Bits of DNA, called genes, are responsible for all sorts of characteristics and traits in every living thing, from height to how certain cells work. Useful traits help the plants and animals with them survive or thrive better than ones without them, so they get passed along and eventually become common. Our ancestors sped up the process when they saved seeds of cream-of-the-crop plants to grow the next time, and the next, and the next.
That's what turned small bunches of tiny kernels on tall grass 10, years ago into the big ears of juicy corn on the cob we have today.
With animals, picks of the litter were paired to breed "new-and-improved" babies. Faster still -- bypassing many, many generations and seasons -- are the ways that scientists create today's genetic changes, or modifications. They alter the DNA of seeds with radiation or chemicals, then choose which resulting plants to breed. Or they can snip a gene or several from a plant, virus, or bacteria and plug it in to another to transfer a desired feature. These more precise and targeted adjustments, often referred to as genetic engineering, create what people typically think of when they hear "GMOs.
But they can mix different species, too, like a virus and a tomato plant. Mixing plant species is how we've gotten papayas free of viruses, corn plants that survive drought, soybeans that stand up to weed killer, potatoes that don't bruise, and crops that yield more and cost less. That's good news for our food supply and the business of farming. Some GMOs are specially made to be packed with extra vitamins, minerals, and other health benefits. For example, Swiss researchers created a strain of "golden" rice with a lot of beta-carotene, an antioxidant good for your eyes and skin.
Soybeans whose fats have been changed so they're more like olive oil can be turned into a heart -healthy replacement for oils with trans fats that's more heat-tolerant and better for cooking. And those bruise-free potatoes are supposed to cut down on cancer -causing chemicals created when spuds become french fries. Some biotech companies are doing experiments to make meat better for us, such as boosting the amount of omegafatty acids in it.
These essential fats help prevent heart disease and stroke and may protect against cancer and other conditions. They may also help control lupus , eczema , and rheumatoid arthritis. But your body doesn't make them, so you have to get them from food. As the population grows, it's going to get harder to feed everyone. GMOs are one way to make enough nutritious food available with limited land, water , and other resources.
But people worry about pollen and seeds from genetically engineered plants spreading beyond the fields where they were planted. Or what could happen if genetically modified animals mate with non-modified or wild ones. As unappetizing as it may sound, "DNA has always been part of our diet, and it's digested in your stomach along with the rest of your food," she says.
We got ruby red grapefruits through natural mutation, yet "few are questioning the safety of all the random genetic changes that went into their development," says Kevin Klatt, a PhD student in the molecular nutrition program at Cornell University. What seems to make people uncomfortable is when those changes happen deliberately in a lab.
A group of scientists did an extensive review of research on the safety of crops from GMOs over the past 10 years. They found no significant harm directly tied to genetic engineering. Part of an official statement notes that in almost 20 years, no clear impacts on human health have been reported or confirmed in professional journals. The World Health Organization agrees.
They, along with the FAO, maintain a set of science-based standards, guidelines, and practices called the Codex Alimentarius to promote good, safe food for everyone.
It includes biotechnology and genetic engineering, too. Many governments draw from the Codex to write their regulations and recommendations. Stephen MacDonald, PhD, a biotechnology and business strategy consultant, agrees that all foods -- at the most basic level -- are made of the same stuff.
Even so, he doesn't dish up GMO-based foods for dinner because he's not convinced they have the same exact nutritional value. Why isn't there as much fuss over them? Through the Plant Biotechnology Consultation Program, the FDA raises safety concerns during the engineering process and helps developers identify the kinds of testing they should do.
Through genetic modifications, these types of food are added with vitamins and minerals to ensure they offer greater nutritive benefits to consumers, which is really helpful in developing countries that do not always have the access to this basic need. Also, with nutrition-rich GMOs, companies will be able to supply more essential nutrients to the general population and help address worldwide malnutrition. For example, rice that is enhanced with vitamin A, known as the golden rice, now helps with reducing vitamin A deficiencies around the world.
