Genetic Modification and Our Health

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By Ferin Jones

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Abstract

GMOs… they seem to be either everywhere, or nowhere at all. People are either greatly for them, or drastically against them. Because of Genetically Modified Organisms have such popularity and infamy at the same time, I decided to see if GMOs were really bad or not. To find this answer I asked if commercially sold GM foods caused health problems in humans. The answer that I found after extensive research was that they did not. I found that GM foods are regulated by different agencies. The main reason that people are against GMOs are for ethical reasons. While GMOs have the possibility to eliminate world hunger and do good for the environment, they also are owned by multinational corporations that shift the economic balance between small farms and large businesses. Many other moral issues come into play here. So are GMOs good or bad? I cannot say, they have their pros and cons, but I believe that in due time we will need to put them into more widespread use. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyT2FuZEklMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Object and Inquiry

The object of my study is commercially sold GMOs that we eat. The main question of this lab is: Can organisms that have been genetically modified using biotechnology and sold commercially cause problems in humans’ health?[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyVG9ySCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmElM0U=[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]

Hypothesis

My hypothesis is that commercially sold GMOs we eat cannot cause problems in humans’ health.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUldVJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Research Write Up

What I Know:
What I know: scientists are able to alter the genetics of organisms and there is a lot of controversy on this topic. The reason I chose this topic is because it sounded very interesting and I hardly knew anything about it.
Research Summary:
I believe that my initial question is somewhat broad, but so much that it will be a daunting amount of work. The research available is not too extensive, but the opinions on ethical reason for genetically modifying organisms are much debated. I believe that I could talk about this question for a long time. I believe that the way I have asked my question there is a particular object of study. I believe the only materials I will need are my computer, myself and the materials to make a tri-fold presentation. Many people have researched this topic before, including governments around the world.
Research says that GMOs cannot cause health problems, pesticides genetically engineered inside produce is harmful only to insects and not humans. The main reason people argue GMOs are bad is because of ethical farming. There are genetically modified organisms called terminator seeds that kill off weeds, increasing the amount of crops that live, this however is heavily debated because of natural selection enthusiasts. In many countries that have experienced famine or decrease in the growth of plants that are staples to their economy they have used genetic modification to solve these or similar problems. Examples of this are Bangladesh with eggplants and Hawaii with papayas. Products with GMOs are tested by the FDA and other agencies to make sure it is safe for use or consumption. GMOs are actually very practical and could help end climate change and can solve the overpopulation problem. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) can function as the best source for genetic modification. Using CRISPR, we can genetically modify organisms to be immune to different viruses.
Refined Knowledge and Questions:
GMOs sold commercially, that we eat cannot cause health problems. The reason for protest of GMOs is because people believe they are unethical. GMOs have solved economic and environmental problems in the past and can continue to solve problems as great as climate change and overpopulation. Thinking about my topic more, I believe my new object and inquiry should be: Can organisms that have been genetically modified using biotechnology and sold commercially cause problems in humans’ health? 
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Tools and Materials

  • Surface Pro 4
  • myself

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Procedure and Data

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Journal

2/3/2020 – Created proposals for research paper, all of them are approved and I end up going with “Can GMOs cause health problems?”
The week of 2/11/2020 – Started, completed and turned in the Research Summary, gain 10 primary sources for project and altered my question to “Can commercially sold GMOs we eat cause problems in human health?”
4/5/2020 – Began working on research paper; completed intro and began first body paragraph
4/6/2020 – Continued working on research paper; finished the first body paragraph
4/7/2020 – Made an outline for the rest of the paper
4/9/2020 – Had video check-in with Mr. Okimoto
4/10/2020 – Continued working on research paper; finished second and started third body paragraph.
4/17/2020 – Continued working on research paper; finished third body paragraph
4/20/2020 – Continued working on research paper; finished fourth body paragraph and started conclusion
4/21/2020 – Continued working on research paper; finished conclusion
The week of 4/22/2020 – Edited paper
4/27/2020 – Worked on paragraph explaining cons
4/28/2020 – Finished on paragraph explaining cons, added extra paragraphs, adjusted paper, had check-up with Mr. Okimoto  
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Procedure

