Biotech crops - Why the controversies never end?

Biotech crops - Why the controversies never end?
Controversies arise when we do not apply the technologies that we have spent centuries perfecting and when we try to innovate with the existing technology. Humans have been using basic techniques of the most controversial field of science for many decades now, “Biotechnology”. Breeding and selection have been in practice for more than 10,000 years and have led to significant improvement in the quality of food that we consume. Although mere breeding and selection were enough to satisfy the growing population and demand for the past years, we now face a global demand for not only the massive quantity but also for the exceptional quality of food.

This is where the agricultural biotech intervenes. Agricultural biotechnology is the collection of scientific techniques used to improve plants, animals and micro-organisms. We could not please everyone; this is true in the field of agricultural biotechnology where we try to innovate by engineering plants so that they have an added desirable quality. Concerned environmentalists raise questions, such as:
  • Whether or not this change is necessary?
  • Do we really need to consume food which has been genetically modified?
  • Although the constituents of a genetically engineered (GE) plant are tested safe now, will they remain safe with continuous consumption in the long run?

  • On the other hand, the biotechnologists argue that we have all the advanced technologies and should put them to use. How much ever small the innovation is, we should implement it so that it will pave the way for greater achievements. The debate proceeds with further arguments from the opponents stating that the GE crops would limit the sources, i.e. the industries would tax farmers and limit their sources and force them to buy only from selected firms. This again would decrease a country’s economy and direct money flow elsewhere.

    Although we understand the implications of using GE technology in our food production, we as a developing nation face complications in accessing the technology. Competing with production giants is not feasible because of patenting and licensing. Patenting of a technique or product must show the utility and prevent usage of the genes/techniques in a particular way for a time period. Let us assume that we do have access to the existing technology but still a nation would not have complete authority over the production line because most of these projects are publicly funded and this means the nation’s policies have to allow public institutions to sign commercial licenses.

    Biotech crops which have the capability to produce more and better products will help in reducing deforestation of valuable tropical rain forests. They will also use very little resources and manpower. By supporting GE crops, we can reduce the crops which fall prey to insects; some types of GE plants have been witnessed to increase the shelf-life and reduce the wastage of food while shipping.

    To conclude, the risks associated with biotech crops are not only in the form of safety regulations, they also exist in the form of commercial fraud, unethical pricing and authenticity fraud in seed production. Scientists innovating with nature is only appreciated and accepted if there is a demand, necessity and utility.
    How to cite this article:
    Kuyini Gogilarasah. Biotech crops - Why the controversies never end?. BioLim O-Media. 03 September, 2016. 4(9).
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