Throughout this past semester many important ecological dilemmas have come to my attention. The most striking environmental issue that I have noted this semester has been agricultural Biotechnology. A reputable definition of Biotechnology would be the means or way of manipulating life forms (organisms) to provide desirable products for man's use(www.biotechknowledge.com). Scientists are pleased due to the arrival of biotechnology, believing that it will replace original, conventional breeding methods. After all, it seems like it is a smarter, less expensive way to grow our worlds food supply. But lets note that this scientific practice is really not that new. The word biotechnology was introduced in 1919 by a scientist by the name of Karl Ereky in showing mans interaction with biology using modern technology. But, Biotechnology in its agricultural aspects is only one of the many fields of this study. Some other areas in this study are: recombinant DNA, rDNA or gene splicing, enzyme systems, meristem culture, mammalian cell culture, immunology, molecular biology, fermentation, and others. But, humans are beginning to see the not so perfect traits of biotechnology, and even recognizing it as a type of biological pollution(Nill, 03).
Biological pollution, as viewed by Michael Pollan, can even be seen as a disease(Pollan, 186). There are many reasons why we should stick to our conventional ways of growing food, these reasons are because biotechnology is producing effects that are unfavorable to the health of humans and of our ecosystems. Using the biotech way, we could be putting ourselves at risk of numerous health problems. With conventional breeding methods, pesticides were sprayed on the outside of the fruit, where they can be easily washed off. But, biotech foods are not that easily rid of chemicals. When the pesticide is placed inside a fruits DNA makeup, it literally becomes part of the fruit. You cannot wash this away. Potato grower Pollan reported that in the Grower Guide also brought news that my potato plants were themselves a pesticide, registered with the Environmental Protection Agency(Pollan, 184). Would you honestly eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable that can kill all insects on contact? We are not talking about something with just a waxy film on the outside; it is actually containing a chemical that itself can kill life. Conventional breeding methods would allow washing the fruit four times to be safe, but this is not an option for Biotechnology.
Biotechnology is not only bad for our health, but it is also capable of really messing up our ecosystems. We are ready to plant fields of vegetables that can wipe out an entire species of insect in a designated area. Insect-fighting capabilities of Biotechnology are even seen to be futile in the future. The insects will have built a resistance in time and this is only money out of farmers pockets. It cannot completely wipe out all the bugs anyway, because bugs are really responsible for the process of pollination. No pollination would mean no flowers, no flowers would lead to fruit, that would bear seeds to start off a whole new generation of plants. It also brings up another issue. Just what if some bugs managed to make it, and then started spreading around pollen from plants that are resistant to bugs. We will end up crossing the wrong bugs together, and they could soon develop a resistance to the Bt chemical.The theory is that when a Bt-resistant bug does show up, it can be induced to mate with a susceptible bug from the refuge, thus diluting the new gene for resistance, (Pollan, 187). This means that if we have a bunch of super bugs flying around, they will be immune to even crops that dont use biotechnology, they will be immune to the organic ones that just use Bt sprays.
Besides all the immediate, obvious threats, let us not forget the fact that the government is and has been trying to hide the fact that Bt products are already being sold. You would figure that in the land of the free we would have the freedom of choice. How do we know if this Bt stuff is safe, and if it is so safe, then why arent we told which are Bt products and which ones arent?
But one should not be biased in their convictions, so let us consider the views of Biotechnology. Many people in the world today hold this optimistic view of Biotechnology. With our world growing rapidly and the populations rising to unimaginable heights, new ideas of ways to accommodate our needs should be thought of. However, we should, at the same time, not use up all of our earths resources. With the advent of biotechnology, agriculture is entering the information age (Pollan, 183). So, we have started recycling programs, ways of preserving energy, and now we have pretty much tackled this endeavor called Biotechnology. It allows us to grow foods that are able to protect themselves from pesky bugs, while at the same time producing more and better-qualified food. With biotechnology, the possibilities and its benefits over rule anything that is considered negative about it. It may be the method of farming that can save our world from starvation in future.
Instead of using this costly and inefficient way of farming involving the saturation of plants, daily, with loads of pesticides and herbicides, these Bt plants are designed to be a lot smarter than that. These plants have the actual pesticide genetically inserted into their DNA makeup. This way, plants can defend themselves from beetles and other destructive bugs that have wiped out complete crops in the past. Biotechnology has been described by professionals as part of a new agricultural paradigm that will make farming more sustainable, feed the world and improve health and nutrition (Pollan, 183). Most farmers know how expensive continual sprayings of chemicals become, and also how bad they can be for our environment. Pesticides eventually leach into our soils and contaminate water supplies with nitrates and other chemicals that are harmful to any living things health. Insects have been ruining crops for hundreds of years, and continue to in our century as being a really big problem in crop production. Bt fruits and vegetables are able to fight off these insects, and stay healthy right down to the day that they are served on your dinner table.
I know what you must be thinking, if Bt pesticides are so detrimental to health when sprayed, then how are pesticides any better when they are inside the vegetable or fruit? The answer is that these biologically engineered foods are in fact, very safe. EPA designates Messenger a type of biologically engineered chemical as a Toxicity Category IV product, a designation reserved for materials with the lowest hazard potential, (www.edenbio.com). The EPA declared them safe to eat, so Bt products are not labeled as products using a Bt pesticide in them. Anyway, this toxin made in the genetically engineered potatoes, and many other biotech plants, is the same insecticide farmers have relied on for years, only externally. Tests have been prepared and this research has shown that on humans, Bt products have no evidence of any sort of allergy or hypersensitivity.
Another reason why we should continue using biotechnology is because we have actually been consuming these products all along. Food utilizing this method of farming has been on our grocery shelves for quite some time now. The EPA doesnt consider these products as actual pesticides, but simply as additives to the original food. Additives are not harmful, so why should we worry? If the agency that is designed to find inconsistencies in food is supporting biotechnology, then it should definitely be considered safe.
As you can see, we have a lot of thinking to do when it considers our future environment. We simply cannot use up all the nutrients in our soil until it all goes sour, and we certainly cannot pollute our earths resources with pesticides and other chemicals that we use to grow our food. After all, the earth is the one place that provides us with food, so we really cannot harm it for the sake of growing food. We might wake up one day with an earth that is too polluted to grow food in. So I really believe that biotechnology is good for many reasons. We will no longer be polluting our soil and water, and in the end, we will have stronger and healthier plants. We will also have a much more abundant supply of food that we can share with many third world countries that cannot even yield as much food as we do now already. So, when planning the future, we should consider the benefits of biotechnology!
1. Nill, Kimball. (2000). Glossary of Biotechnology Terms. New York: Technomic Publishing, Inc.
2. Online. Biotechnology. Http//www.biotechknowledge.com
3. Online. Edens Harpin Technology. Http//www.edenbio.com
4. Pollan, Michael. (2000). Fried, Mashed or Zapped with DNA. Perspectives on Agriculture and the Environment, 183-196.