LEARN MORE ABOUT GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD

Genetically modified food started in the 1990s.  Now GM food shows up on dinner tables around the world.

WHAT IS A GMO?

Simply stated, when scientists change a plant or animal from its original form they create a GMO (genetically modified organism). 

For example, when a scientist changes a plant to make it grow more. A farmer who wants an animal modified so it will make more milk or meat is another example. Genetic engineering or transgenic technology are the areas of science that study GMOs. 

WHAT ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS?

Basically, when Scientists change foods from their original form they create a GM food (genetically modified food).  Other names for genetically modified foods (GM foods) are genetically engineered foods and bioengineered foods.  Genetic engineering is the name of the area of science that studies and creates GM foods.  First, these scientists change the tiny parts (DNA) of the food. DNA is what tells a plant or animal to do as it grows. Finally, after genetic scientists make many small changes the food or animal is grown again.  Overall, the goal is to make food better than how it is in nature. 

The US Food and Drug Administration reported a huge increase in GMOs.  It found that GMO soybeans made up 94% of all soybeans planted, GMO cotton made up 94% of all cotton planted, and 92% of corn planted was GMO corn.  Additionally, more than 95% of meat and dairy animals eat GMO crops.

GMO or the Genetically modified organism is basically an organism that can be a plant, an animal or even a microorganism that are modified genetically in a laboratory to add certain desired characters in them. This is done when these desired characters are not present in them naturally. This same technique is used to create Genetically Modified Foods.

HOW ARE GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS MADE?

Scientists genetically modify the seeds of certain plants in the laboratory. Then these seeds are grown. Nowadays, farmers grow a large number of crops including corn and soy from genetically modified seeds. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, around 90% of the soy, corn and cotton grown in the United States come from genetically modified seeds. That is definitely a huge amount. So, there is a huge chance that a lot of food products you use in your home are genetically modified.

WHY DO WE NEED GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS?

When the crops or plants are grown in fields, farmers need to take care of the pests, heat, cold, irrigation.  There is a lot of work required to grow good and healthy crops. To make it easier, farmers can buy GM seeds.  These seeds are modified plants with increased resistance to pests and herbicides. These modified plants are also often able to stand droughts, cold, or heat. After these changes crops can also increase the quality and size of the foods they produce.  Additionally, GM plants can even increase certain nutrients such as protein or calcium. Finally, genetically engineered crops are able to extend their shelf life. Therefore, they stay fresh longer and cause less food waste. 

Why do some watermelons and grapes have no seeds while others do?

These seedless foods are the result of the genetic modification of their plants. These genetic modifications are really beneficial, especially in certain remote areas where people don’t have access to sufficient or nutrient-rich food. GM foods with increased nutrients and increased shelf-life can be transported to these remote areas and thus, helps to feed the people living there.

ARE GMO FOODS SAFE?

There has been a debate on the impact of these GM foods. Some researchers believe that these are safe and healthy while others believe that these cause harm to our health. Let’s see the reason behind their opinions.

The facts presented thus far make you believe that GM foods are so useful and have a positive impact. That’s definitely true but it has some cons as well. A lot of researchers believe that these foods are not as safe as natural foods. They can lead to certain allergies, resistance to certain antibiotics and even cancer. Let’s see the reason behind these opinions.

In the last decade, US reports of food allergies are increasing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidences of food allergies in people below the age of 18 years has increased from 3.4% in the late 90s to 5.1% around 2010. The researchers believe that GM foods are the cause of this increase but there is no evidence behind this. Some other researchers believe that transferring proteins from one plant to the other causes the problem. Since foreign proteins can cause allergic reactions. One example of this is the GM soybean that scientists modified in the mid-1990s to have the proteins of Brazilian nuts. Due to this, a lot of people that had an allergy to Brazillian nuts had an allergic reaction to these soybeans. After doctors discovered the connection the sale of these GM soybeans ended.

After this, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization made certain protocols to test GM foods before selling them to consumers to ensure that these foods are safe for use. This helped to solve this issue and increase the use of GM crops.

The modification of seeds using antibiotic-resistant genes is also believed to be the cause of increased antibiotic resistance developed in the people. However, just like the previous belief, scientifically proving this connection is difficult.

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF GMOS?

In 2013, a research paper stated that Roundup-tolerant GM corn, which is basically tolerant to a glyphosate herbicide named roundup, has caused cancer in lab rats. Later on, this was proven wrong as the researchers used very few rats and some were already cancer-prone.

To understand the long-term impact of genetically modified foods, scientists need to conduct more research. In Europe, regulations require GM foods to be labeled G modified. But currently, this is not done in the US. So, if you’re living in the US, you don’t know if you are buying natural food or genetically modified food. But don’t worry, you can still avoid GM foods by looking for the label of USDA-certified organic. Organic foods must meet stricter requirements and these foods are supposed to be grown without the use of GMOs.

So, we can conclude that although GM foods present some potential harmful aspects, they also have a lot of Pros.  Overall, this is an area that needs our attention and continued research to ensure safe and health food is available.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GMOS? ARE GMOS HELPFUL OR HARMFUL?

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