Everything we eat, and even some of the things we use on our bodies, was at some point grown, cultivated, or harvested on a farm. Today, these products are marketed based on their appearance, size, and overall taste. The less appealing your produce is to consumers, the less likely you are to make a sale.
That’s why farmers these days have put great effort into growing and cultivating only the best produce and livestock in order to keep up with competition. One of the ways they have devised to improve the quality of their harvest is called selective breeding. This process involves breeding animals and plants in order to increase the prominence of desirable traits. While this complex method does have its upsides, that is, it cultivates more appealing crops, there are certain downsides particularly that people prefer naturally or organically grown produce.
The Advantages of Selective Breeding
1. Increased Profits for Farmers.
Consumers can be very picky these days. Most individuals will refuse to purchase a product if it does not conform to their standards. With all the methods and means some farmers employ to improve the quality of their produce, it’s important to keep up with competition unless a farmer wants to be left behind. Selective breeding allows farmers to cultivate and grow produce that conform to consumers’ expectations and can thus help them increase their profits.
2. Ensures the Quality of Produce.
There are instances when farmers will harvest poor quality produce – whether it’s because of size, taste, or just plain appearance. These products do much worse in the market as consumers will have a tendency to ignore them, thus reducing the likelihood of making a sale. To ensure that each vegetable and animal is sold, farmers make use of selective breeding to improve the quality of their produce by choosing what traits they want to emphasize and eliminating the traits they don’t think appeal to consumers. This will help to make sure that each single unit is up to code and that it’s less likely to do bad in the market.
3. Provides a Sustainable Food Chain.
Experts project that populations will increase to over 10 billion in the next 30 or so years. With that many people inhabiting the planet, it will be hard to find a sustainable food source that will satisfy each and every person’s nutritional needs. To combat this issue, specialists have suggested that selective breeding can resolve the issue. By developing a plan that will cultivate and grow enough produce with higher nutritional benefits and calories, people can get what they need without having to eat more.
4. Yields More Harvest.
Some crops can take long months, and even years, before they can be harvested. This means there will be a period of time when farmers do not produce any harvest. By making use of selective breeding, farmers can develop crops that take a short span of time to grow. This means farmers won’t have to wait so long in between growing crops and harvesting them. What’s more, by increasing the resistance of crops to pests, farmers are more likely to produce higher yields as there will be no losses during the growing phase.
The Disadvantages of Selective Breeding
1. Limits Genetic Variety.
One of the reasons why organisms develop resistance against pathogens is because there is a wide range of genes and genetic traits that allow us to combat disease and illness. This is why some people in our community might be at risk for certain disease while others are not. The same goes for plants and animals. Their extensive genetic variety allows each species to combat illness so that only a few fall victim to them. With selective breeding, it is likely for inbreeding to occur, and that is the combining of two organisms from the same lineage. When that happens, certain genetic features can be lost and that means the entire species could become susceptible to one pathogen putting their entire population at risk of being wiped out.
2. Risks the Proliferation of New Disease.
Naturally grown and organic produce do not make use of special, advanced, or unnatural processes to encourage growth – they’re simply allowed to thrive the natural way. That being said, plants and animals that are grown through the process of selective breeding might undergo some processes that change their innate growth. This means that certain plants and animals could have genetic modifications that could affect the individuals that consumer them, putting the population at risk of developing new disease.
3. Original Traits Can be Lost.
One of the things that make our world an interesting place to live in is the immense diversity that exists even within species of animals and plants. There are never two animals that are exactly alike, and the same goes for any and all vegetation. Just like the human fingerprint, each organism is unique and it’s these differences that allow us to identify each individual unit. With the process of selective breeding, farmers can eliminate certain qualities permanently. If, for example, consumers do not find a certain color appealing, farmers can breed their plants or animals to never have this color again. This may lead to a limitation of the variation we see in all species.
4. Can Cause Discomfort to Animals.
There are certain laws and regulations that oversee the farming of animals. Despite the fact that these animals are bound to be eaten, they are not supposed to be harmed, mistreated, abused, or otherwise hurt throughout the process. But when farmers make use of selective breeding, these animals may be put in uncomfortable situations that laws and regulations prohibit. How so? Fatter cattle produce more meat and more milk. So farmers will be more inclined to breed cows and livestock that are bulkier and heavier. But, there is a limit as to the weight an animal’s body can sustain without having a hard time. When their weight exceeds this limit, they might become incapable of certain movements. They could also be susceptible to certain conditions and problems related to their overall health. That being said, breeding animals to conform to certain sizes and weights could have negative effects on their comfort.
No doubt, selective breeding does have certain upsides that can greatly benefit farmers, consumers, and the entire population. However, there are several downsides to this process as well. It is important to look into our necessity and see whether we purchase food to satisfy needs or if we simply want to gratify our desires.
Is naturally produced food really unappealing, less palatable, or a subordinate choice to selectively bred products? Do we really need a solution like selective breeding to resolve hunger issues or are we just having trouble with the allocation of commodities? Are we becoming too affected by media hype and opinion, allowing our decisions as consumers to be affected to the point that farmers find the need to perform selective breeding? These are important questions we should ask ourselves. Selective breeding is no laughing matter, and when we learn the truth behind our motivations, then we can identify whether this is a process we truly need.