The Future of Food

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There has been much concern recently about GM foods, some of which are being tested and some of which are already used as ingredients in the food we eat. GM stands for 'genetically-modified', and describes the process by which scientists are able to pinpoint the individual gene which produces a desired outcome, extract it , copy it and insert it into another organism.

To some extent, humans have been involved in genetic modification for centuries. For example, larger cattle which gave more milk were bred to produce even larger offspring. Seeds from cereals and other crops that were hardier and grew better were selected for planting the following year to produce better yields. With genetically modified organisms however, the modifications involved are often of a kind that could not possibly occur naturally. For example, adding cow growth hormone to the embryo of a broiler chicken to produce a larger, faster growing chicken, or adding genes from a virus to a plant to allow it to become resistant to the virus.

GM foods are not necessarily bad, but permitting the expansion of GM crop planting and use in our food without proper knowledge as to the effects, both short- and long-term is at best unwise and at worst highly dangerous. It's not just we humans who could suffer, but ultimately many animal and plant species as well. Can biotech companies really be sure that their products will have no undue effects on biodiversity and food chains, and indeed on people's health? Until they are, the mass introduction of GM crops should not be permitted. We must proceed down the route of genetic modification with extreme caution, without denying that in some cases there could be great benefits to be had.

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