The Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods

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In today’s day and age, it seems like technology is getting more advanced by the day. Because of this technology, many high income countries such as America now have the ability to mass produce food as well as to genetically modify it to enhance the size, flavor, and appearance. While mass production of food may sound like an easy solution to sustain the constantly increasing global population, many people do not appreciate how dependent food production is on technology, and are posing arguments against the mass production of food while searching for all natural, organic, and locally grown alternatives.

In The Eater Reader, it is made very clear that feelings toward this use of technology are very mixed. Some of the authors such as Hannah Wallace and Jamey Lionette argue that foods that are not tampered with and infused with chemicals are healthier for us and worth the extra time and money, while authors such as Mary Lebeau and James McWilliams favor the heavy usage of technology, praising its convenience and positive impact on the environment.

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While arguments can be made on both sides of the spectrum, the usage of technology to mass produce and make genetically modified organisms (GMOs) seems the most realistic as it satisfies the desires of the majority of Americans, helps to protect the environment, and enables food producers to sustain the increasing global population. In his article titled “Mass Production of Food is Ruining Our Health”, Jamey Lionette makes many negative claims about the quality of mass produced food. He seems to be against every kind of food except that which is locally grown.

While he raves about “the glory of a local tomato” (153) in Boston, he has nothing but bad things to say about mass produced food. He claims that, “If you could witness how most of our food is produced, you would be outraged” (157). He also says that “Organic food…”, which many people think of as a better alternative to mass produced food, “…is by no mean synonymous with clean food”(156), and complains that while organic cattle is fed USDA certified organic food “that feed may not be what that animal wants to eat at all” (156).

Even an extreme opponent of mass produced food such as Jamey Lionette however, cannot escape the fact that locally grown food is not financially realistic for the average American family, as he admits that “Our wages and salaries, our rent and utilities, are all tied to our cheaply priced food” (153). Author Mary Lebeau offers a much more reasonable outlook on modern food in her article “At 50, TV Dinner is Still Cookin”. She talks about how frozen, mass produced, TV dinners were invented in 1953 to figure prevent 520,000 pounds of turkey from going to waste (160).

She says that TV dinners were embraced because they were “futuristic and convenient” and even in a seemingly health crazed society “Dollar sales grew at an average 7. 5 percent per year from 1998 to 2003. ” Although Lionette and Lebeau had completely opposite opinions about mass produced food, both articles made it clear that this type of food is much more convenient and affordable. As a society, Americans obviously value convenience, efficiency, and affordability, which Lebeau highlighted in her article about the popularity of TV dinners.

Recently, Americans have also been moving in an environmentally safe direction as resources are growing scarcer. According to James McWilliams, many opponents of GMOs are unaware of the positive effect that this type of food has on the wellbeing and preservation of the environment. For example, he says, “Canadian scientists have recently pioneered the ‘enviropig’, a genetically modified porker altered to diminish the notoriously high phosphorus level of pig manure by 60 percent” (167). He explains that this is important because, “…phosphorus runoff is a serious pollutant with widespread downstream consequences” (167).

McWilliams also brings to light the fact that many advocates of organic cattle or grass-fed cows are unaware of the negative effect these cows have on the environment. “One overlooked drawback to grass-fed beef, however, is the fact that grass-fed cows emit four times more methane- a greenhouse gas that’s more than 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide- as regular, feedlot cows” (166). Furthermore, a movement towards organic, non-modified foods is simply not compatible with the availability of resources.

According to Dennis Avery, an economist at the Hudson Institute, “‘If overnight all our food supply were suddenly organic, to feed today’s population we’d have plowed down half of the world’s land area not under ice to get organic food … because organic farmers waste so much land’” (Azadi, 165). This is due to the fact that unlike GMOs, organic food is not grown using chemicals to keep out weeds and insects, therefore farmers lose a lot of their crops (Azadi, 165). GMOs seem to make the most sense in a society that is becoming more and more concerned about the environment, because they release lesser amounts of dangerous pollutants

than organic foods and are also more efficient in preserving land and natural resources. Another hot issue today is how the increasing global population is going to be sustained. Genetically modified and mass produced foods offer a partial solution to this problem. In the past many poor, non-industrialized countries in Africa and Asia have lost their crops due to poor technology and uncontrollable environmental factors. McWilliams says that currently scientists are working on developing crops that absorb more of the nutrients in the soil and therefore will be less susceptible to the nitrogen in fertilizer.

