Difficulties of genetically modified foods and recommendations for resolution

Difficulties of genetically modified foods and recommendations for resolution

 

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Abstract

Plant breeding is the foundation of modern agriculture and has existed for as long as farming. Scientists and farmers have relied on plant breeding to develop crops with superior qualities, such as drought tolerance and disease resistance, by exploiting the plants’ genetic variations. The growing demand for higher production and faster-growing produce has necessitated an increase in research and genetically modified food production. In the 1980s, scientists began intensive research into the possibility of transferring beneficial genes to crops of interest. By 1994, there was a breakthrough when Flavr Savr tomato was allowed into the market. The antisense gene for delayed ripening was successfully inserted into Flavr Savr tomatoes which made them last longer than conventional tomatoes. It was an achievement that marked the potential of genetically modified food.

Today, most of the scientific developments in GM food mainly focus on generating plants that resist herbicides. Even though there has been systematic development in the production of GM food, there has been massive resistance by organizations and individuals who believe that genetically modified food is unsafe for human consumption. This research uses data from various organizations that oppose GM food to explain why companies use biotechnology to transfer genes to other crops. Contrary to the opinion that GM food will help address food safety concerns and food security globally, our finding indicates that health concerns are a significant problem for this development.

 

  • Introduction

            1.1 Background

The Monsanto Company was an American corporation that functioned between 1901 and 2018 before Bayer purchased it. The company had made remarkable achievements in agrichemicals and biotechnology, making it a leading producer of GM crops. The company is also reputed as being a leader in the supply of seeds and herbicides. Its long history in improving crop characteristics enabled it to excel in producing and selling GM seeds around the world. Genetic modification occurs when genes from one organism are inserted into another organism. There are different names given to this process. Genetic modification and research on its safety are both long processes. This process begins with identifying the gene that is to be inserted into a crop which is then incorporated into the crop’s genetic element through the promoter gene. Finally, these genetic elements are inserted into the genome of the crop. Scientists state that this process takes close to 13 years.

Genetic modification has focused on plants but is projected to extend to animals and commercial use. Food insecurity and climate change have been the driving force in developing GM crops. Recently, crop production has declined and the situation has worsened because most crops are vulnerable to pests, weeds, and diseases. Scientists resorted to developing GM crops to mitigate the effects of climate change and food insecurity. Despite these outcomes, GM is faced with resistance that companies such as Bayer cannot overlook.     

            1.2 Purpose of the report

This report explains to Bayer why people are afraid of GM foods and offers suggestions to the company on how to address this concern. These concerns are often related to companies lacking evidence on the technology’s safety and efficiency. For example, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the insertion of genes does not make an organism less stable or lead to detrimental mutations. Furthermore, the duration of gene insertion impact is unknown. Lack of information future effects means that it is a challenging for a company to proclaim the timespan of the effects.  More findings reveal that most GM foods have not been ascertained to be entirely safe for human consumption. Therefore, this report illustrates to Bayer Company the nature and magnitude of challenges it will face whenever it is introducing genetically modified food into the market. Apart from sharing the challenges, this paper will also offer suggestions to the company based on the findings.

1.3 Problems that motivated report

There have been many legislations and lawsuits filed against the company concerning the development of GM crops. Some of these cases have been a stumbling block to some of the progress made in developing more GM seeds. The company spends an enormous amount of money to settle the issues, which results in losses for the organization. This report was motivated by several concerns that have ended up being highly contested court processes.

 

  • Discussion

            2.1 Research findings

The following were the founding of this report. Firstly, there is a potential transfer of allergy causing genes. As much as the transfer of genes could be safely transmitted in the target crop, some scientists are concerned that these genes could be transferred to unintended crops, thus harming humans (Aggarwal, Phansal & Sarath, 2020). The process of transferring genetic material is rigorous and extensive. Therefore, avoiding mistakes is difficult and studies lack evidence that genes cannot end up in another untargeted crop following the modification. This makes it difficult to trace the transfer of allergenic genes to humans upon consumption. One example of this is the transfer of the allergenic Brazilian-nut gene which transferred in transgenic soybean variety.

More people are becoming aware of food allergens due to the mass sensitization of the matter. The concern about this problem is connected to biotechnology that generates GM crops. This study found that Atopic reactions that occur as hives and other skin reactions are the primary allergenic responses which can result in death. More people fear allergies in GM crops so much so that some countries in Africa have rejected food assistance despite Americans consuming the same food without reported side effects.

Secondly, unintended incorporation of GM in the food chain is a major issue. As stated earlier, genetically modified food should only be used in areas that have been tested to be safe. However, these products may extend beyond their intended purpose. It is reported that there are incidents where the products end up in the food chain (Clark & Maselko, 2020). A good case is GM maize called Starlink which ended up in human food unintentionally. This incident was not the first time Bt corns were eaten. However, the means through which StarLink got introduced into the market was outright illegal, as this research was discovered. The product was intended for animal consumption as feeds, not food for humans. Although the United States Environmental protection Agency considered the product as a potential allergy to humans, this conclusion lacked substantive evidence. StarLink had protein elements reported to have slower digestion times which was a concern to the critics. This study also found that the food had to be consumed for an extended period to become allergic. Even though some people had consumed StarLink, the quantity was not enough to cause any harm.

