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Persuasive: Genetically Engineered Food

Introduction

Genetically engineered (GE) food is often being referred to “Frankenfood”, but who is Frankenstein? According the original novel by Mary Shelley (1998), Victor Frankenstein was the creator of the creature which was never given a name in the story. The creature had a really pure heart and was willing to help the others in needs. Villagers, in the story, despised it nonetheless due to its distinct appearance. It ended up hiding itself in the far North, away from the human society.

The creature is an advance science designed to help the humans, but it was being rejected by the society for only one reason: its ugliness. Thus, by the end of this paper, I hope you will have a better understanding of what genetically engineered food is, how it can benefits our society, and why you should rely on it.

Plant Breeding Methods vs. Genetic Engineering

Genetic modifications have been practiced by farmers over thousands of years. However, the traditional methods (e.g. hybrid) are more “acceptable” by the society. One of the reasons is because the conventional methods still follows Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The techniques of genetic engineering, on the other hand, involve direct human intervention with an organism which is then no longer natural, but artificial. One advantage of GE is that there is no more limitation with the compatibility issues between different species which provides more variety in food. The next section will discuss more about genetic engineering.

What is Genetic Engineering?

The goal of genetic engineering (often referred as recombinant DNA technology) is to “introduce, enhance, or delete particular characteristics of an organism.” (Nottingham, 1998, p.11). Deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) consist genetic information that is structured to be a double helix (Figure 1). Genetic code is the instruction that made up of the sequence of bases, which defines a particular function, on a DNA strand. Gene transfer between species is possible because genetic code follow the same a set of rules shared by all living organisms. If we can decipher the genetic code, we can insert desirable components or remove unwanted elements; thus producing more nutritious products.

Benefits of GE Food

The development of GE technology on food not only lowered the price of our daily products, but it also increases the quality of our food. Producing medical crops is another advantage of this food.

Increase Plant Protection

According to World Heath Organization (WHO) (2011), genetically engineered food is developed to protect crops and enhance its growing efficiency. Insect resistance is achieved by inserting small amount of toxin such as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) that serve as a conventional insecticide, but safe for human consumption. Further noted by WHO, GE crops also have higher virus resistance, which increase crop yields, and herbicide tolerance that resulted the decreased quantity of herbicide used. Since the production costs of GE food are reduced by lower the amount of chemical and mechanical inputs, we as consumers are benefited from the pricing as well.

Enhance Quality

Other than producing food in a more cost efficient way, GE techniques also improve the quality in food. A well-known example is the “Golden Rice” that contains beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a source of vitamin A and iron which prevent and treat maternal anemia and blindness. Golden Rice, therefore, reduces the rates in of such problems in the developing world by providing enough nutrition in high production (Schneider K. & Schneider R., 2009)

Another example is the soybean with a modified oil composition made by DupPont. This type of soybeans increases the desirable monounsaturated oleic acid to over 80% of the oil from about 24%. Several companies and public institutions are developing soy, canola, and other vegetable oils with reduced saturated fat content and other enhancements. (McHughen, 2002).

Genetically engineered food not only provides more nutritious contents to the developing world, it also enhances our daily food products.

Pharmaceuticals

Medicines and vaccines are very costly to produce for the most times. Researchers are working to develop vaccine in foods. For example, bananas are considered as potential vaccination against hepatitis B. With the development of genetic engineering, we will not need to get vaccination from shots, but simply from eating fruits (McGill Hill, 2000).

Concerns

Some of the major concerns regarding GE food include the potential risks to human health, labeling issues, and the potential hazards to environment.

Human Health Risk

There have been no negative cases of people dying from consuming GE products. Although an article published in Lancet (Pusztai, 1999) examined the effects of GE potatoes on the digestive tract in rats and showed appreciable difference in the intestines of rats those were fed with GE potatoes and those were fed with ordinary potatoes, the critics contend that the data does not back up with enough scientific proofs (Enserink, 1999). Furthermore, they believe that the experience is flawed because the genes inserted into the potatoes were a snow flower lectin, a substance known to be toxic to mammals, and these potatoes was never intended for human or animal consumption. Overall, scientists believe that genetic engineered food do not present a risk to human health. We will examine more about the safety assessments in Canada after this concern section.

