In an ideal world, quaint vegetable gardens would fill the front yards of urban and rural homes alike, our produce would always be fresh and the methods of creating and getting rid of food would be sustainable. In this ideal world, there would be no waste, no want, no hunger and certainly no need for genetic modification.
But, we do not live in an ideal world.This farm-to-table utopian society exists only on real farms or in privileged communities. The reality, for most of the globe, is one of waste, pollution and starvation. As the world’s population soars to all-time highs and the demand for food continues to rise, the obvious question here becomes, how will we sustain ourselves on a limited food supply?
Luckily, science has arrived to save the day. All hope is not lost here, and although a large part of our food system ranging from production to consumption is a sinking ship taking on water, a rescue boat is near. Any ideas about who this scientific superhero could be?
All right, I’ll spill. It’s genetically modified food.
Forget what you’ve heard about GMOs get ready to meet the scientific side of genetically modified food.
1.GMO Corn , 2.Research Assistant , 3.Greenhouse , 4.Ted Talk 5.Caleb Harper , 6.Petri Dish , 7.Fruit
Caitlin Phillips is a freelance writer spending her summer in Budapest, Hungary.
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1.Breaking It Down
What are genetically modified organisms exactly? Well, they are living organisms whose genes have been altered to allow their DNA to contain an extra gene or genes that would not normally be found there. Scientists, who have extensive knowledge about specific organisms and their genes, perform the process of genetic modification in a laboratory setting. Through the scientific process, mass amounts of genetic testing and a fair amount of trial and error, it is possible to modify an organism to make it more genetically resistant to pests and weather; just two great difficulties facing the farming industry today. After years of lab testing and USDA approval, GMOs can move outside of the lab, where they are planted as seeds and can grow and thrive in many different terrains, and under an array of weather stressors. In separating fact from fiction about GMOs, we realize they are not so foreign after all.
Toto, CC BY-ND 2.0
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2. A Brief History
In recent years, consumers and anti-GMO activist have drawn a good bit of negative attention to GMOs. Consequently, GMOs have been villainized in today's culture. Much of the anti-GMO movement stems from a lack of knowledge about the process and benefits of GMOs. As the global population grows, and climate change continues to affect how and where food grows, it is crucial understand that GMOs are in fact a safe and viable option for farming. Designing and modifying crops to grow under different or stressful conditions could relieve the pressure on the small percentage of farmers and companies that are expected to feed the world. These new and specialized genetically modified crops will aid in creating a more stable infrastructure for the food system worldwide.
RIPE, CC BY 2.0
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3. A Fruitful Future
Most importantly, the science behind genetic modification has inspired all kinds of innovation among scientist and environmental activist. This food of the future movement has given us the ability to design create new ways to produce food. As far as science is concerned, biotechnology is the future of agriculture and the answer to many of our current environmental and food crises. Today, the pros to growing food with genetic modifications are numerous: crops are more resistant to disease, the effects of production are less harmful to the environment, and plant-based products are more ethically sound than the conditions in any chicken house. Scientific research from Harvard University supports the notion that genetic modification of crops will help solve some of the world's largest and most damning issues. As new technology and constant innovation continue to inspire alternative methods of food production, the future appears fruitful again.
Claire Benjamin-RIPE, CC BY 2.0
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4. The Redesign
Josh Tetrick, CEO of food technology company Hampton Creek, is asking consumers the important questions: "What does it look like to feed 7.1 billion people? How do we experience food, and how will we keep up with feeding an ever-growing population?" During his TED Talk, he highlights the broken food system, citing animal cruelty in animal agriculture. He also points out the dangers of mass production of food--not just for humans, but also for animals and the environment. Tetrick and his company offer the facts about the current climate of food and then propose a revolutionary solution. Their plant-based approach to the global food crises is technologically advanced and rooted in some extremely cool science. With support from the Gates Foundation, Hampton Creek is conducting extensive research to achieve plant-based alternatives to our favorite foods. As the company redesigns the future of food, they are creating nutritious and sustainable plant-based alternatives that look, smell and even taste like the food we love.
Web Summit, CC BY 2.0
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Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, is fostering the future by learning to speak the language of plants. Using digital technology, and a lab that could be set up anywhere, he has discovered how to grow fresh food in an indoor space. He and many other innovators, both inside and out of the GMO movement, are helping to create a plausible, technological reality for the future of food. Just imagine the possibilities if large quantities of fruits and vegetables could be grown anywhere, anytime and under any conditions. Accessibility to freshly grown fruits and vegetables would mean no more buying fruit from the grocery store that has been preserved, packaged and stripped of nutrients. Say goodbye to fruit with an average age of 11 months by the time it lands in your cart, and hello to plucking the roots off of your lettuce. The future of food could mean greens so fresh, tasty and sustainable that there would be no need to buy organic salad out of a plastic bag again.
Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0
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6. Safe and Sound
Genetic modification is not a simple process, but it is a safe one. Under an umbrella of rules and regulations, the process of creating genetically modified food is a much less dramatic one than you may have imagined. Genetically modified crops are engineered through genetic research, computer programs like CRISPR/Cas9, lab testing, and finally, many trial and error experiments. There are no freaky potions involved, mostly just Petri dishes, plant seeds and a source of light. In fact, genetically modified crops are not noticeably different from non-GMO crops and any genetically modified foods we have access to, are regulated by both the USDA and the EPA. Genetic modification of food is merely a path to the future of food, a stepping-stone to total sustainably and stability in the food supply. The miracle that is modern technology showcases our ability to feed the planet's people through genetic modification. No person today should starve when we have the means to grow food in even the driest, most deserted regions of the world.
RIPE, CC BY 2.0
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7. Get Real
Next time you make your way the grocery store or corner market, take some time to look around and appreciate the science behind food. Then, shop wisely, because the future of food lies in your hands. Will you perpetuate a cycle of thoughtlessness and waste or will you seek sustainability? The reality of genetically modified food propels innovation in plant science and digital mapping of plants, which will eventually contribute to solving hunger and starvation, and allow us to sustainably feed an overpopulated planet. So, go GMO and get to know the science behind your food, and how its design and production impact the environment. As consumers, we must continue to strive for advancements in the production of food and make the effort to embrace the future of food.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Domain Mark 1.0