Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Genetically Modified Organisms

Healthful or harmful, the production of genetically modified organisms will increase as does our population. There are many incredible advantages to GMOs, namely the mass production of food and insecticide and pesticide resistant crops. Both in the lab and in the field, these advantageous qualities of GMOs provide for a hopeful future of sustainable life. Unfortunately, many investigative parties have found that the extent in which GMO producers predict possibilities is an utter hyperbole. The marketed enhanced traits, including drought resistance, health benefits, and increased production, are inaccurate and grossly exaggerated. In addition to misleading marketing tactics, GMO manufacturing companies do not correctly label their products and their contents. Recently, more and more evidence has been found relating the consumption of GMOs and the development of health problems.

Monday, May 11, 2015

So what does "organic" actually mean? Well, it's a difficult question to answer considering the plethora of foods advertised as organic (which by the way is usually just a marketing tool!) 

USDA's 3 Labeling categories:
  1. 100% Organic: Made with all organic ingredients 
  2. Organic: Made with at least 95% of organic ingredients 
  3. Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with at least 70% organic ingredients with NO GMOs in the other 30%

…. BUT according to The Sleuth Journal, there may be more behind the "organic" label we see on these foods. Whether you choose to buy organic foods or not, the consumer has the right to know where their food comes from, and that is a main concern when dealing with food ethics. The definition of organic is "of food : grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals." Now why this may be true for the food that is being grown without pesticides and other preservatives, what about the seeds of these plants? While it may seem trivial or petty, many people actually are concerned about how the seeds of the fruits and vegetables they are eating are being grown. Often even though a vegetable can say "Organic", it has been planted with GMO seeds, so whether people are focused on boycotting GMOs for ethical purposes, or trying to be GMO free for health purposes, the consumer is often being deceived. 


Animal Cloning: Examples and Ethics

Below are some examples of animal cloning.

Recent surveys have shown have shown that 64% of Americans think that cloning is "morally wrong" and 63% of Americans would not buy cloned food even it were labeled as "safe." Many people believe that cloning transforms animals more into machines than living things. Others have issues with how unnatural animal cloning is because of how much human and scientific involvement it requires. Overall, many people disagree with animal cloning because of moral reasons, and as I discussed in an earlier post, how it affects the animals. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hold Onto Your Butts

Move Over, Super Bass

Genetic engineering can get really, really interesting. Since my topic was simply the basic of genetic engineering, I decided to look up some of the most interesting things that have been genetically modified, whether it was for food or not.

In a recent case of genetic engineering, scientists have created a "Super Salmon" that grows twice as big in half the time of a regular salmon. The gene of a Chinook salmon is used to make it grow so big, and the gene of an eelpout is used to make it grow so fast.

Other - quite hilarious - examples of genetic engineering are....

Glow in the dark cats. (no joke)

Poisonous scorpion cabbage
Singing mice
See-through frogs

Spiderweb-spinning goats

Revival of dead animals (again, no joke)
[obligatory jeff goldblum quotes]

Genetically Altered Fruits and Veggies

A vegetable grower holds a 'mutant cabbage' as his companion holds aloft a normal sized comparison

Within the last decade or so, agricultural scientists have made astounding progress and large advancements in the field of genetically altering fruits and vegetables. Manipulating plants DNA strands, scientists use desirable genes within a rare plant and apply it to a multitude of others for mass production and transit of the gene. But the process also contains various drawbacks, for instance the undertaking of finding and removing enough desirable DNA to copy proves to be a lengthy and rigorous process for most foods. But still, these genetically mutated foods offer up a plethora of useful traits. These new plants run the gamut from enhancing size and taste to increased antivirus abilities. Here are a few of the more popular foods scientists are trying to commercially produce: non-bruising tomatoes, water free potatoes, starch free corn, antivirus squashes and cantaloupes, flavor sustaining tomatoes, and antifreeze strawberries. All these traits may provide an easier job on farmers, healthier food, and easier upkeep and storage for the plants as well. The implications presented by genetically altered foods, once perfected, may vastly advance the economy, ease the difficult lives of farmers, and make food better as a whole. Most genetically modified fruits and vegetables haven't received approval for mass commercial production, but hopefully once scientists master the food's cloning and production our markets will reap the benefits these foods have to offer. 

Source: http://www.aces.uiuc.edu/vista/html_pubs/biotech/genen.htm

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Advantages of Genetic Modification

It is easy to climb on the bandwagon and condemn the practice of genetically modifying and engineering food and animals, but the advantages that come from doing so are innumerable. First, most illnesses and diseases can be avoided through the use of genetic modification. Scientists are able to identify, isolate, and eradicate the gene or virus causing these unwanted mutations. Through genetic engineering, only desired traits make-up the subject at hand. In connection to this major advantage, desired traits organisms can be extracted and inserted into other organisms to improve upon a specific function. 

In addition to engineering the most genetically advantageous organisms, with the use of genetic modification, scientists are able to cure certain preexisting diseases or conditions. For example, in such illnesses and conditions as cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), cardiovascular disease and arthritis, gene therapy can be manipulated to improve upon, or even expel, the diseases.


Finally, scientists have used genetic engineering to introduce new genes and alleles into species. As diversity is a necessary part of not only a species, but the ecosystem as a whole, the men and women that focus on genes are able to ensure genetic variety. Clearly, there are many advantages to the utilization of genetic engineering and modification. We must all ask ourselves, do the advantages outweigh the negative consequences?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Food Ethics

When the average consumer strolls into their local supermarket to purchase their weekly groceries, it is uncommon for them to pick up a few steaks or a box of Pop tarts and think to themselves "Hmmm I wonder if this cow was completely unconcious when his throat was slit?" or "I bet there are some other ingredients that do not appear to be shown on this box." Right v.s. wrong the consumer faces an issue of morality almost every time they make a purchase, but while the treatment of the livestock and the cultivation of the crop is of course still an issue, knowing what is in our food seems to be what has sparked interest and concern in the American consumer.
According to a 2013 New York Times Pole, 93% of Americans want to know if their food contains GMOs by reading the labels. We know Americans want to know what is in their food and more recently than ever Americans are starting to analyze the morality of the situation, considering we are dealing with a free market economy, we should be able to know what is in our food! Many labeling ploys such as "all natural" and "GMO free" are misleading to the buyer and only serve as a marketing tactic. Many people will say the solution to our problem is putting more government regulation on the food being sold, but often this is seen as a political discrepancy. So, the question remains, is the morality of food being sold without consumer knowledge to what is contained in it a government issue, or should the consumer be responsible for what they choose to buy even if it means going out of their way?