Labeling

Labeling the contents of GE products is another concern for many people. However, it is not necessary. According to the book, “A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food” (McHughen, 2000), the two major purposes of labeling are: to provide us nutritional information or serving as advertising purposes. No food production companies would mention “poison” as an ingredient to their products. Instead, the labels are carefully manipulated with the art of language while speaking the truth. It can therefore be very misleading. Some labels can be factually informative, but appear useless for the consumers. The information might be too broad (e.g. the only labeled ingredient for vegetable oil is “vegetable oil” without specifying what kind) or too technical (e.g. mentioning chemical substance like sodium benzoate that normal consumers would not understand the consequence from eating it). Since the main purpose, which is providing useful information to the consumers, is not served, there is no point having it.

Furthermore, because no food is truly 100% pure, it is just impossible to list all of them down in a cost effective way. Even if it is possible, the lower end of the market will be deeply affected financially by labeling and regulating GE products because of their uncertain provenance. Some countries, such as United States, do not require labeling in GE products (Dechenne, Jafri, Ruesch, & Shiva, 2004). Moreover, the researchers at the University of Minnesota found that only one percent of the human population reads the entire label (Mauro, 2011). Since nearly no one is reading it, it is not necessary to go through a complicated process and waste more the resources just to label the contents of GE food.

Environmental Hazards

Many people are concerned about the environmental issues as well, but it is preventable. One of the major concerns is genetic engineering products may cause harm to the other organisms. According to the laboratory report published in Nature (Losey, Rayor, & Carter, 1999), pollen from Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) corn caused high mortality rate in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Because the caterpillars consume milkweed plants instead of corns, the study conclude that the pollen from BT corn might be carried by the wind to the milkweeds in neighbouring fields. However, a further study by the USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other non-government research groups suggests that the original study may be flawed (Niller, 1999).

Several solutions proposed include:

□   Create GM plants that are male sterile which therefore will not produce pollens and so no cross-pollination will occur. (Gressel, 1999).

□   Modify the pollen of GM plant so that it does not contain the modified gene. (Gressel, 1999)

□   Create buffer zones. It is estimated that the necessary width of buffer zones range from 6 meters to 30 meters or more (Daniell, 1999).

Since solutions are being proposed, problems will take into notice and be resolved. There is no need to worry about polluting the environment from eating GE products.

GE food in Canada

A long complicated process required to be done in Canada before a GE food can be publicized. It usually takes seven to ten years to research and assess the safety of a new genetically modified food (Heath Canada, 2011). Manufacturers and importers, who wish to sell or advertise a GM food in Canada, must submit data to Health Canada following the steps below:

  1. Pre-submission consultation
  2. Pre-market notification
  3. Scientific Assessment
  4. Requests for addition information
  5. Summary report of findings
  6. Preparation of food rulings proposal
  7. Letter of no objection
  8. Decision document on Health Canada Website

 

Further noted by Health Canada, the safety assessment looks at the following items:

 

  • development of the modified organism
  • composition of and nutritional information about the GE food compared to a non-modified counterpart food
  • the potential for production of new toxins in the food
  • the potential for causing allergic reactions
  • microbiological and chemical safety of the food
  • the potential for any unintended or secondary effects
  • key nutrients and toxicants
  • major and minor constituents

 

Since our government carefully examines the food for us, we should give our trust them. After all, they are consuming the same products as we do.

 

Conclusion

Advance science and technology are to better our human society. The method of genetic engineering is being used in agriculture and food production to provide more, better, and safer products. Not only the quality and quantity of food has been enhanced using GE, medicines are also easier and cheaper to produce. Although concerns such as the potential risks to human health and environmental damages are being proposed, there is no scientific proof on these aspects and solutions are also discovered ready to be solved the issues. We might not know what we are really eating without the labels, but the government has done the long process to assess and ensure the safety of the food products we buy from supermarkets. Genetic engineered food is the food for our future.