He says, “Results suggest that rice farmers in Southeast Asia and potato farmers in Africa might one day have the option of planting crops that mitigate the harmful effects of this long vilified source of agricultural pollution” (167). Another thing to take into account is that unlike Americans such as Jamey Lionette, who have so much that they are able to complain about cheap food prices and worry about what the cattle wants to eat, many people in America depend on the cheap prices made possible by GMOs, and millions of starving people around the world rely on GMOs to sustain their lives.

For example, in his article titled “Benefits of genetically modified crops for the poor: household income, nutrition, and health”, Matin Qaim talks about how vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which causes “increased mortality, night blindness, corneal scarring, blindness and measles among children, as well as night blindness among pregnant and lactating women” (555) is experienced by 140 million children in India and takes about 3 million lives per year. A solution to this problem might be a new genetically modified crop: golden rice. Qaim says, “Golden Rice (GR), which has been genetically modified to produce ?

-carotene in the grain, has been proposed as a possible intervention to control vitamin A deficiency” (555). Golden Rice is not yet on the market, but will be sometime in certain Asian countries at some point this year. “Widespread consumption of Golden Rice promises to improve the situation in rice-eating populations” (555). On a global level, GMOs are able to provide greater amounts of food to people everywhere, and also able to provide important vitamins and nutrients to people in low income countries that would not otherwise have access to them.

Something which opponents of the mass production and genetic modification of food tend to forget is that most of the people in the world do not have the resources to pay twice as much for organic, all natural, and locally grown foods. For many it is a struggle to even put food on the table at all. Unlike organic foods, genetically modified foods appeal more to the average American because they are both more affordable and more convenient to locate in stores and prepare. GMOs also appeal to the increasingly strong movement to preserve resources and protect the environment.

In general, GMOs produce much higher yields than organically grown foods as they are less susceptible to insects and pollutants, and also emit a fraction of the harmful pollutants which organic cattle and crops emit. Perhaps most importantly, GMOs have the potential to reduce global hunger, sustain the growing population, and provide vitamins and nutrients to people in poor countries in ways that organically grown food never could. In an age with advanced technology, diminishing resources, and an increasing population, mass produced and genetically modified foods are the most realistic and universally beneficial form of sustenance.

Works Cited Azadi, Hussein. “Genetically Modified and Organic Crops in Developing Countries: A Review of Options for Food Security. ” Biotechnology Advances 28. 1 (2009): 165. Sciencedirect. com. Centre for Development Studies, 11 Nov. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. Lebeau, Mary Dixon. “At 50, TV Dinner Is Still Cookin'” The Eater Reader. By James S. Miller. Boston, MA. : Longman, 2011. 160-63. Print. Lionette, Jamey. “Mass Production of Food Is Ruining Our Health. ” The Eater Reader. By James S. Miller. Boston, MA. : Longman, 2011. 150-60. Print. McWilliams, James.

“The Green Monster Could Frankenfoods Be Good for the Environment? ” The Eater Reader. By James S. Miller. Boston, MA. : Longman, 2011. 164-68. Print. Qaim, Matin. “Benefits of Geneticallymodified Crops for the Poor: Household Income, Nutrition, and Health. ” New Biotechnology 27. 5 (2010): 555. Sciencedirect. com. Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Nov. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://ac. els-cdn. com/S1871678410005364/1-s2. 0-S1871678410005364-main. pdf? _tid=4f4785604d21f1aae8a206ecbf8012bb&acdnat=1334639990_b7bfc7976b8d7f26b85e005e605c8ff0>. View as multi-pages

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