Science has improved farming methods
dramatically over the last 100 years. But at what price? Following the
in Europe over
mad cow disease
and contaminated beef, shoppers are
nervous about the food they buy, especially if it has been "modified" by
Supermarkets in Britain have been forced to lead where government has
failed, and have insisted that
suppliers label their
products if they have been genetically modified.
of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) say that food
crops can be made resistant to
drought, and made to produce
more. With such crops, harvests need never fail again.
will become a thing of the past. However many people, including
scientists, are very worried. GMOs raise a lot of questions such as
those below, which need a lot more
if shoppers are to be won over.
The good news is that Genetically Modified Foods are being tested more
than any other foods. Indeed, there are many common foods that would be
banned if they were new
today. Look at
kidney beans, which are
poisonous if they are not cooked
properly. Peach seeds contain cyanide - every year around the world
several people die from eating them. Before improved varieties were
manioc, the staple food of
millions, had to be specially prepared to remove its cyanide.
What will happen if new genes "escape" into
other living things?
The genes are inserted into
GMOs to do a specific job - to resist insects for example. But people
will spread to other plants
growing around the crop - as pollen on the wind or carried by insects.
The insects will then starve and die. If there are no insects, birds and
small animals will have nothing to eat and will also die.
The supporters of GM foods, however, say that if insects stop eating the
crop, the farmer has no need to kill them with insecticide. So more
insects will be allowed to live. They say that it is
very difficult for genes to transfer between different species. They also
say that genetic modification by selective breeding has been going on
the companies that produce the GMOs have too much power?
Monsanto is about to patent a technique that will stop seeds growing
from genetically improved plants. This "terminator gene" will mean that
at the end of a growing season cannot be saved and replanted the following
year. Farmers will then have
to go back to
the company each year to buy new seed. But Monsanto has not yet made any
crops with a "terminator gene", because it has yet to win over the
public's confidence that GM foods are safe to eat. Once consumers are
won over, will farmers avoid buying "terminator" crops if they are the
the GM foods be safe to eat?
some controversial evidence in the US that eating GM maize has
asthma attacks in sufferers. Research in Britain also seems to show that
GM potatoes caused problems in rats.
But the supporters of GM foods say that it should be possible to make
are less likely to trigger
allergies. And they say that the British potato research is wrong. The
rats were fed so much potato that even a normal potato would have been
bad for them.
famine: a severe shortage
of food (as through crop failure) resulting in violent
hunger and starvation and death (hambruna, carestía de
scare: panic, sudden mass fear and anxiety
over anticipated events (pánico)
mad cow disease: a fatal disease of cattle affecting the central
nervous system (enfermedad de la vaca loca)
far more: much more (aún más)
suppliers label: providers put labels on (los proveedores rotulen)
the supporters: the defenders (los defensores)
crops: the yield from plants in a single growing season (cosechas)
disease: illness (enfermedades)
drought: a temporary shortage of rainfall (sequía)
hunger: famine, the consequence of food deprivation (el hambre)
research: investigation (investigación, estudio)
if shoppers are to be won over: for shoppers to become fully
satisfied (para ganarse a los compradores)
thoroughly: deeply (en profundidad)
banned: prohibited (prohibidos)
kidney beans: common bean plant, especially a variety with large red
kidney-shaped beans (judías, frijoles)
poisonous: venemous (venenosos)
manioc: bitter cassava root (mandioca)
concerned: worried (preocupada)
will spread: will extend (se extiendan)
actually: really (realmente)
harvested: gathered (cosechadas)
to go back to: to return (regresar a, volver a)
worsened: made worse (empeorado)
are less likely to trigger: have less probability of generating (tienen
menos probabilidades de generar)