GM crops have been augmented to resist extreme circumstances such as weather-resistant (frost) and pest resistant conditions. Each growing season, many vegetable crops are lost following assaults by pests, diseases, competing plants or damage due to inclement weather circumstances.
Therefore, GM crops can withstand these severe circumstances. An example is a crop that has been modified to endure a draught. This particular draught-resistant crop can be grown in regions susceptible to draught conditions. Indeed, it seems nonsensical that this would step-up the crop yield. GM crops can survive severe conditions as compared to native varieties that may take many generations of evolution to achieve the same level of resistance. A desirable benefit is that the food supply would be enlarged, thereby allowing more people to be fed. Since GM crops can withstand extreme conditions, there is little or no need for chemical interventions such as pesticides. Therefore the result of having trace amounts of chemical residues of insecticides in our food supply may likely be reduced (Ho).
When the application of chemical interventions such as pesticides is decreased, our environment becomes safer and closer to a natural order. Pesticides find their way into the local water supply. Despite cutting-edge water purification technology in civilized countries, the presence of pesticides is found in blood and urine samples of a given population exposed to this threat. By decreasing the use of pesticides through using GM crops, not only will the water supply be safer, so too will the general health of the population be improved (Ho).
Controlled maturation time is another benefit that may be realized from utilizing GM crops. Traditionally the growing season is dependent upon the place and the elements where the crop is grown, as well as subject to natural growing cycles of the crop itself. Through genetic engineering, a crop can be modified to reach maturity quicker, thereby reaching the market faster. Two benefits from that are an increased food supply, and less use of synthetic inputs (i.e. fertilizer) to obtain high yields (Frewer, Scholderer and Downs).
However, the use of GM foods has raised valid concerns that still not firmly established as true or untrue. Such as, the introduction of allergens and toxicity via gene to gene interaction by introducing GMO’s into the food supply.
A potential issue is the problem of modified crop genes ending up in the soil, perhaps creating a new strand of weed that would invade/displace the indigenous flora. The possible effect and less acceptable scenario of this require the weeds completely overtaking a farmer’s free agricultural land, thereby rendering it quite useless. The past benefits from not bearing the ill effects of chemical applications would be lost together with a farmer’s means of survival: agriculture. This issue could escalate from a local concern to a worldwide issue with an undesirable result being pandemic famine (Lal 95).
Additionally, an issue of note is the possible ethical troubles facing certain religions. Would the fact that a food crop has been modified with an gene of animal origin, what restrictions might apply for religions that have food taboos, such as eating pork, or being vegetarian? The Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim faith has restrictions against eating pigs and cows. This could be a potential problem. Indeed, even those of the Christian faith face ethical issues over genetically modifying an organism. The realm of the natural world should not be determined by mankind; this is the realm of the divine and part of God’s plan, which is unknowable and should remain so (Gertsberg).
GM foods are not inevitably bad or wrong or even evil. Though, allowing the growth of GM crops in farming for general population consumption, without appropriate scientific-based studies regarding potential effects, is not ultimately a good strategy. Dangers could potentially exist, and we need scientific verification before we embrace GMO’s carte blanche. Humans are not the only potential targets of bad effects of GMO’s; plants, animals, even entire ecosystems could be at risk. Biotech companies that have a strong lobbying presence in government, particularly the United States, do not put the public health issue first; rather, it is profits first, and this is a cause of great concern that should not be taken lightly. While there are benefits that are realized in the short term, we must take a long-term view and rigorously study the potential effects of GMO’s in the food supply and in the environment.