Genetic modification (GM) is a special set of technologies that alter the genetic makeup of organisms such as animals, plants or bacteria. Genetically modified foods (GMF) are foods that their genetic makeup has been altered so that they either grow fast or they improve their nutritional quality, taste, appearance and drought tolerance. Alongside this, genetic modification is also being used in the forest sector to create pest resistance, herbicide tolerance and wood quality traits. Therefore genetically modified foods and crops are often used as the solution to the increased food security. However achieving food security is a very difficult thing to achieve since it is more than just fulfilling yield deficits that is dealing the amount of food production.
Africa is faced with many problems among them drought, famine and climate change which bring fourth hunger and malnutrition. Indeed millions of people are food insecure due to these problems. They mainly depend on food aid to survive. That’s why various strategies have been put in place to mitigate food insecurity, food engineering being one of them. This has led to the introduction of genetically modified crops.
A major challenge for much of Africa is how the nations can improve food security for their people. The nations have to determine the appropriate strategies so as to get a clear understanding of the nature of the food security problem and understand what exactly GM crops can bring to address this problem. The Millennium Development Goal’s (MDG) target is to reduce the hunger in the world by 2015. This target can be achieved by putting GM crops into practice. Genetic modification technology may contribute to food security goals through increasing crop yields, producing crops that can withstand harsh conditions and enhancing nutritional and medical value.
However, improving food insecurity is not only by increasing food production. It is more than that. The major problem that needs to be looked at first is the lack of policies that match need and production of food. Food production is closely linked to cultural and livelihood systems. This has raised a number of issues that need to be addressed. First of all, how reliable are the genetically modified organisms or crops in solving social and economic problems. This is because economic and social problems are the major factors contributing to food insecurity and need to be catered for first.
Secondly, the impact of the cost of genetically modified crops in terms of their cost of production has to be addressed. If the cost of production will be as high as the cost production of the normal crops, then there is no need for practicing it. It should be simpler and less expensive compared to the production of the normal crops. Thirdly, how will the benefits acquired from the use of genetic materials be equally shared in the developing countries? Cutting the cost of crop production by producing genetically modified crops will yield profits or benefits. These benefits need to be shared in the relevant countries that exercised it. This is a major issue since other countries get more benefits than others through corruptions and other unclean means.
Finally, the impact of genetically modified organisms on local livelihood systems and agricultural diversity is also a major issue. Genetically modified crops have some impact on human beings since they bring changes in human nutrition since their genetic structures have been changed. This may have a positive or a negative impact on the human body. Also the practice of producing genetically modified crops will affect the agricultural patterns and formats of the farmers since the crops grow fast, they require different and more complicated chemicals and herbicides for their growth. These chemicals may also affect the environment. This will affect the agricultural diversity.
I fully support the production of genetically modified crops as a means to fight the problem of food insecurity in Africa. For many years, Africa has been faced with the food insecurity problem to an extent that many foreign organizations have offered to help. The root cause of food insecurity in Africa, especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa, is the inability of the people to gain access to food due to poverty and over population. This makes it hard for the people to gain access to resources. This has led to starvation and even the death of many people.
This shows that food insecurity is a major setback for Africa since it cannot develop with some of its people dying of hunger. That’s why I strongly support the introduction of genetically modified crops to fight food insecurity. Most of Africa is semi arid with harsh weather conditions. Genetically modified crops can easily resist these harsh conditions and harvest will be guaranteed at every time of the year thus there will be no lack of food in Africa.
However, I don’t support genetically modified crops since they have some harmful impacts on human life and the environment. Many people are only notified on the benefits of using genetically modified organisms but they are not aware of the dangers that they can cause. The genetic formulas of these organisms can be transfers to the human thus causing harmful terminal diseases like cancer. The chemicals used on these crops also have some effects on the environment.
The public also have their take on genetically modified organisms. Basing on the theory of utilitarianism, which is an ethical theory that holds that the proper course of action is the one that gives the ‘people’ overall happiness by whatever means necessary. The society knows the right or wrong that they can do from analyzing actions by their outcome that is, the end result of taking a certain action is the one that matters. Therefore, some people have focused on the positive outcomes while others have focused on the negative outcomes of using genetically modified organisms. Since utilitarianism is mainly focused on the outcome that brings most pleasure, many people have tended to look at the positive effects of GMO’s and they have tended to eradicate the problem of food insecurity. They have ignored the negative outcomes.
However, many people have believed that being natural is the way that brings ‘most pleasure’. They have refused to adopt the growing of genetically modified crops. They have looked mainly on the negative impacts like diseases and the effect on the environment. They have seemed to be conservative to their practices of farming. This has led to the formation of camps that support and oppose genetic engineering though the perception towards genetically modified foods has remained equivocal in that the negative and positive impacts have created a major dilemma in the choice. Genetically modified foods have their advantages as well as disadvantages.
Genetically modified foods are a major solution to the increased food insecurity in Africa. With the harsh weather conditions and environment changes in Africa, genetically modified foods remain the only way out. The only set back of this initiative is the level of knowledge of farmers on GMO’s. They need to be given more education on the production of genetically modified crops and how to maintain this production. This will ensure high and quality food production that will be enough for the people and their markets thus fighting the food insecurity problem in the world.