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Scorpion Genes in Genetically Modified Food

According to Global Agricultural Research Partnership, with each new year, 75 million or so people become a part of this universe. This will require new levels of expertise in food production. 75% of the additional food to feed these new people will have to come from soil that is already being used agriculturally.   For this reason, genetically modified pesticides and foods have been created. Researchers hope to find the most effective and cost efficient ways to grow food. There is a new type of genetically modified cabbage that is engineered containing a scorpion toxin. Scorpion toxins naturally have the ability to kill insect pests; therefore, when they are genetically inserted into plants, plants contain the properties to kill insects that come in contact with them. Unethically, the biotechnology industry manipulates the government to pass its products and thus gets the FDA to allow improperly tested genetically modified pesticides to be sprayed on plants or genes of non-plant organisms to be inserted into the DNA of food sources.

What kind of health implications could this have on humans? According to the Mayo Clinic, “one who is stung by a scorpion might feel intense pain, numbness and tingling, muscle twitching or thrashing, unusual head, neck and eye movements, drooling, sweating, and many more symptoms.”   If each individual cell in the cabbage plant contains this scorpion toxin, what will happen to a person who consumes this vegetable? The question is: what is going to happen to people who consume this gene in their foods on a day-to-day basis? Is it ethical to genetically modify food with a poisonous arachnid?

Sources:

“Producing More Food Using Less Land: How Can Science Help?” / CGIAR. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. http://www.cgiar.org/consortium-news/producing-more-food-using-less-land-how-can-science-help/

 

“Scorpion Stings.” Symptoms. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scorpion-stings/basics/symptoms/con-20033894

“Pesticides Containing Genetically-modified Scorpion Poison to Become Recombinant DNA in GM Crops.” NaturalNews. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. http://www.naturalnews.com/041131_pesticides_genetically_modified_crops_scorpion_poison.html

Tang, Jessie. Fishy Business? Aquabounty technologies, the FDA, and Genetically Modified Food. The Kenyan Institute for Ethics. Retrieved April 2, 2014 from http://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Case-Study-Fishy-Business.pdf

World Population Clock: 7 Billion People (2014) – Worldometers. Worldometers.info. Retrieved April 2, 2014 from http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

“Pesticides Containing Genetically-modified Scorpion Poison to Become Recombinant DNA in GM Crops.” Natural News. Retrieved April 2, 2014 from

http://www.naturalnews.com/041131_pesticides_genetically_modified_crops_scorpion_poison.html

Student Researcher: Jaime Jones, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College

ETHICS ALERT

Today the world population is seven billion; however, with each new year around seventy-five million people are added to this world. This means that growers are going to have to feed all these new people on less land. Chillingly, seventy-five percent of the new food that growers are going to have to produce to support all these new people will have to come from land that is already in use agriculturally! Obviously, this is going to require a new level of skill and expertise that the world has never seen. Genetic engineers believe that they have the answer for world hunger. However, there are serious questions as to whether or not genetically modifying food is safe or not. Also, on the part of the FDA, serious ethical issues have arisen.

Food is a topic with far-reaching ramifications. Without nutrition, humans die. Also, if one does not partake in proper nutrition or if one eats contaminated cuisine, he or she will have a lessened quality of life or possibly even cut his or her life short. While fruits and vegetables are perceived as extremely healthy, is it possible that growers might be making these foods potentially dangerous? Unfortunately, this is the case. Biotechnologists have found a way to take genes from the scorpion Androctonus australis hector and genetically engineer them into the cabbage plant. Because scorpions naturally contain antimicrobial properties, the genes from Androctonus autralis hector engineered into the cabbage is supposed to make the cabbage itself able to kill the insects that come in contact with it. The result of this gene exchange is hypothesized to eliminate the spraying of pesticides onto the plants; instead, the cabbage itself will contain the pesticide. Thus, every human who eats these cabbage plants will also be ingesting the pesticide.

With the insertion of genes from the scorpion into the cabbage plant, the genetic engineers are thus creating a “Franken food.” This “Franken food” will be part cabbage, part scorpion. Even more alarming is the fact that these transgenic foods will most likely end up in supermarkets everywhere. With the FDA’s history of allowing genetically modified foods to enter the market place without significant tests being done, this new type of cabbage is bound to end up in every store. All the biotechnologists have to do is manipulate the government for the FDA to put their stamp of approval on the genetically modified food.

Is it ethical for the genetic engineers to sway the government into approving food items for the marketplace? Absolutely not! The FDA’s responsibility is to ensure that the food Americans are eating is safe. According to biologist Dr. Stephen Nottingham, “there is a possibility of food allergies to genetically modified foods and bacterial buildup in the human gut that could lead to antibiotic resistance.” If there is a question that a food is not safe, there should be greater testing to assess whether or not the food should enter the market. Not to mention the fact that producers, as of today, do not have to label their genetically modified foods as such. Therefore, not only are potentially dangerous foods entering the supermarket, but no one will know if the food he or she is buying has been genetically modified or not. Not only is the FDA not doing its job but Americans are also being denied their right to know what enters their bodies.

Also there are many ecological concerns for genetically modified foods. It is possible that the genetically modified foods become like weeds to agricultural and natural habitats. They would take nutrients from the other crops in the soil. Also, herbicide-resistant genes could possibly find their way into weeds. Even more disquieting, the genes from these “Franken foods” could be transferred to the wild species and this could have an effect on the natural landscape. “Genetically modified crops could compete or breed with wild plants and thus cause a threat for biodiversity. There could be a risk to birds and other such non-targeted species when they come into contact or consume genetically modified plants.” On a socio-economic level, small scale farmers could be impacted harmfully by the control of a few commanding seed companies.

The implementation of the scorpion gene into cabbage plants has been kept very quiet. More people need to be aware of this potentially dangerous food product. Also, the FDA should definitely be reprimanded for their silent allowance of such products into the market. Although there is a significant need for creativity and skill agriculturally, this by no means permits the government to act in a harmful way to its citizens. People should, most certainly, be aware whether the foods they are eating are genetically modified.

 

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