Transgenics - The good, the bad, or the ugly?
The ability to "snip out" some genes and alter or relocate them makes it possible to create(or inflict) some other species with certain different qualities from other species. It is a new science and is often a hit-and- miss affair. Tomatoes have been one of the first and most frequently altered (genetically) things. Some tomatoes have been given genes from cold-water fish to help them survive very cold weather. Some have had genes "deleted" to stop rotting by creating stronger cell walls. This new science is indeed fascinating, but what sort of implications does it have? Factors such as these two have huge implications. They will make tomato growing, transport and storage cheaper, Imagine the increased ease and profit, and decreased man/machine power if everything ripened exactly on a specific day. If nothing ever rotted expensive packing and refrigeration wouldn't be needed. Lettuce, walnuts, squash, cucumbers, melons, grapes, wheat, coffee, celery, carrots, strawberries, broccoli, canola oil, bananas. asparagus and apples are some other foods that are being genetically engineered.
Here is an example of actual engineered product, and what they contain to product a "better" food.Tomato juice with flounder(fish) genes,
The consumer could have some problems however. Allergic reactions could be triggered from food a person wouldn't usually be allergic to. For example, some fruits could have genes from another plant or vegetable that you would normally be allergic to. As for vegetarians, they could be eating a potato with chicken genes inside and never know it. Human growth genes have been proven to be an excellent way to get leaner fish and livestock, so will we be cannibals by eating them? In the US, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) is refusing to order labeling of gene-spliced foods, so the consumer will never know what he/she is eating. Some people feel so strongly about this "new" food that they have started crusades against these "Frankenfoods". The Pure Foods Campaign is one such crusade, and among other things they have signed up 1500 chefs, who pledged never to serve "Frankenfoods" in their restaurants. The FDA have admitted the following points about "Frankenfoods":
1)Gene splicing may inadvertently add new poisons into food;
2)The food's nutritional quality may be diminished and its chemical composition may be changed;
3)There may be allergic reactions;
4)Antibiotic-resistant genes that are used as part of the gene-splicing process may diminish the effectiveness of some antibiotics for people who eat transgenic foods.
Yet they continue to do nothing to restrain the selling of it. Transgenics has huge advantages for the ranching, dairy, crop and fish farm industries, as they could be increasing the amount produced while decreasing inputs such as food, pesticides, and storage.
Genetic codes are so huge and complex that no one can possibly predict exactly what the effects would be, by adding new genes into any organism. Foods containing genes from other organisms are being sold in shops, but scientists are worried that these food haven't been properly tested, and so pose a threat to its consumers. A genetically engineered food supplement called Tryptophan killed 37 people and left 1500 others permanently disabled. One of the scariest facts, is that genetic mistakes can never be repaired. Once defective or undesirable organisms are introduced, their genetic code will be passed on through the generations, without limit. We can't even begin to imagine what this could mean, so we must act now; before it is too late.
Some farmers want to/have created crops which are resistant to herbicide(by genetic engineering),which allows farmers to spray large amounts of herbicide without damaging crops. This would obviously seem like a favorable thing to have, but the end result is large amounts of toxins in food, soil, water, animals and plants; reduced soil fertility, and any other genetic side effects. This is a huge price to pay, and plainly doesn't make sense. This has been practiced with Soybeans and Canola Oil.
Others farmers have genetically engineered an "insect virus", which they inject into their vegetables to kill "pests". One of these was made my inserting a gene from scorpion toxin, into an insect virus – creating a lethal toxin. This may sound like a great idea, but when other animals eat the dying insects they too die, and pollinating insects will also die. This new virus is harmful to humans, especially through open sores and cuts. If a human virus somehow acquired the scorpion toxin gene, it could gain a genetic advantage, and become a threat to humans.
Other crops which have insect resistant potatoes, have been genetically engineered to contain their own pesticides. The potatoes have a bacterial gene which creates a toxin in the potato to kill insects. This means that the farmers don't have to spray them with insecticides - making production cheaper and easier. Apparently when mammals eat the potatoes, the toxin becomes deactivated in the acidic environment of the stomach. They "proved" this by feeding them to rats and mice - which showed no immediate side-effects. But no long-term tests have been carried out, and if there are any slow side effects, then we would never know about them until we actually realized the damage that was done. By then it could be too late. Besides, some people use ulcer medications or antacids that reduce stomach acidity – so the toxin would have full effect on them.
A slightly different use of viruses in crops, is to make wild animals immune to disease. Genes from the rabies virus have been put into tomatoes, to provide a cheap and easy mass vaccine. The theory is that when wild animals eat the tomatoes they will become immunized against rabies. A good idea? A process called genetic recombination is the ability for these new viral genes, to join wild viruses in plants or animals. This combination of the two virus codes could produce a super virus, which could kill animals, crops, and people - it would be a brand new virus, and nothing would be immune to it.
Some rabbits are engineered to produce human growth hormone, and others have been altered to perform other functions. If one of these transgenic animals where to escape and breed with wild animals, who knows that the result would be? A super bunny? The human gene metalothienen has been spliced into plants, creating plants which remove pollution from the soil. This is an excellent idea, and has could clean up the earth a lot. However this gene also acts like a cancer gene, and scientists are worried about releasing this gene into the environment. More testing will have to be done.
Most transgenic foods sold in shops, are not labeled as being engineered. In Canada, surveys have shown the 83-94% of people want these foods labeled. However the current law, doesn't require these foods to be specially labeled, thus companies don't. If they did, their sales would most certainly fall.
Genetic engineering is extremely scary. A person that wants to grow their own "healthy" food from seeds, instead of eating transgenic food; would have huge problems. The seeds at the shops are mostly transgenic, with all sorts of added "features". Where would such a person obtain some pure seeds? What will happen when there are NO more un-altered seeds? Then we are at the mercy of the scientists. We are all guinea pigs in the global experiment on our food supply. Act now before it is too late.