Have you ever taken the time to notice all the different species of plants and animals around you? Sure, there are the ‘basics’ that we’ve learned as a child through nursery rhymes, but what about all the species that we don’t even know exist? All of these species of plants and animals collectively are known as biodiversity, and each play their own role within the world to contribute to its growth. In my grade twelve biology class I first discovered and began to question the benefits and concerns that presented itself within GMO’s. GMO’s -or genetically modified organisms- is a organism with its genetic material altered and does not occur naturally by sexual or asexual reproduction. Their purpose was to provide resistance from certain diseases, pests, environmental condition, spoilage and aid farmers in the growth of their crops so they could make a living. We also see the use of genetically modified mammals who have been engineered to grow faster, resist diseases, but the ultimatum use for mammals and aquatic has been for growth-rate, quality of meat, and milk composition.Although the benefits, we have also seen the possible defects that they present. within the documentary SEED: The Untold Story they show the audience that within each vegetable or fruit, there were 10’s- if not 100’s- of different species. Before watching that video, I hadn’t realized that there was 588 varieties of cabbage, but since 1983 only 28 remain7! Have we truly helped mother natures production or have humans and our greed finally caught up to us through the idea that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are accelerating the decline in biodiversity with both plant and animal species? “Yes” Argument: With regard to the yes side, Mosquitos that inhibit diseases-such as malaria- that greatly impacted human populations within developing countries1. In order to combat this, scientists have been conducting different procedures to create genetically modified mosquitoes to help prevent the spread of borne diseases. scientists. One method of which they used was seemingly have rendered some of the insects to become infertile. In 2010 when researchers conducted the experiment, they released Aedes aegypti mosquitos- which contain and release the disease dengue- into the wild. The GM mosquitos also carried a transgene that rendered them ‘infertile’ as because the gene as placed within their DNA, the gene resulted in 96% of their offspring to die before reaching adulthood1. From this experiment to the end, the Aedes aegypti experienced an 80% decrease of its species. Although it seemed as it was a possible solution, it did not possess long-term effectiveness for the disease control, as it is not a well received outcome due to the role the mosquitos play within the food chain. Secondly, with regards to animals, an experiment was conducted in order to evaluate the exposure of butterflies to genetically modified maize pollens within secured areas and the effect they have regarding the Lepidoptera larvae. The genetically modified maize was detected to contain Cry1Ab toxins within most of the plant tissues and although it is not an important food course, during flowering periods it was determined that the pollen of these Gm maize with the toxins were being deposited onto neighbouring plants due to winds2. Researches observed specific butterfly species and saw that the results in fact did prove their worries. For example, larvae of the A. io species showed clumped distribution with many of the neighbouring nettles have no larvae upon it. Between June and July only 250 larvae were found within one of the three transects, where the larvae were late hatchers and were discovered at the edge of a ditch which helped separate the maize field from the caterpillars and possibly migrated to further away plants with the objective of locating an acceptable pupation areas. The early hatchers were assumed to of fed on nettles within the ditch and were hard to detect. Scientists also made note that V. atalanta adults who often will lay their larvae eggs on nettles, no larvae of this species were detected on the nettle transects. The GM chemical being produced are emitting certain toxins that are effecting their crops and due to winds, are casting it onto neighbouring areas as well. The result of this shows that decrease in reproduction of insects and causing them to move further away so they can find suitable pupation areas. Thirdly, in recent years the process of agricultural intensification has resulted in a decrease of soil and bird species in the United Kingdom. Agricultural intensification refers to an increase of agriculture production with both crop yield and livestock. To do this, in the study farmers expanded the amount of fertilizer, feed, and land in order to produce more cultivation of their stock. The process however of using excessive amount of fertilizer and pesticides ultimately degraded the soil 3 and it resulted in the change in the agriculture landscape and surrounding environment. In the United Kingdom in the last 30 years has seen a dramatic decline to the amount of farmland birds they have by approximately 60% of their numbers from 1970. This drastic change in biodiversity was noted to have risen after the adjustment of variables measuring the intensity. Also within the Netherlands they saw the 60% of the 27 species were decreasing after 1970. Among the 27, 11 species were down to 50%, with another 6 bird species down