They bring about environmental benefits. In the production of GMO foods, less chemicals, machinery, time and land are being used, which means that it is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution and soil erosion. Also, with enhanced productivity, farmers will be able to dedicate less real estate to crops, plus they are already growing potatoes, corn and cotton without spraying the bacterial insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis, as GMO crops already produce their own insecticides.
They are used in the creation of vaccines. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations FAO , the use of molecular biology in vaccination development has been successful and is holding promise. Today, scientists have already engineered plants to produce vaccines, as well as proteins and other pharmaceutical products, through a method process called pharming.
They can also cause environmental damage. Though it is said that growing GMOs is beneficial to the environment, it also has a downside in this aspect. Genetically modified plants or livestock grown in environmental conditions that do not support them originally are believed to cause irrevocable damage to the environment.
This is can be seen in the case of GMO cross-breading, where weeds that can be crossed with modified plants can often become resistant to herbicides, which necessitates the need for more modification efforts. They can cause genes to migrate. Genes introduced in GMOs are no exception, and interactions might occur at gene, cell, plant, and ecosystem level.
Problems could result if, for example, herbicide-resistance genes got into weeds. So far, research on this is inconclusive, with scientists divided — often bitterly.
But there is scientific consensus that once widely released, recalling transgenes or foreign DNA sequences, whose safety is still subject to scientific debate, will not be feasible. There are safety issues with GMO foods that have not been addressed.
It is not known if genetic manipulation or spraying dangerous insecticides directly on our food is safe short or long term. People may eating animal protein items while eating vegetables because of genetic modification, which may be against their religious preferences, their eating preferences, or even cause a medical emergency if they have a food allergy already present. It reduces the diversity of each plant species because herbicide and pesticide resistance may also kill the beneficial insects that help to pollinate plants.
Ecological damage happens to the soil that supports GMO crops over time, robbing it of its resources to the point that it can no longer sustain life.
Crops that do not have genetic modifications may also be affected by the natural cross-pollination process. The cost of developing the genetic modifications may even make some crops more expensive to grow.
Resistance to herbicides and other crop treatments leads to higher chemical use to get the same results, eventually causing insects and weeds to grow anyway. The chemicals that are introduced into some genetically modified food may wash into the water supply during storms or extended periods of rainfall.
Many genetic modifications are patented, making it less cost effective to feed the hungry or end malnutrition from a global perspective. It could be said that the consumption of genetically modified food means that people are trading food for food-like products. If used properly, the science behind genetically modified food could be used to end hunger.
If used improperly, the science could be misused and potentially endanger are entire food supply. This means that if we are to pursue this field of food science, we must have responsible management of the research being done and have third party independent verification and monitoring of results so that it becomes possible to distinguish fact from fiction.
Use this pros and cons list about genetically modified food to think about the subject today. What you put into your body becomes part of who you are. Log into your account. Friday, September 14,
Pros and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods There is a great debate going on right now on the subject of genetically modified foods, or GMOs. For some, the idea of GMO food is a good one because the modifications allow crops to become resistant to drought and .
And the American Medical Association thinks genetically modified foods are OK. Part of an official statement notes that in almost 20 years, no clear impacts on human health have been reported or confirmed in professional journals. The World Health Organization agrees.
Genetically modified (GM) foods are made from soy, corn, or other crops grown from seeds with genetically engineered DNA. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), GM seeds are used to plant more than 90 percent of corn, soybeans, and cotton grown in the United States. Pros and Cons of GMOs On the surface, strengthening soybeans for purposes of more widespread production and consumption seems like a win-win idea. But there are some very real concerns shared by top experts in the health, medical, and nutrition fields.
Genetically modified foods are something that inspires passions on both sides of the debate. On one side of the equation, foods that have been genetically modified can be grown in a number of different non-traditional locations and provide higher yields. To avoid eating foods that contain GMOs, look for labels that specify that fruits and vegetables is "organic" or "USDA Organic." While GMOs come with known benefits to human health and the farming industry overall, there are some controversial negatives. First the pros: 1.