Building Better Food?


Kenyans examining insect-resistant transgenic Bt corn.
Dave Hoisington/CIMMYT

Christy VanArragon and Adam Navis look at new kinds of crops, created by scientists: genetically modified organisms.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Christy VanArragon.

Voice 2 

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A farmer stands at the edge of his field. He looks out over the growing corn. This farm has belonged to his family for years. His grandfather grew corn on this land.

Voice 2 

But the farmer is not at peace. His corn is not healthy.  There are insects eating the corn before it is ready for harvest. The farmer might not have much corn to sell this year. This farmer must make a choice. He must decide whether or not he will grow a different kind of corn next year. It is a special kind of corn. Insects will not eat it. It will grow stronger, faster, and produce more corn.

Voice 1 

The farmer decides to grow the new corn. This may seem like a simple choice. However, this new kind of corn has problems too. Today’s Spotlight is on these new kinds of crops. They are called GMOs.

Voice 2 

A GMO is a genetically modified organism. GMO’s are plants that have been changed, using science. Scientists change the genetics of the plant to try to fix problems or make it a better crop.

Voice 1 

GMOs often are resistant to diseases and insects. Scientists change the plants so that common insects will not eat the plants. And the plants can also resist common diseases. Sometimes more of the desired crop will come from one seed.

Voice 2 

For example, in India, scientists planted two pieces of land with cotton. They planted one field with seeds of traditional cotton. They planted the other field with seeds of GMO cotton. The land and the care for the plants were exactly the same. At harvest time, the GMO cotton produced 87% more cotton than the traditional seeds.

Voice 1 

They had also changed the GMO cotton to resist bollworms. Bollworms often eat cotton crops in India. Farmers need to treat GMO cotton plants for bollworm much less often. This means that farmers need fewer chemicals to grow the GMO cotton. These chemicals are very strong and sometimes dangerous. When farmers use fewer chemicals, it is better for the environment. It is also better for the farmers’ health.

Voice 2 

GMOs also need less fertilizer. Fertilizer helps plants grow bigger and produce more. But using too much fertilizer is also bad for the environment. The extra fertilizer goes into the rivers and lakes near the farms. This can cause damage to fish and water environments.

Voice 1 

There is one more good thing about GMO crops. Scientists can design them to have higher nutrition. The crops can have more healthy substances than traditional crops. Sometimes, they can also grow in worse conditions, in places where traditional crops would not grow. Increasing the food value of crops is important to poor nations.  People in nations suffering from hunger could grow healthier grains or better vegetables.  This would mean better health for the people living there.

Voice 2 

Each kind of GMO crop is created for a particular need. For example, scientists in Switzerland created “golden rice.” It prevents Vitamin A deficiency. When people do not get enough Vitamin A, they become blind. Golden rice is cooked and eaten like regular white rice. However it provides people with vitamin A not found in white rice.

Voice 1 

There are many reasons that large companies and small organizations are developing GMO’s. However, many other experts do not think that GMOs will help solve hunger and environmental problems. Greenpeace is a global environmental organization. It says on its website,

“Lack of food is not the cause of hunger around the world. Political problems and failures are the cause. World hunger has an estimated one billion victims. In other words, more food does not always mean fewer hungry people.”

Voice 2 

Just as GMO’s have many good things, there are also serious concerns about them. For example, farmers in the United States often grow GMO corn and soybeans. However the GMO plants do not always produce more corn and soybeans. Sometimes they even produce less than traditional crops. The GMO seeds cost farmers a lot more money. This means that the farmer pays more for seeds with no improvement in his harvest.

Voice 1 

Another reason experts are concerned about GMOs is the companies that make the seeds. The largest GMO seed company is Monsanto.  They engineer 90% of all GMO seeds. This means that Monsanto owns these seeds. Monsanto sells them at any price they decide. This also means that a farmer cannot save his seeds. Saving seeds is a traditional way of preparing for next year’s planting. But Monsanto does not permit this tradition. Farmers have to buy new seeds each year from them.

Voice 2 

Sometimes a farmer growing traditional seeds has a farm next to a farm growing GMO seeds. The two crops are growing side by side. In the growing season the plants release their pollen. This powder comes from the plants to help them create new seeds. Sometimes the wind will blow pollen from one farm to the other. This means that the GMO pollen will affect the traditional farmer’s plants.  Some of his traditional plants might change to be more like the GMO plants.