to 80%. “No” Argument: In regards to the no argument, in actuality, invasive species continue to be the major cause of the reduction within our biodiversity4 and the control of these species could prevent the decrease within crops. A novel form of genetic pest management, also known as GPM, has been introduced within the wild in order to inaugurate DNA sequences that have been genetically modified in order to exploit mating seasons within the invasive specie and ultimately, decrease the harmful variety rather than our crop yield. The strategy is to commence pest colonization, who is modified in carrying the modified trait and then during their respected mating season, passing on these gene to their offspring. The results indicated that females coleopteran who contained the transgene allele frequency is halved each generation with a female carrier who was no longer viable. During mating and looking at male transgene carriers, there was a large increase of X-chromosomes being destroyed, with the passing of the Y-chromosome resulting in a 97% male progeny after a few generations down. With the damaged X-chromosome that could of been passed from the father, males who carried the transgene mated with mostly Y- bearing sperm4, and thus declining the birth rate and increasing the production of crop yield. The second argument imposes that GMOs are actually advantageous to our survival. The Philippines had opened up a rice field- known as the Golden Rice- in order to trial and evaluate the genetically modified rice5. Golden Rice is a strain that is genetically engineered in order to produce B-carotene, which is used in order to create Vitamin A. Without the vitamin, deficiency can cause blindness, as vitamin A is needed for the retina of the eye in the form of retinal, and when combined with the protein opsin, is able to create the light-absorbing molecule, rhodopsin as well help maintaining ones immune system. Lacking of the compound due to poverty and poor diet has caused countless of deaths, most frequent with children under the age of 5. Within Asian households, it is known that rice is a major food staple, as it is affordable and versatile. Unfortunately however, the white rice grain is lacking in vitamin A. And so scientists Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer with their respected teams had created the Golden Rice that contained the B-carotene. It had taken 25 years and was presented no hazards to the environment. They continue to do multiple of tests to find danger within the grain, however it has shown to be completely safe. Lastly, researches have actually seen an increase in population of certain species rather than declining. The Food and Agricultural Organization has shown that crops have increased slightly each year6. For example, wheat production has increased annually by 1.6%. This shows a value in regards that it may be beneficial in helping those who unfortunately do not have access to food. GMO’s have been used to help limit pests and insects from ruining harvests, and with these complications solved alongside the rapid world population growth each year, this can aid in the global nutritional standards. 20-40% of the yearly crop loss is by pest invasion alone, and GMO’s help by limiting these invasive organisms affects as well as being able to tackle and remove certain diseases that arise in the crop yield. Compare and Contrast: To compare and contrast, firstly it seems to be that gmos are being used in order to help prevent the spread of diseases that could invade both crops, humans, and other animals within the food chain. Certain genetically modified organisms seem to help combat this, but the ethical aspect of the killing of these species seems to arise. Example being the first of the yes argument with researchers leaving mosquitos infertile. Many were upset at the fact that this could be dangerous in the fact that it could disrupt the food chain and what mosquitoes role within it being damaged. Another arguable debate topic is whether or not GMO’s actually have a beneficial outcome regardless. An example of when it helped was the golden rice and being able to add nutrients to the rice so that it can help the poor, but we also see that pollen pollution from GMO crops have effected caterpillars from being able to reproduce and store their larvae safely. In a last comparison and contrast, it is shown that constant irritation to the soil has damaging effects to the livestock being produced and its surrounding animals who use it in order to survive. But, with the actual crops, it seems as though the production of the agriculture increases because of the lessened pests and diseases that could limit the production. Conclusion: In conclusion, I believe that yes, the presence of genetically modified organisms are declining the biodiversity within plant and animal species. Although the “no” side presents itself with evidence that organism are helping in reducing invasive species attack on our crops, it still is disrupting their population drastically. Also, the fact that although the genetically modified rice has helped a community and the strain possessed no alarming side effects, genetically modified organisms are still declining gene vastness within our ecosystem8. For organisms to survive and produce viable offsprings, genetic diversity must be maintained otherwise, many more species will go extinct; maybe even us.
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