TIC Grid. Additional Comments: 5 = Excellent, 4 = Good, 3 = Average, 2 = Lacking, 1 = Very Poor CRITERIA: COMMENTS:

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1 1 TIC Grid 5 = Excellent, 4 = Good, 3 = Average, 2 = Lacking, 1 = Very Poor CRITERIA: COMMENTS: Intro Strategy / Strategies Conversational Thesis Critical Summary, Connection & Analysis (moderating presence) Structure & Conversational Arc Conclusion Strategy Transitions Developed Sources Thoroughly Quote/Source Integration Style, Voice & Sentence Structure Concision & Clarity Grammar & Mechanics Additional Comments:

2 2 Sarah Clinkscales Professor Vander Zee HONS 110 October 25, 2013 Genetically Modified Crops: A Gamble Between Safe and Sorry According to a survey conducted by the Mellman Group, 58% of Americans have not heard about genetically engineered foods sold in grocery stores ( Review of Public ). This alarming statistic emphasizes how critical it is to adequately inform the public about these modified foods foods which that people consume on a regular basis whether they know it or not. So what is genetic engineering, and how can it be applied to the foods humans consume? Genetic engineering consists of modifying an organism s characteristics by intentionally altering its genetic composition. Specifically, through the modification of plants, scientists can produce crops of greater nutritional value in larger quantities that are better protected from damaging agents and factors such as disease, pests, and weather conditions. One of genetic engineering s greatest appeals is its promise of food security for the world s rapid-growing population. The global population is projected to reach nearly 9.2 billion by the year As practices of agriculture must appease such accelerated growth rates, the genetic engineering of crops provides an alternative method of food security while posing many environmental and human health benefits. While genetically modified crops provide the efficient alternative the world has sought, great controversy arises over the safety of such scientifically advanced techniques of food

3 3 modification. The field of genetic engineering is advancing daily and, consequently, so is the risk associated with adjusting the natural genetic composition of certain foods. For many biotechnology researchers, and even skeptic philosophers, genetic plant engineering serves as a positive and beneficial option for conserving the environment while providing global food security. To others, such as plant biologists, genetically modified crops pose harmful, even unanticipated, environmental and human health effects. In addition to the controversy over the safety of genetically modified crops, many agricultural scientists expose the lack of adequate public knowledge on the topic, knowledge that is vital to those who consume these engineered products in order for them to make informed opinions about the safety of genetically modified food. The process of genetic engineering appeals to biotechnology researchers because it provides the advanced techniques needed to accommodate the growing global population. Not only do genetically modified crops intend to offer greater food security, they also allow for more efficient and productive agriculture. Biotechnology researchers Man Zhou and Hong Luo explore the advantages of genetic engineering in agriculture in their article in the international journal Plant Molecular Biology. By altering a plant s genetic makeup and inserting desirable genes, the authors explain, scientists can create plants resistant to infection and unfavorable environmental conditions. One method of alteration involves micrornas, which serve as regulators of gene expression. Mi[cro]RNAs play an important role in plant responses to various environmental stresses, explain Zhou and Luo, such as bacterial and fungal infections, nutrient deficiency, salt, drought, cold, and heat stresses. By targeting specific traits that correlate to specific genes in plants, scientists are able to design more sustainable agriculture, wasting less money and fewer resources on crops disease-ridden or damaged by weather and environmental conditions.

4 4 While strengthening a plant in relation to its environment, the plant s nutritional content can also be improved, producing a greater crop yield with greater nutritional quality. In one study of the effect of mirnas on biomass yield, emphasis on a particular mirna directly correlated with crop yield. Overexpression of the maize corngrass1 mirna caused prolonged vegetative phase and delayed flowering, which are favorable, observe Zhou and Luo, because of increased biomass production resulting from prolonged vegetative growth. As vegetative growth time increases, crop yield also increases. Zhou and Luo explain how overexpression of mirnas similar to corngrass1, such as mir156, could result in an increased yield of many other types of crops; this could be beneficial for growing efficient crops with carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to areas where malnutrition is prevalent due to a lack of these essential nutrients. With an increase in biomass yield, along with the modification of genes to increase the yield s nutritional content, genetically modified crops serve as a reliable method of food security because scientists can create crops with desirable traits. Thus, many biotechnology researchers view genetic engineering as an overall beneficial method of producing sustainable agriculture and ensuring food security for the growing world population. In addition to providing sustainable, higher-yielding agriculture, genetic engineering also has the potential to reduce damage to the environment and promote human health. In their article in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, philosophers Sven Ove Hansson and Karin Joelsson focus on four harmful agricultural practices that genetically modified crops can reduce: the use of pesticides, fertilizers, tillage, and irrigation. Hansson and Joelsson argue that genetic engineering is not vastly different from classical breeding, the main difference being that genetic engineering is more targeted and specific. Creating insect-resistant plants diminishes the need for pesticide use, which is crucial. The current extensive use of pesticides has negative

