“Everything had a misconception like most people

“Everything is achievable through technology,” said Howard Stark in the movie Iron Man. Not everything has been achievable yet, but at least we are living in the world where it is possible to modify particular DNAs in plants in order to make them resistant to climate changes, insects, or herbicide or to enhance their nutritions and flavors. This has brought positive implications on our society but also numerous controversies and debates. I, too, had a misconception like most people do until I read one article pointing out ? criticizing ? baseless rumors about GMO. I did a brief research and figured out that a lot of anti-GMO claims were exaggerated and even groundless sometimes. Advanced science that is closely related to our food consumption is considered as one of important social issues, I wanted to learn pros and cons and resolve some misunderstandings through the research as a brief fact ascertainment. First of all, what is GMO? GMO is the abbreviation for genetically modified organism. According to the definition from Dictionary.com, a GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is relatively recent technique in science field. Halford explains a brief history of genetic engineering in his book Genetically Modified Crops (2nd Edition), saying that studies in DNA became active from 1950s as Watson and Crick described of the structure of DNA (23). Then, the two men named Bernard Weiss and Charles Richardson from Johns Hopkins University succeeded in “isolating DNA ligase that attaches two ends of DNA together” in 1966 (Halford 23). Plant engineering became possible around 1970s as “Paul Berg at Stanford constructed a DNA molecule by cutting viral and bacterial DNA molecules… and then recombining them in 1972” (Halford 23-4). Genetic engineering in plants has been developing rapidly since then until now, influencing in many different ways near us. Not a lot of people are aware of the fact we eat food that is made of genetically modified crops or food much more than we think we do so. International Service for the Acquisition of  Agri-Biotech Applications has published the recent statistics; in the year of 2016, about 90% of canola, 92% of corn, 93% of cotton, and 94% of soybean that are produced in the United States were genetically modified (ISAAA 3-7). The table of GM crop areas in countries growing GM crops commercially in 2009 from the book Genetically Modified Crops (2nd Edition), the United States was the largest producer of GM crops as the area is about 64 million hectares; Brazil took the second place as of 21.4 million hectares (Halford 54). According to the 2016 ISAAA report, it has been increased to 72.9 million hectares for the United States and to 49.1 million hectares for Brazil (4). “The GM crop area in the United States of 73 million hectares is 39% of the global GM area” (ISAAA 6). This statistic conveys that Americans are more likely to consume GMO than people in any other countries do. Many statistics demonstrates that plant breeding without transgenic technologies has been successful “over the last century” (Halford 51). Then, why do we research and develop GMO non stop? Why has the area of cultivating GM crops been increasing steadily? The answer is simple: genetic modification enables us to do things that other techniques would never be able to accomplish. It would not be able to “replace older techniques in plant breeding”, but it definitely has a lot of advantages that other techniques cannot offer (51). The book Genetically Engineered Crops: Biotechnology, Biosafety, and Benefits written by Lindsay Grover explains how we use genetic engineering on plants. First, crops are modified to be resistant to fungi, bacteria, or virus by “reinforcing the structural defenses in the plant” (12) and “re-deploying DNA/RNA sequences of viral origin” (16). Pest control with pesticide and weed control with herbicide are also the most difficult and burdensome part for farmers since they have to choose the right time and the right amount to spray to eliminate just harmful factors. If they do not, the crops can be damaged by the strong chemical pesticide or herbicide. Insect resistant crops and herbicide resistant crops are invented to prevent that. Moreover, fruits’ ripening or softening can be delayed by modification. Here is what Halford explains about why we need slow-ripening:The problem for growers and retailers is that ripening is followed sometimes quite rapidly by deterioration and decay and the  product  becomes  worthless.  Fruits  are, therefore, usually picked and transported when they are unripe… However,  fruit  that  is  picked before it is ripe has less flavor than fruit picked ripe from the vine. (Grover 55)There are also nutritionally enhanced crops, enriching fatty acids, proteins, vitamin A, vitamin C, or vitamin D that are essential to human bodies (Grover 25-8). These inventive techniques help us to save unimaginably massive amount of crops and make it possible to distribute crops with better quality and quantity and to step forward to a better world. Scientists and researchers are also making an effort to solve other social problems such as global warming by developing plants that can absorb carbon dioxide in the air. If GMO has been influencing our society in good ways, why are people so skeptical about it? It is because there are possibilities of future side effects. Anti-GMO activists believe that “herbicide tolerance in GM crops could ‘flow’ into wild species” and cause a new specie of weed with “imparted herbicide tolerance” which is so-called superweed (Halford 146). There are other concerns, such as ground contamination or wild specie mutation as Liang and Skinner propose in the book Genetically Modified Crops: Their Development, Uses, and Risks (354-9). Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) states that “there is no evidence that gene transfer is a major factor of in the development of herbicide resistance… weeds have exhibited resistance to many types of herbicides” even before GMO were introduced for more than 40 years (Dispelling Common Misconceptions about Superweeds). Moreover, one of the most controversial claims that anti-GMO activists have is that consuming GMO causes diseases and that health problems increased after GMOs were introduced. Health problems did increase than the past, but this is not necessarily because of GMO. Not only how to diagnose or define a disease has been changing and getting very detailed day by day but also there are bound to be many different factors that could give a negative impact on health as time passes: easier access to different kinds of drugs and alcohols and other environmental issues like air or water pollutions due to factories’ waste disposal. The claims of anti-GMO activists can be surely considered as reasonable; however, there are no officially reported cases of severe allergies, cancers, or viral infections on humans that are intimately related with distributed genetically modified . In Statement by the AAAS Board of Directors On Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods, AAAS has announced:The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: Consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM genetically modified crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques. As Liang and Skinner state in their book with the reference to the U.S. FDA publication, “two-thirds of the processed foods in U.S. supermarkets contain genetically engineered corn, soybeans, or other crops,” and it is anticipated that food processed with GM crops would take a significantly big portion of food market in the foreseeable future (356). Scientists and researchers must continue careful and cautious study on GMO and invigorate informing people about GMO so that people can trust and know exactly what they are consuming.

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