The Future of Food Essay

The Future of Food

            Like other resources that human beings consume, such as water, wood, oil, etc., food is also considered as a finite source. That is, sources of food that meet one of the most basic needs of human beings, are in danger of running scarce if human activities are not controlled to preserve them or if not, to establish various means by which food production might be improved and developed to solve issues of food shortage and such. Perhaps the dwindling sources of food have motivated the goal and objective of looking into the future of food sources and by considering various means by which it is to be structured or designed to avoid food shortage.

            Another motivation might be the prevalence of lifestyle diseases that are major causes of serious illnesses and deaths brought about by various food products that do not meet the nutritional needs of human beings. These two primary reasons constitute the views of how food and food production are to be approached or handled in order to address problems or concerns that surround it. For these reasons, the remainder of the text will look into the various concepts and models that frame the forthcoming integrations and contributions to food products, as well as technology.

            Genetic engineering is the most recent, yet most controversial, additions to food technology. It constitutes the alterations or modifications of food products or sources for the purpose of improving the genetic make-up of plants and animals that are major sources of human food. The products of genetic engineering in plants and animals are called genetically modified organisms or GMOs. GMOs are science and technology’s answers to various issues and concerns that confront food products and sources, such as the genetic qualities of plants and animals, and the sustainability of food sources to address food shortage that constitutes one of the major reasons of poverty, lowered quality of life, and deaths around the world. (Whitman, 2000)

            The process of modifying the genetic make-up of plants and animals are accomplished through recombinant DNA or rDNA. rDNA refers to synthetic DNA patterns that are integrated to the natural DNA structure of plants and animals to improve genetic traits. The most common products of rDNA for plants are improved genetic qualities that enhance their capability to withstand heat, chemicals, drought, and such. For animals, rDNA improves their resistance for various illnesses or diseases that shorten their life cycles. (Kuure-Kinsey & McCooey, 2000) In general, genetic engineering utilizes rDNA in changing the genetic make-up of plants and animals that produces GMOs that are supposed to be improved or developed forms of food sources that enhance food production and quality.

            Monsanto Corporation, a leading contributor of various agricultural products, is one of the major players in genetic engineering of food products. The company aims to fortify not only the amount of food sources but also the quality of food that human beings will be consuming, as a means for the company to purportedly contribute to the quality of food products that consequently influences the quality of life. Monsanto is also on its way to consolidate sources of food by monopolizing the market for agricultural products and services and the food products that is obtained from it. Major products manufactured and produced by Monsanto for the public include seed patents, which are being provided to farmers and agricultural institutions, the Bacillus thuringiensis corn popularly known as the bt corn, high fructose corn syrup or HFCS, herbicide tolerant crops, and such.

            These major food products are clear indications of the developments or improvements brought about by genetic engineering. For instance, HFCS is a genetically modified version of actual sugar obtained from beets or cane. It may be categorized as a synthetic form of sugar manufactured from corn starch. The purpose of manufacturing HFCS is to provide a cheaper alternative to expensive sugar. In addition, the production and transport of HFCS is less complicated than the manual process of transporting beets and canes and processing them to obtain genuine sugar. (Forristal, 2003) Bt corn, on the other hand, is a seed patent which eliminates the hassle of timing their planting with the season, as it is resistant to drought, herbicides, and other elements that threaten the growth and production of corn. (Reynolds, 2008)

            Although established purpose of producing GMOs is to address food shortage issues and to improve the food production process and the quality of food products, there are various concerns that were raised and are continually being contested until present time. Genetic engineering is being criticized by environmental activists, and other organizations or institutions that are concerned about the condition of the environment and the health and welfare of human beings. Apparently, the products of genetic engineering, such as seed patents (Bt corn, Bt cotton, etc.) and the food products that are obtained from them (HFCS, etc.) are posing risks and threats to the environment and the health of human beings.

            For instance, tests conducted on laboratory rats for the effects of HFCS revealed that its sucrose content poses dangers to vital organs. In addition, since the fructose and glucose content of HFCS is increased during production, it also endangers human beings putting them at risk for diabetes, and other related diseases such as heart disease and the increase in uric acid which causes arthritis. Another complaint presented to the field of genetic engineering as a means of food production is the process of labeling these products. Although some tests reveal that GMOs are dangerous to the health of human beings, the food labels fail to indicate so, and the side effects of the genes incorporated to the food products are not placed in them. (Sanda, 2004)

            Overall genetic engineering affects biodiversity as it influences the loss of habitat for some organisms in the environment. For instance, the consumption of monarch butterfly caterpillars of the plants raised from Bt corn seeds causes them to die leading to the decline in the total number of population of the said specie. This consequently influences the ecosystem. However, the more serious implication of genetic engineering is the untested effects of the consumption of human beings of genes integrated to food products. Sometimes, GMOs were detected to have caused allergic reactions and such, but the long-term effect of the continued consumption of these food products is still unknown. (Whitman, 2000)

            Since the safe consumption of GMOs is still debatable, other concerned citizens and institutions have presented solutions to address the issue of mutated or modified food products. In response, people are trying out organic food, primarily available in farmer’s markets, to be safe or take precautions in avoiding the unidentified results or side effects of GMOs. Organic foods are grown naturally, without the integration of synthetic products of chemicals such as fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, etc. In stead, natural fertilizers are used, and organic foods are also used to feed animals. These natural ways of growing plants and animals ensure that the food products are not corrupted by any chemicals or gene mutations that might pose risks for the health of human beings and the position of the environment. In fact, many people have been drawn to the idea and contributions of organic foods that they usually look for organic food labels whenever they purchase them. This particular inclination of people to purchase organic foods is motivated by the many benefits and contributions that human beings and the environment gain from the process of raising and producing food products in the organic and natural way.

References

Forristal, L. J. (2003). The Murky World of High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Retrieved

            December 14, 2008, from The Weston A. Prince Foundation. Website:             http://www.westonaprice.org/motherlinda/cornsyrup.html

Kuure-Kinsey, M. & McCooey, B. (2000). The Basics of Recombinant DNA. Retrieved

            December 14, 2008, from Biochemical Engineering – RPI. Website:

            http://www.rpi.edu/dept/chem-eng/Biotech-Environ/Projects00/rdna/rdna.html

Reynolds, D. (2008). Bt Corn Offers Advantages. Retrieved December 14, 2008, from

            Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Website:             http://www.aces.edu/dept/extcomm/newspaper/Bt2.html

Sanda, B. (2004). The Double Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup. Retrieved

            December 14, 2008, from The Weston A. Price Foundation. Website:             http://www.westonaprice.org/modernfood/highfructose.html

Whitman, D. B. (2000). Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? Retrieved

            December 14, 2008, from ProQuest. Website:             http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php