Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why our species might depend on GMO.

This is the second, and concluding piece on GMOs.  The first can be found here.  In this article I want to point out what is and what is not good ideas for GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

A prime example of the success of GMOs can be seen in various experiments conducted with a group of fish known colloquially as Tilapia.  Due to an ever increasing population, some tried to shape the fish to meet  the demands.  Certain genetically modified Tilapias were released into West African lakes to counter the ever increasing decline in catch.  These fish grow faster and reach sexual maturity at a younger age, allowing for them to contiue their line while adapting to the increase in human population.

In a way, this is a perfect way to show what we can do with GMOs.  It allows us to modify various features though the process of hindering or reinforcing the expression of certain proteins This can lead to all kinds of issues if one were to intentionally mix genes together with the sole purpose of creating some sort of super organism that could survive in nearly any environment.  It seems most of the fears surrounding such 'Franken-foods' are just this, which is nothing more than the howling of those who are mad at corporations that want to exploit their customers as much as possible.

There may come a time, in the not to distant future that we as a collective species have to use GMOs for our very survival.  With GMOs we can engineer a plant to produce food items in the amounts needed and at the nutrient densities that are vital for everyone's health.   Not only this but we can create organisms that are naturally resistant to all kinds of stressors.  Stressors such as fungi, insects, competing or parasitic plants, or even viruses.

They can be modified to thrive in differing environments.  This will open up wide areas of otherwise unusable land to be used for crop production.  It will also increase the production per acre per

By creating such organisms, we will have to use less fertilizers, herbivicides and pedsticideds.  This, oddly enough, actually makes these organisms safer.  The irony can be found when organic growing practices can actually lead to fewer crops, both in size in nutrient grade.  Not only this, but they still require all of the old treatment that all other plant strains require.

Some have made the argument that bits of the new genes could get out of the crops and into human cells causing harm.  Besides being a rather silly idea (how likely is it that you take on the DNA of the corn you ate last night?), it is based on rather felonious sciences.  It uses the fears of the average person who, rather often, does not know how to go about researching such concepts.  While there might be some gene swapping amongst our gut bacteria, if they take up any of this new, modified DNA, it wouldn't be any different than if they took up some of the DNA from non-modified.  It is not as if the modified has bits of metal sticking out of it, it is just a natural genetic code, just spelled out right.

As more and more strains of diseases and parasites become  more resistant to traditional chemicals.  As mores species of plant form immunity to herbicide and species of insect form resistance to insecticides; what  are we to do?   We could always do as previous generations have done and hope for newer and more potent toxins.  Or we could look to nature for hopes in finding better evolved resistances to use.  Perhaps we can even start to adapt specises to our specifiying needs.

These specifications can come in organisms with more nutrients in them.  They could be organisms that are better adapted to their environment, after taking into account modern humanities affects.  While it is possible for such organisms to escape and start our breeding natural species, there is a safety net for this as well, just make all the organisms sterile.  A practice that has actually worked to the advantage of companies such as Monsanto where they have to sell their seeds back each year.

With an environment that is bound to change, either by our own hand or through the slow machinations of the wandering tectonic plates. The environment will change.  Not only that, but the organisms surrounding it will continue to evolve and compete with our 'domestic' strains.   So if we hope to feed the ever growing masses, we must stand behind GMOs, when used right, to better the living condition of millions.  If ever such things come to be a problem, you will know that these very scientists will be the first to admit it and the first to figure out how to counter the situation.
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