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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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The population of the world has doubled in the last forty years. Every day various technological advancements are made to meet the growing demands of a thriving population. With a strain on natural resources, it is clear that the world’s current resources must be utilized efficiently. Since the issue of world hunger is on the rise, especially in developing countries, its solution must be developed. Genetic modification of food crops and products might help developing countries cope with their food demands. Genetically-modified foods have various positive effects, such as creating more nutritious and healthy food products, benefitting farmers economically, and creating a sustainable way of food production. These positive effects can help tackle the growing issue of world hunger.

Genetic modification of food makes it more nourishing and wholesome. The introduction of such enriched food products can positively affect both the societies and the economies of developing countries. Regions such as China and Brazil, where a significant proportion of the market suffers from nutritional deficiencies, act as vital target markets for genetically modified and nutritionally enriched crops. The introduction of essential micronutrients in one crop, through genetic engineering, can yield best results. Various studies show that genetically modified crops, such as pro-vitamin enriched rice called ‘Golden Rice’ can have numerous health benefits. This method thus creates aggregate health benefits at a relatively lower cost (“GMOs with health benefits have a large market potential,” 2015). Therefore, it can be inferred that genetically modified foods such as Golden Rice can positively affect the general health and consequently reduce hunger crisis in developing countries. Another example that could be illustrated is that of biofortification of edible crops. Biofortified foods have higher nutritional content. Malnourishment is a significant problem in developing countries. According to White and Broadley (2005), biofortification of food crops such as maize and soybean can be advocated through genetic modification, which enhances certain desirable traits. This strategy can increase nutrient concentrations in food supply and helps create a more sustainable and cost effective solution to the issue of global food crisis (p. 586–593). This shows how the introduction of genetically modified food products can benefit the societies of developing countries by improving nutrient consumption of the general population.

Genetically modified crops can be used to tackle the issue of world hunger by being economically beneficial to the farmers and thus, society. With the growing negative impacts of human activity on the environment, there is a need for the use of pesticides and herbicides to increase the fertility of the soil. The abundant use of pesticides in current agricultural practices harms both the farm environment and the helpful organisms in the soil. Carter (2007) said that genetically modified crops reduce the need for herbicides and pesticides while simultaneously reducing production costs; this, in turn, increases yield, provides a more favorable farming environment, and encourages environmental sustainability ( As cited in Ghanian, Ghoochani, Kitterlin, Jahangiry, Zarafshani, Van Passel, & Azadi, 2016, p.509-524). The reduced amount of pesticides is economically advantageous to the farmer and to society. This also positively affects the yield of the plot and hence, helps countries address the food shortage crisis. In a similar manner, the use of genetic modification of food crops can be financially advantageous for the farmer. Duffy (1999) reports lower production costs for transgenic soybean (As cited in Owen, 2000, p.765–771). Many farmers reported that a certain strain of transgenic soybean was used by them for controlling weed growth. This necessitates lower herbicide use for the production of such crops. Herbicide costs for the transgenic soybean were 30% lower than that of non-GMO soybean. Genetically modified crops can thus not only reduce the pesticide dependency of the agricultural plot but also help increase yield and production value of the crop (Owen, 2000, p.765–771). Consequently, this helps deal with the hunger issue from an economic perspective, by creating sustainable agricultural techniques. Similarly, the innovations in agricultural biotechnology are being used in developing countries to increase the crop productivity, primarily by reducing production costs. The genetic modification techniques implemented, are shown to produce new varieties of crops such as the insect resistance seen in certain modified breeds of cotton and maize, herbicide resistance as seen in certain engineered breeds of maize and soybean, and delayed fruit ripening seen in tomato. According to the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) (2012), the estimated area of transgenic crops (predominantly grown for agricultural use) globally for 2012 is 52.6 million hectares grown by 5.5 million farmers in 13 countries. Six developing countries account for more than one quarter of the transgenic crop area in 2001. A stark increase in farmers growing genetically modified crops was seen in 2012, due to its profitable affects. Genetically modified food crops could thus certainly decrease the production cost and benefit developing countries economically.

The introduction of genetically modified foods helps create a sustainable environment for proper growth and development of the country. In such times where every human activity has drastic ramifications in the environment, genetically modified crops can be the solution. According to Wolfenbarger & Phifer (2000), genetically modified crops may lead to environmental benefits by facilitating a shift to conservation practices. Specifically, these crops may allow farmers to eliminate traditional herbicides that are incorporated into the soil and rely on genetic engineering. The shift to genetic engineering may also decrease soil erosion and water loss and increase soil organic matter. The use of genetically engineered crops as insect-resistant or herbicide tolerant transgenic crops can help in moderating the release of toxic chemicals into the environment to control pests. (p. 2088-2093). Genetic modification can hence, have various positive effects on the environment and therefore on the community. With better environmental resources, the issue of food supply could be tackled in a feasible manner. Additionally, genetically modified food crops create a win-win situation where better quality food is mass produced at a minimal cost to the environment. Macek, Kotrba, Novakova, Demnerova, Svatos & Mackova (2008) stated that genetically modified plants can be widely utilized, not only to essentially diminish pesticide and herbicide use in agribusiness, but also to effectively expel the remaining deposits of agrochemical, mechanical and incidental contaminations in nature. Genetic modification of crops is therefore, an important method for sustainable waste and pest management in the arsenal of newer agricultural innovations (p. 146-152). This, therefore enables developing countries to grow large amounts of crops while reducing their negative impact on the environment. Subsequently, developing countries can also increase their food output and create a sustainable environment which is essential for their growth. This sustainable environment then further creates favorable conditions for both agricultural and economic growth which in turn helps combat the issue of hunger.

Although genetically modified food products have clear merits, some people might claim that their usage might have toxic side effects to the general population. Critics might argue that the consequences of certain reviews of genetically modified foods demonstrate that they may bring about some common harmful impacts such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive disorders and may change the biochemical, and immunologic parameters (Dona & Arvanitoyannis, 2008, p.164-175). This hence, fosters a negative point of view towards genetically modified foods and how it can tackle hunger issues. Although there might be some truth in the argument that genetically modified foods are toxic to humans, in reality no particular study has been conclusive. In the example of Golden Rice, the new protein that is introduced in the human system is a bacterial gene that is commonly consumed and is shown to cause no physical impairment. Studies have proven that such newly introduced substances are both nontoxic and hypoallergenic. Since rice is cooked at high temperatures any potential toxin is further destroyed, which reduces its risk (Gearing, 2015). There is no conclusive information on the definitive negative impacts of GMOs on health or the environment. This demonstrates the potential for genetically modified food products in tackling food supply issues in developing countries.

In conclusion, there is an immediate need to make genetically modified food accessible to developing nations who need to utilize them to relieve food crisis. Genetically modified food can be produced to be more nutritious and healthier. This can be seen in the example of Golden Rice and biofortification of crops. Genetic engineering of crops can be economically beneficial for the farmer as well as the developing country as well. They reduce the need for insecticides and herbicides, increase yield, and lessen the cost of production. Not only is genetic modification of food products good for the developing country, but it is also advantageous for the environment as well. The transgenic crops help in creating an essential and sustainable environment, and help in tackling the issue of food shortage in developing countries. Since the issue of hunger is very prevalent in most developing countries, it is imperative to use modern biotechnological innovations to solve this issue.

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