Posted: March 22nd, 2023

Food Insecurity and the GMOs Controversy

Food insecurity is a major problem affecting people locally and globally. Among the strategies recommended for addressing the problem is genetically modified foods. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are suggested as a means of increasing food production and, thus, addressing the issue of food insecurity. However, the proposed use of GMOs is a recommended strategy that has resulted in significant controversy among policymakers, experts, and even scholars. Clancy and Clancy suggest that there are major adverse effects of GMOs on human beings, the environment, and other organisms (280). On the contrary, supporters suggest that there is no better way to address the problem of food insecurity and hunger than using GMOs (Schmitz 3). It could be true that the use of GMOs can improve the situation of food insecurity, but not without dire consequences on human health and on the environment. However, the authors provide a perspective where GMOs can still be used, a situation that would overcome the detrimental side of the controversy.

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The fast development of biotechnology has made it possible for precise modifications of food materials, thus enhancing their productivity and yield and achieving the desired characteristics. The initiative has led to GMOs’ production and availability in the food market. The created organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, have had their DNA changed in an impossible manner through the natural mating process (Schmitz 3). An excellent example of GMOs is genetically modified tomatoes, commonly known as transgenic tomatoes. These horticultural products have had their genes modified using genetic engineering to produce desired characteristics such as greater yields and longer shelf life (Krimsky 884). Normal production of plants such as tomatoes (through the natural mating process) has led to the production of goods that have a shorter shelf life and therefore more losses for the farmers and the consumers in terms of the inability to meet the demands.  However, with GMOs, the case is different since the product can be controlled to deal with the problem of food insecurity.

According to Clancy and Clancy, despite the fact that the local communities might benefit from GMOs, the negative effects on human health and the environment are a major problem than should be considered (280). The possible hazards posed by these products tend to vary based on the kind of organism used for the modification and the intended use. Lantz suggests that genetic engineering entails the use of pesticides, chemicals, and a kind of monoculture farming that is toxic to humans and the environment (114). Naturally produced plants may as well yield toxins, but at levels that are not harmful to cause negative health effects. However, the production of GMOs has been surrounded by concerns that the levels of toxins that are produced could be dangerous.

The detrimental effects of GMOs on animals have been observed through various case studies. For instance, in an experiment carried out in 2006 where rats were made to consume herbicide resistance soya beans, the offspring born to the female rats had stunted effects, and about 50 percent of them died within three weeks of their birth (Clancy and Clancy 281). In addition, those rats that remained alive could later experience infertility. In 2007, reports were given in India of livestock dying mysteriously after they grazed on genetically engineered cotton plants (Lantz 121). Such effects negatively affect the lives of the animals as well as the individuals s who depend on them for livelihood. Additionally, there is a major possibility that some of the effects evident in animals can also affect those people who consume those plants that are genetically modified. 

The use of these kinds of industrial methods in food production has proven to be a major catalyst in the emission of greenhouse gases which have resulted in the related issue of climate change. In addition to this effect, GMOs and the related use of herbicides in the production of these crops can cause harm to birds, amphibians, insects, marine ecosystems, as well as soil organisms. The same impact will enhance a reduction in biodiversity, pollute water sources, and generally lead to unsustainable use of the environment. The influence on the environment includes the transformation of habitats, contamination, and the introduction of unnatural and strange species of plants and animals (Lantz122). Habitat change involves an alteration of ecosystems for purposes of the use of the land for agriculture. For instance, GMOs have been revealed to eliminate monarch butterflies’ habitat, with their populations being down by 50 percent in the United States. On the other hand, using herbicides has led to embryonic deaths, birth defects in amphibians, and endocrine disruptions, as well as damage to animal organs. The damage to the environment and the ecosystem, which has been important for the local community, is a major negative impact blamed on using GMOs.

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.  In fact, there is no existing evidence that would portray that there is an increased use of GMOs. According to Lantz, regardless of the excitement resulting from the possibility of achieving food security by using GMOs, few genetically modified characteristics have been able to materialize and come to the market (114). In fact, the only successful strains are “herbicide resistance and BT toxin expression” (Krimsky887). Additionally, genetic engineering costs more than its perceived benefits for the targeted local community. From the study carried out at IOWA, it was evident that GMO soybeans planted by the farmers were costly compared to what would have been used in the traditional methods of producing the same crop. The use of GMO technology could be more costly to the local community and especially considering that the process is coupled with health problems while its success is still questionable.