Voice 1 

In the past, Monsanto has taken these traditional farmers to court. They want the farmer to pay because some of his plants are like the GMO plants. The farmer has done nothing to cause this change. The wind simply blew the pollen across the fields. Monsanto is a big, powerful company. They often win this battle. The small farmer must pay a lot of money to Monsanto. Sometimes it is all the money they have.

Voice 2 

GMO plants can sometimes help farmers. They can be healthier, and better for the environment. But there are many concerns. Nature has not created GMO plants. They could create environmental problems in the future. This is especially true when big companies like Monsanto are selling them.

Voice 1

Farmers must decide what they think is the best choice for them, the environment, and the world. Do you support the use of traditional crops, or GMO crops? What do you choose to eat? Share your ideas on our website at www.radioenglish.net.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Johanna Poole. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. This program is called ‘Building Better Food?’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you eat any GMO food? Why or why not?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Skender
said on January 31, 2012

Nowadays GMO (genetically modified organism) crops are widely spread in modern agriculture. In above excerpt I didn’t read any advantage of traditional crops. On the other hand in several pharagraphs the writer underlined the benefits of GMO crops like: large amount of production, higher nutrition, planting in worse contitions, resistant to deseases and insects, less fertilizer which means less environmental poisoness, etc.
Nevertheless In my view I prefer traditional crops rather than GMO crops. Better taste, natural planting, safety and bioproduction, make it more apreciable and valuable for people all around the world.
Skender from Albania

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edwin espinoza
said on February 02, 2012

I WORKED AS THE FARMER FOR ALONG TIME THIS ACTIVITY IS VERY HART

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Giovanni
said on February 04, 2012

I agree with Greenpeace. GMO could cause huge environmental disaster.However, we are not sure of the impacts of GMO on Human Health .
Giovanni

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minhdy
said on December 28, 2014

When I worked for a food processing factory, Japanese customers have only bought all the products fried by non-GMO palm oil that was produced from non-GMO palm seeds. Why have not they used GMO seeds? Maybe, they have thought that GMO seeds harm for human health. Up to now, we have not yet known any science research conclusion about GMO damage if have.

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Dela
said on August 11, 2015

I suppose growing GMO plants may create environmental problems just as harm humans’ health in future. I agree with the opinion mentioned in this article that particularly political problems and failures cause hunger around the world, not lack of food!
Surely, growing GMO crops means the better harvest and higher profits for farmers but there is a well known fact the genetically changed food plants can influence the humans’ organism negatively after some time. Consequences of this new modern phenomenon which means genetic modification of food crops might be interminable in future!

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Nguyen Dang Manh Hung
said on August 13, 2015

If GMO is really better seeds, i think we need more companies to compete, it is good to have a fair price and we also need the governments change their rules for the farmer’s right. Of course, i will eat what i think it’s good food and at the fair price.

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Nguyen Dang Manh Hung
said on August 13, 2015

If GMO is really better seeds, i think we need more companies to compete, it is good to have a fair price and we also need the governments change their rules for the farmer’s right. Of course, i will eat what i think it’s good food and at the fair prices.

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Ma Van Loc
said on August 14, 2015

This video is good. Thank you very much

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toantb
said on August 17, 2015

I have never seen the GMO plant so i hope to eat it and compare with the tradition plant, i will to give my decision.

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kenhieuloilam
said on January 17, 2016

Food helps us sustain our lives every day. Difficulties and sufferings make us purer. We struggle with difficulties and sufferings. We make much effort to go to perfection. We wish to be physically and spiritually full enough. When we live our lives in advantage we are persons of advantage. When we live our lives in difficulty we are persons of difficulty. When we live our lives in suffering we are persons of suffering. There is nothing capable of hindering us from going to perfection. Difficulties and sufferings pass by. We become a good person. We are physically and spiritually full enough. We overcome difficulties. We overcome sufferings.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on October 14, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spothlight programme
Subject: answer to the questions above
Date: Friday 14, October 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Christy VanArragon, johanna Poole, Adam Navis, and Michio Ozaki:

At first, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!.

Yes, I do.
I and many people here in Brazil eat this kind of food because many agronomists, engineers, and scientists of this field of the agriculture have done this process GMO to protect the plants from insects and diseases in which the insects bring to the crops and harvests.
So, the farmers have been using the method to get the best crops and harvest for us and other countries in which have bought our excellent products from our country Brazil.
For example; our coffee!  Because it is the best in the world.
Therefore, I tried to send to Spotlight’s team some packages of coffee by post office but it refused because The United States does not accept to receive our coffee.
So, I had already told you spotlight programme about this, had not I ?

The best regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

The best