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Genetically Modified Food - Advantages and Disadvantages

BY: Nidhi Uppangala | Category: Agriculture | Submitted: 2010-06-24 17:46:14
 

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Introduction:


Genetically modified food are produced using a set of biotechnology techniques such as genetic engineering that allow to change the genetic makeup of living organisms such as animals, plants and microorganisms. This genetic makeup change can be done by incorporating genes from other organisms or changing the already existing genes, that is over expressing or silencing already existing genes.

Genetically modified traits that have been introduced into plants include herbicide resistance, drought resistance, pest resistance or larger fruit, slowed ripening of the fruits or can introduce additional nutrients list is endless so as the possibilities.

Example of Genetically Modified Food:

1. Flavr Savr tomatoes, one of its gene, responsible for ripening is modified using genetic engineering technique, so that the shelf life of tomato is increased, or in other words, process of tomato ripening is slowed by genetic modification by reducing the expression of already existing gene.

2. Bt Corn or Bacillus thuringenesis corn, this corn is genetically modified by adding the virulent gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringenesis, these produce toxins which are toxic to the insect larvae which feed on the corn leaves, as a result insects are killed, hence the plant become insect resistant.

3. Golden Rice, in this case two genes are introduced from daffodils and the third one from the bacteria, this type of genetically modified rice contains high amount of beta-carotene or vitamin A, hence it reduces the vitamin A deficiency in rice consumers.

Beneficial Effects of Genetically Modified Food:

1. Improves nutritional quality of food and hence improve the general health of individuals who consume these foods.
2. Improved shelf life, also increases the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables
3. Genetically modified plants have improved resistant to pesticide, herbicide and other chemical compounds. This also reduces the usage of chemicals like herbicide and pesticide, hence helps in maintain the pollution free environment.
4. Genetically modified food producing plants are produced more economically by increasing the yield.
5. This technique also reduces the wastage of food by insect and pest attack, as this technique can be used to produce insect and pest resistant plants.
6. This technique can be used to produce crops which can be used as vaccines.
7. Using these technique pharmaceutical compounds can be produced in genetically modified food.

Controversies Surrounding GM Food:

1. Genetically modified food may impact human health, as they may act as potential allergens
2. Genetically modified food may act as environmental pollutant
3. Scientists and researchers play with nature by mixing genes among species, future impact of this technique is still unknown
4. This shifts power from agriculture to biotechnology; this increases the dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries.

Regulatory Concerns:

1. Genetically modified foods before releasing into the market are evaluated by government food regulators on their effect in the body and also they evaluate the techniques used in the development of these products.
2. Genetically modified food needs to undergo rigorous safety assessments before they are offered to consumers.
3. Genetically modified food offered to consumers have their GM status identified on their label, to support consumer choice

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