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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are animals or plants whose DNA material has been altered to improve them using parameters such as resistance to disease, maturity period, yield during harvest, aesthetic qualities, or yield type. Although the scientific and business communities embrace these technological innovations, the rest of society remains apprehensive. Perhaps the recurrent reports of GMOs encouraging cancer and creating superbugs resistant to antibiotics are responsible for the apprehension. However, a good understanding of the impacts of GMOs using a holistic analysis is the best method. Considering the farm level, supply chain, consumer level, ethical, and environmental impacts of GMOs analytically best enables the global society to understand them.
The Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
The majority of GMOs are meant to enable agriculture stakeholders to improve their yields through better disease management and yield optimization. Much research on GMOs is focused on creating food and cash crops that are more resistant to disease and pests while yielding more significant outputs in a shorter period (Patra, 2015). Similarly, GMO farm animals are meant to mature faster, produce more eggs and milk, and better meats. Additionally, these animals are designed to require less medical intervention due to diseases and vectors such as ticks and mites. However, such medical disruption of the genetic material from which human beings feed has dire consequences related to cancer triggers, weight management, and resistance to antibiotics once the vectors in animals and plants are ingested.
Supply level effects of GMOs range from the higher quality farm and food products to more inferior supply chain management due to more resistance to diseases. Although improved agricultural practices as a result of GMOs might streamline the food supply chain for human beings, there are serious risks involved (Balkau & Sonnem, 2011). First, when a particular food or animal products become problematic, the improved global supply chain for food will spread these problems to more parts of the world, as was witnessed with avian flu and mad cow disease.
Fortunately, the value addition participants of food chains worldwide will benefit when GMOs improve their raw materials. Cost management in supply chains will ensure that more GMOs are cultivated. However, a severe concern exists regarding the effectiveness of such supply chains and the spreading of uncommon diseases and vectors.
At the consumer level, GMOs will cause a wide range of effects, both positive and negative. Positively, when GMOs improve the resistance of diseases among crops and farm animals, the planet acquires more food security. Additionally, GMOs’ ability to yield more during harvest and do so faster means additional food security for the growing global population (Pinkert, 2016).
Recent research reveals that aesthetic improvement using GMO technology enables consumers with eating problems to feed better. Improvements in food color, texture, and even aroma enable the general feeding or gastronomic experience to improve. However, should there be any health concerns related to GMOs, they could bring significant catastrophe upon the entire food chain. Already, cancers, irritable bowel syndrome, and even diabetes have been strongly linked to genetically modified food products.
GMOs will likely cause massive environmental changes. First, they will alter the natural order of many food chains based on resistance to diseases and vectors, early maturity, and bigger yields. Second, these organisms may affect environmental conservation efforts when more animals are cultivated due to higher resistance to diseases, increasing greenhouse gases such as methane (Patra, 2015).
More food production due to improved yields and earlier maturity after cultivations might increase human populations worldwide, placing more pressure on the already struggling environment. More food production means improved food supply chains that generate more waste in organic and non-organic materials such as plastics. These different forms of waste clog waterways and even get ingested by various marine and land-based wild animals. However, GMO-engineered corn has accelerated bioethanol production, which complements carbon footprint management in environmental conservation efforts.
One cannot discuss GMOs currently without dedicating ample time to the various ethical considerations involved. Although the scientific and business communities keep pressing for embracing the new technological innovation, bioethicists claim that the entire process contravenes moral ethics (Vermeersch, 2017). GMOs can rightly be considered as human beings playing God, where the fundamental building blocks of lifeforms become subject to experimentation and adjustment. Additionally, human and animal rights should be considered because everybody has a right to understand their food’s nature. Animals also have rights to full comfortable lives without significant interruptions such as genetic engineering altering their existence.
Since the first lamb was cloned decades ago, genetically engineered organisms have become the subject of intense debate and scrutiny. Although some countries like the United States are already utilizing these organisms in their industries and food chains, the subject still retains its debatable nature. However, a clear understanding of the environmental, consumer, ethical, supply chain-based, and farm-level implications of GMOs could enable the debate to end favorably. Although GMOs seem to be harmful creation of human ingenuity, continued innovation, and research is slowly changing the narrative to enhance human life, animal rights, environmental impacts, and the global food chain.
Balkau, F., & Sonnem, G. (2011). Addressing sustainability issues through enhanced supply-chain management. Supply Chain Management – New Perspectives. https://doi.org/10.5772/24579
Patra, S. (2015). Human, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Genetic Engineering. Journal of Biomedical Sciencies, 04(02). https://doi.org/10.4172/2254-609x.100014
Pinkert, C. (2016). Genetic engineering of farm mammals. Reproduction in Farm Animals, 318-330. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119265306.ch21
Vermeersch, E. (2017). Ethical aspects of genetic engineering. Biotechnology, Patents and Morality, 165-171. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315188805-8