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Hazards of Biotechnology (Disadvantages and negative effects of Biotech)

BY: Shalini Balan | Category: Issues | Submitted: 2011-11-16 09:08:16
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Article Summary: "As every coin has two sides. Biotech with its promising future also has many negative effects. Biotechnology has seemed to have improved the conditions of living, yet with all its promises it has its wide disadvantages too..."

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Biotechnology has seemed to have improved the conditions of living, yet with all its promises it has its wide disadvantages too. A biotech farm usually gives these promises like below :

• We absolutely need genetically engineered crops to feed the world and meet the demands of ever growing population.
• They are termed as miracle crops. These miracle crops produced promises to fix nitrogen, resist drought, tolerate salt, increase yield and so on and not much has been materialized as yet.
• There is no difference between genetic engineering crops and conventional breeding, except it is much more precise.
• Genetic engineered crops offer no new risks.
• No one has died yet from eating genetic engineered foods.
• Genetic engineered food is the most tightly regulated and scrutinized for safety than any other food.

But the side effects of Biotechnology can be very alarming which as follows.

Biotechnology involves genetic engineering, which is nothing but transferring gene from one and inserting them into another species. The cost of production of genetically modified plants and animals are highly costly and needs a lot of initial investment. And to get back the money that was invested into these productions the government has introduced the idea of patents. In addition to these patents rights given to these biotech farms the seeds harvested are sterile which makes the farmers to get the seeds always from the corporate suppliers.

Genetic engineering crosses and violates natural boundaries of reproduction by crossing genes between unrelated species that would never crossbreed naturally, which is done in a, potentially hazardous way. Consequently, genetic alterations can lead to unexpected interactions and unpredictable effects.

Biotechnology may add to the already serious problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Genetic engineers use antibiotic marker genes for transferring codes from one species to another .these markers are designed for antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics then kill the cells whose genes were not successfully modified as desired, thereby creating the possibility that bacteria living in the digestive tract of humans or animals could acquire antibiotic resistance from GMO foods eaten by the human or animal.

In genetic engineering processes, genetic material from viruses is used in the production of transgenic crops. There are many possibilities that these genes may combine with genes from infecting viruses and the resulting viruses may be more infectious, cause more serious diseases, and have a tendency to cross species borders. A common example of this is Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV), which is used in almost every case. CaMV has the potential to reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses in all species to which it is transferred. This may lead to the development of cancer. Recent studies have shown that eating genetically modified (GM) food which was infected with CaMV may lead to stomach and colon cancer. Which can also be malignant.

Genetically engineering crops which tries to improve nutrition ignores the root cause of malnutrition, which are nothing but the industrial monoculture crops showing deterioration of the nutritional value of food. This leads destruction of natural and agricultural biodiversity on which a healthy balanced diet depends. There is no need to generate vitamin A rich rice if we can have carrots which are naturally a rich source of vitamin A.

Genes are being transferred in the laboratory between any and every species many of which would never interbreed in nature. Indeed, spider genes have been transferred into goats in an attempt to make the poor female goats produce silk in their milk, and human genes have been transferred into cows, sheep, mice, fish and bacteria.

Genetic engineered plants may end up having new toxins and allergens. A more dangerous is horizontal gene transfer. In which the genetic material, DNA, can survive indefinitely in all environments after the organisms are dead. It can be taken up by other organisms and become integrated into their genetic material. This has the potential to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases.
Another danger is that the transgenic DNA can jump into the genetic material of our cells and cause damages including cancer.

Environmental consequences of genetic engineering would prove to be widespread and very damaging. It has been reported that genetically engineered crops threaten monarch butterflies.

Too much altering of the crops through genetic engineering has removed the very soul of natural farming. It has turned farmers into tractor-drivers. The natural taste differs much form genetically modified crops. Food is not just the mere combination of different nutrients, minerals and vitamins but is also a emotional, aesthetic experience.

In short food should be produced more naturally and not only with the use of agrochemicals solely and it should not exploit our fellow human being, animals and the natural flora and fauna of earth .

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Comments on this article: (2 comments so far)

Comment By Comment
Ben C.
2013-03-28 18:19:58 594
Hello Shalini Balan, *Sorry, I divided this comment into two, because website was telling me that it was too long :)* I came across your excellent article on the risks associated with the use of biotechnology while completing a research project for school. I agree with your argument that biotechnology, even with its numerous applications and benefits, could also have many serious drawbacks. However, though I am no expert, I believe that certain hazards of biotechnology that you named are partially invalid. For example (if I am understanding you correctly), in the 8th paragraph, you mentioned that planting genetically modified rice will result in more crop monoculture as we reject traditional crops, such as natural carrots. I believe the original intention for engineering rice to contain more vitamin A, was to advance towards raising of the nutritional value of foods in general, not to destroy "natural and agricultural biodiversity". *Comment Part 1*
Ben C.
2013-03-28 18:21:35 595
*Comment Part 2* In addition, in the 9th paragraph, in which you described, with negative connotation, the transfer of genes between dissimilar species of animals, namely, goats, sheep, and bacteria. I feel you are leaving out the benefits of transferring genes between humans and these particular animals. For instance, at first thought, the transfer of spider genes into goats to make them produce silk in their milk may seem outlandish and useless, but it is actually rising industry, led by BioSteel, promising the wide production of a new construction material: spider silk. When compared to steel threads, spider silk is considered to be the stronger of the two. In reference to the other two species (sheep and bacteria) to which human genes have been transferred to, there are also positive intentions for the practice. Sheep, when genetically altered, can produce life-saving proteins for humans in their milk. Finally, the transfer of human genes to bacteria is often an attempt to make them generate insulin, a vital chemical to treat diabetes. I have greatly enjoyed reading your article and your opinions on biotechnology, though I may have disagree with some points that were made. :)

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