The last problem that our study found is that GM leads to the transfer of antibiotic resistance. Scientists often add resistant genes to help distinguish GM plants from other plants (Government of Netherlands Website, 2020). The problem with this process is that later, the plants’ genes may find a way into the soil bacteria or a person’s digestive system upon consumption. Therefore, it is argued that the bacteria that receive these genes may develop resistance. Due to this transfer of genes into harmful bacteria, humans may become too vulnerable and less resistant to bacteria. According to the Centre for Disease Control in the United States alone, close to 3 million antibiotic infections happen annually, and around 35,000 people die as a result (Thorpe, Joski & Johnston, 2018). There is no documentation on GM’s input on this number but is it worth worrying about and preventing. This finding indicates that health concern is a significant challenge for a GM food producer.

2.2 Criteria upon which the recommended solution will be based

This document would like to highlight the following recommendations. First, whenever Bayer releases a GM crop, it should also provide the public with sufficient information on how it meets safety standards. Data do not just allow scientists to understand their initiatives but also boost customer satisfaction (Maru et al., 2018). Providing more data on both the success in inserting genes and their safety when consumed by humans is vital in addressing the concerns that critics raise. Bayer needs to ensure that before they release GM foods, they have carried out public awareness and education on the product by sharing more facts regarding the food crop (Jones et al., 2019). Consumers may not be concerned about biotechnology’s success but rather its impact on their lives. Like in medicine, the information regarding the test results is more important than the development processes’ data. For this reason, Bayer should take more time testing and releasing information on the possibility of consuming GM food safely. Without adequate data on this possibility, any success will always face fierce criticisms by other organizations who also lack data to back their claim.

Another recommendation is strict processing controls. There is a need to have strict measures to avoid accidental release of unauthorized food into the market. GM is a technology that faces strong criticism, which calls for the company to have stringent standards that curb mistakes. When StarLink was accidentally released, the US Food and Drug Administration (Grossman, 2016) received more than 30 cases of conserved people whose bodies had adverse reactions upon consuming the corn. Seven of the patients were investigated. Lawsuits can be detrimental to a company’s reputation when negligence cases are proven to have harmed human health. For this reason, this paper recommends that strict measures should be taken when releasing GM products, especially those that are not intended for human consumption. Preventing accidental release has an economic value as well as safety advantages.

This article also recommends the use of alternative markers to avoid developing resistant bacteria. Nothing can cause a health crisis more than a human having inefficient antibodies. Even as Bayer creates resistance to weeds through genetic modification, there is a need to ensure that its environmental and health impact is well checked. Using alternative markers for the genes inserted in another crop can help prevent bacterial resistance. In this case, the effectiveness of the model is critical, making this suggestion. As stated above, once genes have been transferred into a plant, bacteria can pick such genes for mutation. These bacteria can then develop resistance to antibodies when they end up in human bodies.

2.3 Analysis of data against criteria

This paper was to establish health challenges that GM companies like Bayer face and offer suggestions on how to solve the problems. Even before Bayer bought Monsanto company, it has been involved in very high-profile cases; in some of these cases, the company was the plaintiff, while in others, it was the defendant. Most of the time, the company was the plaintiff; it involved GM crops. Since the 1990s, the company has had more than 147 cases and only won 11 against farmers. After it was acquired by not its mother company Bayer, the concerns have still been raised on biotechnology implications to human health. Even though some of these complaints are genuine and backed by vital evidence, most of the cases cannot stand the basic scientific test, which makes GM a critical venture (Yaneff, 2020). Even though the company loses a few of these cases, they often result in extensive damages with the company losing a lot of money in the process.

Even as this paper made the general recommendation that more information needs to be made public, Bayer must create awareness of GM crops’ significance and safety. There should be public trust in the process while the company releases GM crops. Farmers need these seeds for commercial advantages such as reduced production cost and resistance to pests and disease. However, there should not be a rush in releasing the product if its health implications have not been assessed. This technology has faced strong resistance in third-world countries, mainly due to wrong technology perceptions. Lack of public education can be resolved through rigorous awareness campaigns highlighting the achievements and decimate misinformation about GM food.

 

  • Conclusion

To sum up, biotechnology is a modern development that faces criticism that can be resolved through extensive research. Some of the contemporary farming challenges, such as weed control and production cost in general, are being addressed through biotechnology. Lack of public awareness and education on GM food is the main challenge in this innovation. For Bayer to avoid these challenges, it needs to restrain from food that may be harmful to people. Most of the lawsuits against the company are related to health complications and death caused by unsafe food. Avoiding releasing such food will help rebuild the reputation of the company that GM food has been tarnishing. After putting a halt on foods that causes harm, another step would be to conduct public awareness of GM food. Education is lacking among most people on the contribution of certified GM products. Creating awareness of GM food is a recommendation of this paper to make more people knowledgeable. In other words, without GM foods that cause death and with intensive public awareness on the products, the company can avoid lawsuits and promote healthy living.

A way to follow my recommendation would be to have a PR team dedicated to sharing the testing done on GM food safety. They can release short advertisements and create labels with small information for the public to read. Furthermore, Bayer could build partnerships with local farmers and create educational campaigns to educate the public on how Bayer is approaching health concerns of GM foods. These actions will build trust between the company and the public.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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