So what are GM foods? Although different people and groups have different definitions, GM foods can broadly define as foods that "are produced from crops whose genetic makeup has been altered by method of a process called recombinant DNA, or gene splicing, to give the plant a desirable trait." The modification is mostly accomplished in the lab using molecular techniques or genetic engineering although there are others who would argue that crops produced by method of conventional breeding can also be considered as GM food.
The first GM food crop, a tomato developed by Montsanto was submitted for approval to the US FDA in August 1994 and came into market in the same 12 months. As of September 9, 2008, a comprehensive of 111 bioengineered food products have completed the US FDA "consultation procedures" on bioengineered foods. In addition to the tomato, the range of products involves soybean, corn, cotton, potato, flax, canola, squash, papaya, radicchio, sugar beet, rice, cantaloupe, and wheat. According to estimates by the Grocery Manufacturers of America, "between 70 percent and 75 percent of all processed foods available in U.S. grocery stores may comprise ingredients from genetically engineered plants. Breads, cereal, frozen pizzas, hot dogs and soda are just some of them."
The benefits of GM foods. Support for GM foods come from different sectors: scientists, economists, and understandably from the agricultural and food industries.
GM foods can battle world hunger. The world populace has reached an all-time high of over 6 and a 1/2 billion. Over 20% of these are affected by poverty and hunger. That GM foods can stop hunger is one of the noblest motivations at the back of the construction of GM foods. GM foods supposedly are easier to grow and bring higher yields. In poverty-stricken parts of the world, higher yields can save millions of lives and bring lots-needed economic benefits. In a review, Terri Raney of the United Nations says "…the economic results so a ways suggest that farmers in developing countries can take pleasure in transgenic crops…"
GM crops are better. GM crops are designed to be sturdier and more tricky than their non-modified cousins. They are meant to be resistant to drought, diseases, and pests. The Hawaiian papaya industry, to illustrate, only managed to survive an endemic epidemic after the creation of more resistant transgenic varieties.
GM foods have been with us for hundreds of years. The wide wide variety of many plants that we see in the present day happened by method of natural as well as vintage man-made plant cross-breeding that took thousands of years. That is peppers come in different shapes, colors, and taste, from the very spicy hot to the sweet varieties. That is why we have more than 1000 different sorts of tomatoes.
GM foods can battle malnutrition. In a worldwide affected by malnutrition, GM foods can respond the need for more nutritious food. To cite an example, Swiss research strove to create rice strains that comprise numerous beta-carotene and iron to counteract vitamin A and iron deficiency. Malnutrition can refer to both undernutrition and wrong nutrition. People in rich and developed countries may have more than enough food but not the accurate nutrition crucial to keep them healthy. For this reason, researchers at the European-funded FLORA project have developed strains of fruits and greens with enhanced content material of antioxidants. Through genetic engineering, FLORA oranges have higher than natural flavonoids and phenolics. The FLORA purple tomatoes have three times the amount of the antioxidant anthocyanins compared to natural tomatoes.
GM foods are good for the environment. The damage to the environment that insecticides such as DDT bring about is popular. The use of synthetic fertilizers in the farmlands led to the eutrophication of rivers and lakes all around the world. GM foods translate into less use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and therefore less pollution.
GM foods can help medical care. GM foods can be used in producing pharmacological products in the so-called "medical molecular farming: production of antibodies, biopharmaceuticals and fit for human consumption vaccines in plants." FLORA stands for "flavonoids and related phenolics for healthy living using orally recommended antioxidants" and it sees it self as "a player in the future of medical care." As early as 2005, Indian researchers reported the potential use of transgenic bananas in wearing vaccines against hepatitis B. In the same 12 months, the biotech corporate GTC Biotherapeutics primarily founded in Framingham, Massachusetts has developed a herd of genetically modified goats that produce milk which contains a human anticoagulant called anti-thrombin.
GM foods are safe. The creators of GM crops are quick to assure that GM foods are safe and pose no risk to human health. GM crops are regulated by three agencies: the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US FDA. "The FDA ensures that foods made from these plants are safe for humans and animals to eat, the USDA makes sure the plants are safe to grow, and the EPA ensures that pesticides introduced into the plants are safe for human and animal consumption and for the environment. While these agencies act independently."
According to the US FDA, "bioengineered foods do not pose any risks for consumers that are different from conventional foods … We make sure there are no hazards, such as an unexpected allergen or poisonous substance in the food, or that the food is not transformed by hook or by crook that could affect its nutritional value."
The issues against GM foods.
The opponents of GM foods may be scientists, environmentalists, and needless to claim person groups. In addition, many celebrities are brazenly anti-GM, thus setting role models for the public. Among the most popular and outspoken GM sceptic is Charles, England's Prince of Wales.
GM foods are for profit. According to its opponents, GM foods were created for profit and nothing else. They cite the multinational giant Monsanto, a pioneer in GM research and owns the infamous Roundup crops. Companies like Monsanto are unlikely in the GM business for purely noble purposes.
GM foods are unregulated. The use of GM foods in the world is almost an unregulated free-for-all activity. Going by method of the US FDA consultation procedures is mainly voluntary. Anti-GM advocacy groups and concerned scientists are asking for more controls and regulations.
There are also reports of GM plants escaping field trials and finding their method to the natural environment, thousands of miles away. In 2006, rice which contained genes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (the notorious Bt) discovered its method to European supermarkets, causing a big outcry. The bacterial gene rendered the rice resistant to insects and the transgenic rice was a test plant that has not yet been approved for human consumption.
GM foods can harm the environment. GM foods are affecting their environment and some of these effects might actually be harmful. The effects are especially evident in other living organisms inside the vicinity.
There are concerns, for examples, how cross-pollination with pollens from GM plants can affect non-GM plants.
Resistance development is another main issue. In China, to illustrate, researchers used antibiotic-resistance marker genes to derive resistant transgenic rice strains. There are concerns that the marker genes will be taken up by naturally occurring gut bacteria and lead to resistant, more pathogenic strains.
Other research also factor to potential effects on animal life such as insects which are closely interact with the GM plants. One of the most popular incidences was the claims that pollens from transgenic corn plants with Bt insecticidal gene markers are adversely affecting monarch butterflies in North America. Although experts say that the butterflies were safe from Bt, environmentalists were not satisfied.
GM foods can be detrimental to human health. The main concerns about adverse effects of GM foods on health are the transfer of antibiotic resistance, toxicity and allergenicity. With genetic modifications come new compounds in the crops which we virtually know nothing about. These compounds may be in the form of allergens and little-known proteins whose effects to human health are problematic to foretell. In the food chain, this may even affects animals fed by GM crops and slaughtered for human use.
GM foods are not better. Western Europe is a stronghold of anti-GM movement. A European study last 12 months declared that organic foods – which are exclusively non-GM-, are definitely better and more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts.
Which method will we go? The risks versus benefits of GM food are not an effortless issue to settle. There is an urgent need for increasing food production and GM foods seem to be in the coolest position to address this need. In the quick-term, GM foods are probably the answer to food shortage.
Currently, there may be not enough scientific evidence to support the potential risks of GM foods. However, like in most things new and innovative, the long-term benefits and adverse effects can only be speculated upon.
Responsibility will have to be on the scientists, the health authorities, and the industries to act responsibly and to be as transparent as potential.