On February 3rd I created proposals for research paper, all of them are approved and I end up going with “Can GMOs cause health problems?” On the week of February 11th I started, completed and turned in the Research Summary, gained 10 primary sources for project and altered my question to “Can commercially sold GMOs we eat cause problems in human health?” On April 5th I began working on the research paper, I completed the intro and began the first body paragraph. On April 6th I continued working on the research paper, I finished the first body paragraph. On April 7th I made an outline for the rest of the paper. On April 9th I had a video check-in with Mr. Okimoto. On April 10th I continued working on the research paper, I finished the second body paragraph and started the third body paragraph. On April 17th I continued working on the research paper, I finished the third body paragraph. On April 20th I continued working on the research paper, I finished the fourth body paragraph and started the conclusion. On April 21st I continued working on the research paper, I finished the conclusion. During the week of April 22nd I edited the paper with the help of my mom. On April 27th I worked on the paragraph explaining cons of GM foods. On April 28th I finished the paragraph explaining cons, adjusted the paper, and had a check-up with Mr. Okimoto. On April 29th I worked on the lab report and the abstract. On April 30th I added in my sources to the paper, added in a few extra paragraphs, and did some final edits. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyRGFuZEElMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]

Research Paper

Genetic Modification and Our Health

By Ferin Derek Jones

          Genetic modification is the manipulation of the genes of an organism. Scientists do this by using genes from one organism and mixing, blending, and replacing them with that of another organism. When an organism is genetically modified, it is called a genetically modified organism, or GMO. Genetic modification can be used on a wide variety of living organisms, such as plants and animals, in order to create a desired outcome.[1] For instance, scientists genetically modify crops in order to yield more produce, to make food stay fresh longer or even to eliminate potential viruses that can be harmful to humans. With genetic modification’s wide range of uses and implications, many people fear and protest them for a number of reasons, but there are also those who support them. This topic being so controversial led me to wonder if GMOs may actually be dangerous. After thorough research I came up with the statement that GMOs, when properly regulated, may be key to solving some of our largest problems, including getting rid of many diseases and potentially ending world hunger.

          Humans have been manipulating genes for thousands of years, long before we even understood what genes were. Humans have practiced genetic modification by using selective breeding to get animals with valuable traits or by isolating and then planting seeds of crops that were shown to yield more produce or display other benefits.[2] The society we live in today has been greatly shaped by the genetic modification of all kinds of living organisms for a wide range of reasons. For instance, in crops it can be used so that they have “built-in” biological pesticides or protective pesticides called Bt toxins,[3] and in both crops and animals we can even use it to create new hybrid species.

          Proponents of GMOs argue that some GMOs may be key to eradicating diseases facing humans as well. For instance, bacteria such as E. coli contain a special strand of DNA known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). When bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) attack bacteria, CRISPR keeps a piece of the bacteriophage, which will then generate a protective immune response if the bacteria is attacked again.[4] Scientists are working with genetically modifying organisms with CRISPR in order to develop human immunity to different diseases such as cancer or AIDS.[5]

          GMOs are not just important to science but are also important to the economy. For example, in the 1980s, the papaya ringspot virus broke out in Hawaii, largely affecting the state’s papaya industry. Papayas are one of Hawaii’s economic staples, as they are one of its main exports. Farmers attempted to move papaya plantations from Oahu to the Big Island, but the ringspot virus still managed to infect the plants. In 1989, the University of Hawaii and Cornell University managed to modify the “solo” species of papaya to be resistant to the ringspot virus. Hawaii widely adopted the GM papaya and was able to recover from the virus.[6] Hawaii is now a hotspot for biotechnology and the solo papaya no longer is afflicted with the ringspot virus.

          GMOs are possibly the key to ending world hunger and famine. As the GM papaya shows, we have been able to modify organisms to be immune to certain viruses. Scientists believe that by using different plants from different environments, we could mix them with other plants so that they could adapt to certain conditions. Take a cactus for example; if we could extract certain parts of a cactus’ DNA that allow it to live in the desert, then we could mix it with that of some other crop so that it too would be immune to droughts. There are many countries that suffer from famine because of droughts. If we practiced genetic modification in these areas then world hunger could be less of a problem.

          While the use of GM crops has helped many economies, there are downsides. Since GM crops are typically owned by wealthy, multinational companies, many people believe that because they are patented, these companies will make more money than smaller competitors and the economic balance of power will be shifted. People also believe that GM crops are a threat to small-scale farmers. Often, farmers cannot improve the variety of crops without paying the multinational companies and risk being sued if GM crops get mixed up with non-GM crops or vice versa.

