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Genetically modified crops (GM crops, GM food, or GMOs for short) are plants that have had modified DNA, usually to confer resistance to pesticides, increase the amount of nutrients, or other modifications to make food better. It's a lot like that time we put a glow-in-the-dark gene in bacteria. Remember that lab? That was a fun lab, wasn't it?

Sociological Perspective

In the public sphere, genetically modified food is frequently viewed as potentially unhealthy, although properly engineered and properly grown GM crops should be perfectly safe to eat. Many concerns are also voiced about whether or not GM food should have to be labeled as such, or if they should be lumped in with the naturally grown fruit. Opponents of GM food often label these crops as "Frankenfood".
Surveys in Great Britain have found that only 2% of the people there are willing to eat genetically modified food, and more than half think these crops should be banned altogether from being sold.

Scientific Perspective:

  • GM plants are created by cloning certain genes that confer resistance to pesticides, allow the plant to produce its own insecticides, change the amount of vitamins/minerals in the plant, etc. and inserting these genes into the genome of a seed to allow the plant that grows out of that seed to have that phenotype.

  • These genes are taken from bacteria or other plants.

  • GM plants are safe to eat, have been thoroughly tested, and theoretically should not be open to controversy.

Legal Perspective:

·New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries
· Labeling is not mandatory in some countries
· Countries should conduct detailed assessments of the risks of GM crops
· Safety testing should result in the perceived benefits outweighing the perceived and hidden costs of development.
· Not individually regulated by states
· Problems arise when GM crops are grown in one country, and sold in another

Discussion Questions:
  1. If you had an ear of normal corn and a genetically modified ear of corn with more nutrients in it, which would you eat?
  2. Let's say you were starving, you haven't eaten for days, the only food you have is a bag of genetically grown and modified tomatoes, but you don't know how they were modified. Would you eat them?
  3. Should Genetically Modified crops be used to supply nutrients to poverty stricken countries?
  4. Would you separate genetically modified crops from normally grown crops in a super market?
  5. What is your point of view based on what you have heard about Genetically modified crops?

When asked "Would you eat GM crops?", our class had a 1:4 ratio of no to yes. 1 out of every 5 students in the class would not eat GM crops. What about now?...

In Conclusion: GM Crops are not dangerous, if grown properly. Most of the controversy over them is due to the "what if"s of the crops. If tested properly, and sold with clear labeling and understanding of the how's and why's of GM Crops, the crops can become very beneficial.

Reviewed Sources:

Website URL: http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php
Name of Reviewer: David D.
Date of Review: 5/20/08
Review of Site: The article "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" written by Deborah B. Whitman, is a strong, factual piece. Written in April 2000, this site is comparatively old, but it stills gives accurate facts. The article is written from a scientific standpoint and gives political and institutional biases. It gives an in-depth analysis to GM foods and greatly informs the reader. I would recommend this site for people researching Genetically Modified Foods.

Website URL: http://www.foei.org/en/publications
Name of Reviewer: Chiraag Nataraj
Date of Review: 5/27/08
Review of Site: The Friends of the Earth International has created this website. The publication I used was published in January 2008 and is fairly recent. The institution is heavily biased against the use of pesticides and this might have affected its point of view of GMP. The publications are mostly fact and are very in-depth. The publications are published in order to inform the reader about the topic. I would definitely recommend this site because of its trustworthiness and updated info.

Website URL: http://www.bioethics.net/articles.php?viewCat=2&articleId=92
Name of Reviewer: David Boldin
Date of Review: 5/27/08
Review of Site: "Are genetically modified foods fit for a dog?" is an article by Arthur L. Caplan on May 25, 2000. This opinion piece gives an overview of public opinions of genetically modified food in Europe, and argues that despite the controversy, properly grown GM food could be perfectly safe. Despite being an opinion piece, this article does provide a good perspective of both sides of the issue, and its view in the public mind, and so I would recommend it.

Website URL: http://www.sirc.org/articles/rice_dilemma.shtml
Name of Reviewer: Jeff Binner
Date of Review: 5/27/08
Review of Site: The institute responsible for this web site is the Social Issues Research Centre. The page does not have a record of when it was last updated. The article is an in depth analysis that deals with the political and moral dilemma with Golden Rice. It reviews and informs people on the situation dealing with Vitamin A induced rice to help reduce the amount of blindness in third world countries. The rice was created by a company known as the Rockefeller Foundation. It has been causing an uproar with anti-GM food organizations such as Greenpeace. The Rockefeller foundation makes points to back up Golden rice, such as the increase in Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene, and Greenpeace fights back by saying the increase does not help.

Other sources: