be modified to help improve both health and economy of our society.

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Should We Continue to Produce Genetically Modified Foods? Essay. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Should We Continue to Produce Genetically Modified Foods? Essay.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
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Should We Continue to Produce Genetically Modified Foods? Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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