How to Add a New Language Keyboard – Ubuntu 12.04

Here’s a little step-by-step procedure on how you can add new language keyboard on ubuntu 12.04:

  1. Go to System Setting and click on Language Support
  2. Change the “Keyboard input method system” parameter to “ibus“. Then hit “Install / Remove Languages…
  3. A new screen labelled “Installed Languages” will show up. Check all the languages that you wish to add.
  4. You may or may not need to restart your computer after step 3.
  5. Type in “ibus” in “Dash home
  6. Go to “Input Method” tab and select your desired input keyboards
    *Note to self: “Chewing” is like the New Phonic” in MS Windows

Optional Steps:

  1. Go back to the “General” tab and set “Show language panel:” parameter to Always
  2. Under Keyboard Shortcuts section:
    • Enable or disable parameter: This is the keyboard shortcut setting on how you wish switch back to English or default keyboard. My personal preference is Ctrl+Shift_L
    • Next input parameter: this is where you wish to switch between your added languages. Note: you cannot switch the keyboard back to default using this shortcut (must be the shortcut you defined above). Alt+Shift_L is my preference.

Hope this is somewhat helpful! Peace~

Advance Wacom Tablet Settings – Ubuntu 12.04

At first I just wanted to disable the touch on my tablet and the default System Setting doesn’t seem to have this option. The product installation CD only works unfortunately on Windows (and possibly Mac). Doing a little more research on google, I found a post that provides more advance settings with wacom tablets on ubuntu. So I hope this post will help the people who wants more control of their wacom device.

  1. First, you need to figure out what is the name of your device first. So type the following in the terminal:
    xsetwacom --list devices

    This will give you something like:

    DEVICE_NAME DEVICE_ID

     

    Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4×5 Pen stylus id: 13 type: STYLUS
    Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4×5 Pen eraser id: 14 type: ERASER
    Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4×5 Finger touch id: 15 type: TOUCH
    Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4×5 Finger pad id: 16 type: PAD
  2. Then you wanna know the parameters to modify:
    xsetwacom --list parameters

    This command will give you a huge list of parameters that you can use.

  3. Finally, you just have to set the new values:
    xsetwacom --set "DEVICE_NAME" PARAM_NAME PARAM_VALUE

    or alternatively, you can do:

    xsetwacom --set DEVICE_ID PARAM_NAME PARAM_VALUE

So take my case as an example, I want to set the touch function off and use the top-most and bottom-most buttons on the pad as UP and DOWN arrow keys. I will want to put down:

xsetwacom --set "Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4x5 Finger touch" touch off
xsetwacom --set "Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4x5 Finger pad" button 1 "key up"
xsetwacom --set "Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4x5 Finger pad" button 9 "key ctrl + s"
xsetwacom --set "Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4x5 Finger pad" button 8 "key ctrl + z"
xsetwacom --set "Wacom Bamboo 16FG 4x5 Finger pad" button 3 "key down"

*NOTE: for some reasons, the numbers of the buttons do not match to the buttons on tablet from top to bottom. That is, it doesn’t go from 1->2->3->4, but 1->9->8->3.

Hope this helps. Cheers, people!

Source: AskUbuntu

Ubuntu 12.04 – Delete file & Permission denied

Hey guys, so I was trying to test JavaHL library using the test file provided on their website. The test created a bunch of folders that doesn’t allow me to delete the files. When I looked in the properties, it says “you are not the owner so you cannot change these permissions”. Don’t know if you feel the same way as I did, but I AM THE OWNER for Christ sake.

Anyways, after doing a little research, I found that it’s saying that you don’t own the folder and it’s related to the root or something like that[1]. This person provides a solution using gksu nautiluswhich doesn’t work in my case. It may or may not work in yours so you might want to take a look.

