Blog 8 Week 12 Lecture 23
I chose to respond to the video on genetically engineered crops for my blog today. My major is Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering, so this is a topic I have been educated about, and I feel strongly connected to the issues.
I think it is important to know the difference between ‘genetically engineered food’ and ‘monocultures.’ A monoculture is a singular form of food lacking genetic diversity that may be a consequence of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is any form of altering food, like DNA modification and even includes natural or artificial selection. One of my favorite scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson, said it best:
Taken from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s twitter account
Monocultures can be a dangerous thing, because with no genetic diversity, species are more vulnerable. For example, if a potent string of bacteria wiped out all red apples, we would still have green apples left. But, if all apples were red, the bacteria would eliminate them all, and we would have none left. Another example is the banana. The common banana that weall know and love is a species called the Cavendish, and is expected to become extinct within my generation’s lifetime. Originally, bananas were full of little brown seeds. People who consume bananas enjoyed the seedless ones more, so bananas were engineered to have less and less seeds. Now, bananas have no seeds, and this makes them impossible to reproduce naturally. In fact, all the bananas that we consume today are clones of a previous Cavendish banana.
Banana with seeds
Genetic engineering, however, can be a very useful and good thing. For example, my dad is a Food and Agricultural scientist, and one of his projects was adding nutrients to rice. Rice is a very important crop, and for some rural Asian countries, it is the main staple of their diet. Creating a better form of rice with vital nutrients would help these poorer Asian cultures to be healthier.
I’m sure we’ve all seen the asterisk warning next to protein items in restaurants, warning that products not fully cooked could be dangerous. Another one of my dad’s projects was eliminating this fear of undercooked eggs by injecting them with ozone. The ozone reacted with the egg in a way that eliminated harmful bacteria, and made the food safer.
I think the real problem of this issue is the consumer. Monocultures arise because we demand them. The produce that arrives in grocery stores are only the ones that look nice, and are the certain size and shape that we accept and choose to buy. Many crops are altered to fit this standard, otherwise farmers and food producers just won’t be able to sell their crops and make a living. I think we need to be more open to different varieties of fruits and vegetables, and remember that just because it may have spots or look weird, it will still taste good!