          For consumers’ protection against defective or harmful GMOs, we have safeguard agencies set up to thoroughly study GMOs and protect consumers. In the United States, scientific testing and strict guidelines developed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) help ensure that GMOs aren’t harmful to humans or the environment. The FDA is responsible for approving a wide range of products used by both humans and animals, including food (GMO and non-GMO), drugs and certain medical items. Its Plant Biotechnology Consultation Program evaluates new GM foods before they enter the market. Under the FDA’s Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), GM crops have been designated to be “generally recognized as safe”.[7] If transgenes are put into crops or meats that differ significantly in structure, function, or quality from their natural source, the FDA reserves authority to determine whether the product needs mandatory pre-market approval.[8]

          The potential environmental impact of GMOs, such as those that contain pesticides (Bt toxins), is overseen by the EPA, whose function is to protect the environment.  The USDA regulates the safety of certain genetically modified meats, poultry and eggs for human consumption. Together, these two agencies work in conjunction with the FDA to ensure consumer and environmental safety.

          GMO foods are important to our society as a whole, as they help us develop more desirable, robust, and potentially healthier crops that can improve and protect our health. GMOs help our economy as well as the economies of developing nations, which often face devastating food shortages and famine that can be addressed by developing crops that are able to withstand difficult growing conditions. The possibilities seem endless. However, we must continually assess and address the safety and moral implications of changing living organisms, particularly those we consume. Given that, I believe that the pros of GMOs greatly outweigh the potential cons. While it is important to stick to your morals, it is also important to be open to the many positive potential benefits GMOs offer. Genetic modification is our future and will perhaps lead us to a thriving society in which we will not have to worry about famine, hunger and disease.

          One cannot approach the issue of humans genetically changing a living organism without the creeping ethical question: Are we playing God? The response will depend in a large part on if one actually believes in God. If so, the main question would be if we are somehow messing with God’s overall plan or committing a sin, perhaps that of hubris. In any case, ethical questions such as the potential of disturbing the ecosystem, bringing about unintended consequences and potential abuse arise. Furthermore, the purpose and benefit must be weighed as well as the method. This is a topic that goes beyond the scope of this paper but one that must be raised and addressed by those conducting this research as well as those of us who benefit from it.


[1]World Health Organization (WHO). Frequently Asked on Genetically Modified Foods. 2014. World Health Organization.

[2] Rangel, Gabriel. From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology. 2015. Harvard University.

[3] Niederhuber, Matthew. Insecticidal Plants: The Tech and Safety of GM Bt Crops. 2015. Harvard University.

[4] Cohen, John. CRISPR. 2015. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Davidson, Sarah Nell. Forbidden Fruit: Transgenic Papaya in Thailand. 2008. American Society of Plant Biologists.

[7] Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Biotechnologies for Agricultural Development. 2011. Food and Agriculture Organization.

[8] Ibid.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUmFuZEMlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Results and Conclusion

After thorough research I found that commercially sold GM foods do not cause health problems for us. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIySWFuZFIlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Insights and Reflections

I found this project to be very helpful. This project informed me more about biology, which is very helpful because it is our current subject in science. It also informed me more about the society we live in and how we have built it the way it is today. I found this topic very interesting. [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyQmliJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Bibliography

Cohen, John. CRISPR. 2015. American Association for the Advancement of Science.
This is a reliable source because it was published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FDA). Biotechnologies for Agricultural Development. 2011. Food and Agriculture Organization.
This is a reliable source because it was published and written by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). ISAAA Brief 51-2015: Executive Summary. 2015. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
This is a reliable source because it was published and written by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
110 Nobel Prize Winners. Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs). 2016. 110 Nobel Prize Winners
This is a reliable source because it was written and published by 110 Nobel Prize Winners in the science field.
Davidson, Sarah Nell. Forbidden Fruit: Transgenic Papaya in Thailand. 2008. American Society of Plant Biologists.
This is a reliable source because it was published by the American Society of Plant Biologists and was written by someone with a PhD in Plant Biology.
Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops and the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Genetically Modified Crops. 2020. The National Academies Press.
This is a reliable source because it was written by the Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops and the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and was also written recently.
Landry, Heather. Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity. 2015. Harvard University.
This is a reliable source because it was published by Harvard University and the author has a PhD in Plant Biology.
World Health Organization (WHO). Frequently Asked on Genetically Modified Foods. 2014. World Health Organization.
This is a reliable source because it was written and published by the World Health Organization.
Rangel, Gabriel. From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology. 2015. Harvard University.
This is a reliable source because it was published by Harvard University and written by someone who has a PhD in Plant Biology.
Niederhuber, Matthew. Insecticidal Plants: The Tech and Safety of GM Bt Crops. 2015. Harvard university.
This is a reliable source because it was published by Harvard university and was written by someone who is a Research Assistant in Biology at Harvard. 
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