David Halliday, age 13, 30th August 2002
Avalon Intermediate School
Today I am going to discuss genetically modified food and its advantages and disadvantages. First of all, genetically modified food is defined as a form of biotechnology in which the genes of an organism are deliberately altered in order to change its characteristics. This can produce new abilities in plants and animals.
There are advantages to genetically modified food. Genetic modification of food could produce varieties which are more resistant to disease and pests. An example of this is maize which has been given a gene which makes it resistant to pests. This makes it a more reliable crop.
Using genetic modification it is possible to produce varieties which grow faster and yield larger crops. It is also possible to make crops which will grow in unfavourable conditions, crops which are suited to heat or shade, ones which will grow in barren places, shallow soil or on salty land, in deserts or even in Antarctica. It would be possible for scientists to sell poor countries seeds for food plants that would grow almost anywhere and let them grow their own food where this was not possible before.
All of this means that you could feed the world's population for less money. It would be cheaper because there would be more food to go round and prices would decrease.
With genetic engineering it is possible to produce interesting food. Scientists have already produced a chicken which grows flesh faster by selecting the gene which controls this feature. They have also created cows which give creamier milk. Currently, purple carrots are on sale in English shops. They are very similar to normal carrots except that they are purple. Maybe we could have blue apples and pink bananas! We might even be able to grow ice cream plants or chicken beans. This is possible because scientists are able to alter the genes which control the flavour and texture of food.
Genetic engineering allows scientists to improve crops and animal stock in a shorter period of time than traditional methods like selective breeding. This makes it a shorter time span from when it's only being developed to when it appears in the marketplace. However, there are some serious disadvantages to genetically modified food. If everyone wanted a particular genetically modified variety of animal or plant because of its superior qualities, for example faster growth, more meat or ease of care, then the original varieties could die out. Then an unknown disease, to which the new variety is susceptible, could wipe out the whole species of that animal or plant. Caution should be used when producing genetically modified food. It must be made certain that plants and animals still resist disease when they have been genetically altered.
Not much research has been done into the effects of the genetic modification of food. There may be some nasty side effects as a result of changing the genetic make up of a plant or animal. These effects may not be apparent for some time.
My opinion is that genetically modified food has great possibilities but should not be released until further research has been done. Regardless of whether it takes twenty years, fifty years or a hundred years, I still think it should be rigorously tested before release. Another reason to keep it out of the market is that it could be dangerous, possibly causing stomach distress, bowel problems or cancer and this should be regarded seriously. There are far more potential advantages to genetically modified food than disadvantages, but I believe we should be careful to test new products thoroughly to avoid these dangers.