Googling a little more, here’s what I did to delete the annoying folders:

  1. Type  sudo su  in the terminal, which will make you act as a root, the super user.[2]
  2. Delete the folder/directory along with the files and subfolders insides it with the command[3]:
    rm -r folder_name

This kind of work for my case. Hope it helps you too!! Cheers~

 

References:

[1] http://askubuntu.com/questions/150028/you-are-not-the-owner-message-when-trying-to-access-folder

[2] http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101026161613AATcQgJ

[3] http://askubuntu.com/questions/60228/how-to-remove-all-files-from-a-directory

Women Take the Page

The news item discussed in this paper is:

Sergejew, Kyla. 2011. “Women take the page.” Metro, March 30. Print.

 

The word “equality” does not exist anywhere in the modern world nor will we find its occurrence in the future. Sex inequality is still a main international issue in our current society. The Metro news article, “Women take the page” by Kyla Sergejew, discussed that even it appeared that “women had finally won the battle for equality,” truth is otherwise. Sergejew specifically points out the unbalanced executive positions hold between sexes and most dominantly by men. She further quoted Kathy English, “It’s easy to say look how bad [the status of women] used to be, but it’s not good enough yet.” But how much is enough?

The history of women is rather tragic. According to Fernandez-Armesto, women were being treated as object in the past. Japanese women in the fourteenth century were restricted to self-expression. Chinese women in the seventeenth century bind foot for the interests of men. Women were considered mostly to be the properties of men worldwide and were thought to be incapable of surviving on their own. It was not until the sixteenth century when the women finally gain acknowledgement from the opposite sex. The women rulers were starting to be recognized in Europe. “Men praised [the female rulers] for ruling like men even though they were women” (Fernandez-Armesto 2010, 538). Gradually, the status of women raised as the demand of human labour increased when the huge loss of men in the nineteenth century. Thanks to the attributes of the women suffragists in the past, occupations in the modern world is less bounded between sexes.

Nevertheless, women were being protected by the traditional point of view that stated women are reliable on men. For instance, during the plague era in the fourteenth century, the mortality rate of women was found lower than the men. As Fernández-Armesto reasoned, women “led relatively more secluded, and therefore protected, lives than men” (2010, 460). Women were also less involved in fighting or participating in the two World Wars. Even if they were involved, they did it voluntarily as nurses instead of being forced to face the front as male soldiers did. Lower risks jobs were assigned to the women under this stereotype. According to the recent research of American Psychological Association, men in the study who said they had more traditional gender role attitudes made an average of about $8,500 more annually than those who had less traditional attitudes (2008). Men with the traditional view of women were to believe that they feel more responsible about taking care of the rest of the family and therefore have set higher goals.

The stereotype brings women less competitive with men because not many women envision themselves as superwomen. However, it will not bind the success of women with strong will. Everyone at some points experiences discrimination. Women now are given the opportunities to apply the same job as men even though the chance between sexes is not at the fully equal yet. According to the BBC News profile of President Ellen Johnston-Sirleaf of Liberia, who was the first woman elected as an African head of the state in the twentieth century, before she gained her position, she was being imprisoned and sent exile twice for her criticisms.(2005) Before she was finally accepted by the citizen, she spent a lot of effort on the twist to her feminist arguments. Women’s way of success is the same as men where it requires time and efforts.

It is natural for men to dominate the world because of the history of the roles of women were set up unimpressively. Judging from the current situation, men are still more powerful than women at the current state. The traditional views of women still exist worldwide. To seek for more perfected gender equality, women must first build up our ability and show some actions that we are equal or exceed men’s capabilities of accomplishing tasks. Nothing is equal from the start, thus instead of hoping from other people in giving the equal conditions to both sexes, women have to overcome this prejudice as one of the difficulties to reach their goals.

 

REFERENCE

“AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION; Sexism pays; Study finds men who hold traditional views of women earn more than men who don’t.” Women’s Health Weekly (2008): 24. Accessed March 30, 2011. Digital.

Fernández-Armesto, Felipe. 2010. The World: A History, vol. 2, Since 1300. 2nd ed. Toronto: Prentice Hall. Print.

“Liberia’s ‘Iron Lady.’” BBC News, November 23, 2005. Accessed March 30, 2011. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4395978.stm