GMOh no? GMOh yes.
Let’s pretend that there is a happily-wed couple named Susan and John Smith who have finally decided they are ready to have a child. After discussing at length the couple make an appointment at and travel to one of the top in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics in the area. While speaking to the doctor, the couple express they want to use genetic modification technology to prevent passing on the Huntington's disease gene that they both carry. Before being able to go through with the process, the couple are required to meet with a genetic counselor to make sure that they are truly comfortable with and aware of their actions. During the meeting, the counselor challenges the couple by arguing that genetic modification can cause harmful side effects to the child. The Smiths, however, came well prepared and have thoroughly considered the pros and cons of genetic modification. They cite that while there are risks associated, their happenings are extremely rare and the benefits of the procedure are tremendous. By saving their child from the catastrophic psychiatric symptoms of this disease, they will improve his/her quality of life.
Just like how people have genetic defects that are detrimental to their health, plants can as well. Some segments of DNA can do damage to the organism as a whole, analogous to how misspelling or grammar mistakes can damage the reception of a piece of writing. Although the editorial system of plants is close to sheer perfection, it does make mistakes. Fortunately, humans can make genetic edits to plants by ‘fixing’ a broken gene or by introducing a new one -- creating what are called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). However, this presents a controversy where biotechnology can do a lot of good for people.
GMOs are living things whose DNA sequence has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This is often done by taking a desired gene from one species and putting it in another species – for example, the gene for vitamin A being introduced into golden rice. Or, by correcting a preexisting gene -- a type of gene therapy -- which helps improve produce yields. The benefits of GMOs are tremendous because they help to curb the silent epidemic of malnutrition by introducing much-needed vitamins into the diet of people across the globe. From an ethical standpoint, GMOs are a practical solution to long-standing problems by providing food stability and increased crop yields.
Farmers want high quantities of produce that can best serve the nutritional needs of their customers, GMOs can deliver on this in a safe and effective way. If people had the technology to safely eliminate degenerative and debilitating diseases wouldn’t it be ethical to cure those who are afflicted? Since GMO biotechnology can reduce malnutrition and hunger, the moral compass of many people points to growing more of these crops. This can be done by others, who wish to see farmers reap a better harvest, by supporting science that rigorously explores how to feed the world through GMOs.