5 5 effects on non-targeted organisms and causes health problems in farm workers, note Hansson and Joelsson, who also mention the harm of pesticide residue on consumer health. Similar manipulations can be made to reduce the use of nitrogenous fertilizers, tillage, and irrigation, all whose practices cause damage to the environment and, potentially, to humans. While genetic alterations in plants can be made to decrease the need for environmentallyharmful agricultural practices, alterations can also improve human health. Similarly to Zhou and Luo s emphasis on RNA modification, Hansson and Joelsson emphasize the importance of essential amino acids, monomers of proteins whose synthesis is controlled by RNA, in the human diet. The balance of amino acids in plants is often deficient, Hasson and Joelsson warn. This is particularly important in for developing countries where protein malnutrition is common. The genetic modification of plants to meet these specific amino acid requirements, as well as other vitamins and minerals, offers a potential method of improving human health and nutrition throughout the world. Despite the numerous benefits proposed by genetically modified food, many rightfully remain skeptical of the safety level of such modifications. In a chapter of Seeds of Concern, which explores the impacts of genetically modified plants, plant biologist David R. Murray assesses the risks of the genetic manipulation of plants with respect to the environment and human health both areas of which Zhou, Luo, Hansson, and Joelsson found the most beneficial of genetic engineering in agriculture. Murray emphasizes the importance of modeling genetic experiments before actually performing them in order to help anticipate expected results before applying the biotechnology to the environment. The biggest concern of skeptics of genetic engineering is the fear of unprecedented effects on the plants themselves, the environment around them, and the humans who consume them. Large populations of identical plants

6 6 encourage pests and diseases, and the use of pesticides, claims Murray; thus, the environment around the modified crops becomes damaged, unlike the environments of naturally grown plants (87). In addition to environmental damage, the increased use of pesticides contrasts with consumer expectations of reduced pesticide residue in plants, expectations which are encouraged by Hansson and Joelsson. Such results reinforce Murray s warning of the unintended effects of manipulating the genetic makeup of plants. Not only does genetic engineering result in unanticipated effects on the environment, it also poses potentially harmful effects on human health. The improper use of genetic engineering could result in complications, explains Murray, when adverse effects are produced by [unknown] genes accompanying those [desired genes] intended for transfer (88). With the tediousness of genetic engineering, a microscopic overlook of a gene not intended to be transferred into a plant could have drastic macroscopic effects on the human population. While the health benefits of genetically modified crops appeal to many, the risks involved with such modifications should be adequately tested for safety before exposed to both humans and the environment. Vital to making an informed decision concerning the safety of genetically modified foods is sufficient public knowledge about the foods and their engineered cultivation. In his article in the journal Crop Science, agriculture scientist Patrick F. Byrne expresses concern for the lack of public knowledge about genetic engineering, demonstrating that the majority of the negative view of such engineering results from an exaggerated and skewed depiction of the process in Hollywood films. In reality, consumers know very little about genetically engineered food. For example, while around 70% of store-bought foods contain genetically engineered ingredients, Byrne found that only 31% of consumers believed they had ever eaten genetically engineered

7 7 foods. Byrne notes five factors that influence consumer acceptance of genetically engineered foods: natural vs. man-made, novelty, choice, trust, and risk-benefit trade-off. The last factor is extremely important and, I believe, has the power to trump the other factors, Byrne advocates. Like Murray, Byrne recognizes the importance of understanding the risks of genetic engineering in order to make an accurate opinion of their safety. He also recognizes, however, the necessity of fully understanding the benefits of genetically modified crops, as presented in the works of Zhou, Luo, Hansson, and Joelsson. Byrne does note that consumers are not completely capable of thoroughly understanding the benefits and risks of genetically modified foods. Rather, Byrne explains, they depend on an appropriate regulatory system to investigate the issues in a rigorous and unbiased manner. Therefore, a balanced system of assessing the safety of genetic engineering is crucial in order for consumers to make educated decisions concerning engineered products. Despite the efficiency and sustainability provided by genetically engineering plants to produce favorable traits, their danger to human health and their surrounding environment cannot be overlooked. On the other hand, the beneficial potential of genetically modified crops, if safely modified, cannot be denied. Unfortunately, the public is not always objectively informed about genetically modified foods, if at all. Public advocators tend to expose only one side of the argument over genetic engineering, thus distorting the public s opinion in favor of their viewpoint rather than facilitating the public in making well-informed decisions concerning genetically modified crops. What are the techniques being used to inform the public about genetically modified foods, and are they effective?

8 8 Works Cited Byrne, Patrick F. Safety and public acceptance of transgenic products. Crop Science (2006): 113. Web. 29 Sep Hansson, Sven Ove, and Karin Joelsson. Crop Biotechnology for the Environment?. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. (2012): Web. 3 Oct The Mellman Group. Review of Public Opinion Research. Pewtrusts.org. The Mellman Group, Inc., Nov Web. 22 Oct Murray, David R. Seeds of Concern. Wallingford: CAB International, Print. Zhou, Man, and Hong Luo. "MicroRNA-mediated gene regulation: potential applications for plant genetic engineering." Plant Molecular Biology. 83. I-2 (2013): Web. 29 Sep

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