Regardless of the negative effects, GMOs have great potential to address the issues of food security in the world. Evidently, there is an increase in the production of genetically modified foods globally, an indication of this potential (see appendix 1). The genetically modified organism can host species with new characteristics, which could not be possible with traditional breeding. There are major benefits of producing such crops with desirable properties, among them, being resistance to crop diseases and higher yields. As such, insect-tolerant and herbicide-resistant crops have been produced, eradicating the need for costly prevention and treatment of diseases and pests. The fact that there have been successful productions of GMOs since the 1970s has allowed for successful testing of these crops, an initiative that shows that the technology can be applied successfully to save the world from the problem of food insecurity. There are also millions of hectares of commercial crop cultivation, which reveals these foods’ success. Hemphill and Banerjee provide evidence of the potential of genetically modified crops’ production (442).

Local communities affected by food security issues could greatly benefit from foods that produce more yields and take shorter periods to mature than foods that are produced naturally. According to Hemphill and Banerjee, the process of producing GMOs has been using seeds that are believed to have better quality compared to other traditional foods (442).

It is worth noting that the genetic modification of food emanated from ancient efforts to improve crop production. Schmitz suggests that genetic engineering is basically the process of extracting genes from organisms with specific favorable characteristics., The genes are then e injected into others entities to enhance the organisms’ characteristics or the developmental patterns of the second organism (5). The production of genetically engineered foods is based on the concept that the foods that are produced have the desirable characteristics, having been produced out of up-to-date molecular biology techniques.

Hemphill and Banerjee offer vital information on the necessity for effective testing allowing for the provision of the correct information on the content of the food products supplied to customers (445). In addition, Schmitz provides the limitations of the current testing methods, proposing the need to come up with more effective ones (7). With such restrictions, it is possible that some traces of genetically modified organisms can reach the market without being detected. Currently, new methods of analysis are being developed to enhance the potential for testing the products. These will address the current challenges in the testing of GMOs. However, more effective methods of testing are being researched to make the process more reliable, efficient, and accurate. 

Krimsky suggests the need for new approaches to deal with the challenges and handle the increasing amount and varieties of GMOs (891).  The researchers recommend statistical approaches of quantification, which are already being tested for use, especially those based on digital PCR. New-generation sequencing appears to be the way to go in addressing the issue and developing a standard and universal framework for adoption internationally. It is important to have an accurate quantification of GMOs’ contents. There is also a need for new methods for quantifying stacks and for possible organisms’ quantification in cases where new plant techniques are used for breeding.

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It is evident that local communities are greatly affected by the problem of food security and would benefit from the use of GMOs. However, adopting this technology would not be without severe effects on humans, the environment, and the general biodiversity. The foods should probably be made available to the market and allow the consumers to decide whether to buy them. However, such a question brings about the aspect of the law as required to protect the health and well-being of consumers. The necessity of respecting the consumers’ autonomy is prima facie, and other requirements are higher than this aspect. Besides the autonomy of the consumers, there are other factors to consider, including environmental values, the well-being of the consumers, and the decisions made by retailers, farmers, and other stakeholders. In essence, it means that the consumers’ choices are not the only factors that should be considered about the production and availability of GMOs in the market.


Works Cited

Kincaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 620-26.

Works Cited:

Clancy, Kelly A., and Benjamin Clancy. “Growing Monstrous Organisms: The Construction Of Anti-GMO Visual Rhetoric Through Digital Media.” Critical Studies In Media Communication vol. 33, no. 3,2016, pp. 279-292.

Hemphill, Thomas A., and Syagnik Banerjee. “Genetically Modified Organisms And The U. S. Retail Food Labeling Controversy: Consumer Perceptions, Regulation, And Public Policy.” Business & Society Review (00453609) vol. 120, no 3, 2015, pp. 435-464.

Krimsky, Sheldon. “An Illusory Consensus Behind GMO Health Assessment.” Science, Technology & Human Values vol. 40, no.6, 2015, pp. 883-914.

Lantz, Catherine. “Modified: Gmos And The Threat To Our Food, Our Land, Our Future.” Library Journal vol. 141, no.13 2016,pp. 113-119.

Schmitz, Andrew. “Controversies Over The Adoption Of Genetically Modi Ed Organisms: An Overview Of The Special Issue.” Journal Of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization vol. 2, no. 2, 2004,pp. 0-8.


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