The genetically modified foods have turn out to be very familiar in most of the countries. These foods mainly consist of the plants and animals whose genes have been changed and these foods were initially developed to augment the capacity of growing some crops with more yields so that it can be utilized in beating the world hunger. The main aim of the genetic modification is to generate crops and create livestock which have favorable characteristics that is not found in the specific species naturally. The most important aspect of the genetically modified food is to alter the animal’s or plant’s genes in a way so that it gives better yields. But what is vital is to know that whether the emergence of the genetically modified food comes as a blessing or a curse to the human kind. It’s a boon on one hand as it enables the farmers to grow crops in areas where standard crops cannot be grown, thereby feeding people as well as helping in generating income for the population in the developing nations. This also reduces the reliance on harmful and dangerous pesticides. But it has to be admitted as well that till date much has not been known about these foods and hence it is justifiable when some express their concerns about the effect of the food on the health of the animal and human. Some are also concerned about the effect it has on the environment and the local economies and most importantly on the biodiversity. (Freedman, pp. 4-5)
The ongoing debate on whether these foods will stay in the market or will become an extinct cannot be answered directly but the present scenario is marked with the escalation in the demand of these foods throughout the world economy. The Genetically modified food (GMF) has been readily adopted and accepted in the United States which still persists to grow since its appearance in the market. This GM variety products have been predicted to spread in the “big- four” (Weasel, p.198) industrial crops which includes the corn, cotton, soy and canola in United States. (Weasel, p.198) It is very unlikely that genetically modified food presents any direct risk to the human health but the distinctive nature of these foods may cause harm to the human health in the future, due to the transfer of the genes between the species while they are produced. Hence they have to be carefully monitored, as the outcome of transgene effect is still not predicted. Apprehension has also been expressed as to whether there is a possibility of allergic reaction due to the consumption of the genetically modified food. There is also a fear of possibility that the living bacteria which are present in the human gut may gain resistance to the antibiotics due to the presence of the marker genes in the transgenic plants. (Nottingham, 2003, p. 91)
Now the question arises how the consumers have accepted the genetically modified food. There are two opposing viewpoints regarding this, According to the industry leaders the consumer accept these foods because there has been a willingness from the public to consume it. As taking the case of America, where most of the milk is produced by using the bST hormone despite the fact that bST free milk are freely available, but even then the sale of the bST hormone free milk were initially very weak and hence it has disappeared from the market. Some national Survey in US has confirmed the fact that consumer’s concerns regarding GM foods are less. While some are of the opinion that the consumers are extremely worried about the GMF and are keen to pay extra to avoid GM foods. (Radas, Teisl and Roe, p. 335)
Advantages and Pros of Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified (GM) foods also known as the genetically engineered foods are produced by inserting genes into the DNAs of other species. There are several reasons for producing genetically modified foods like in some cases to prevent the incidence of allergies after they are being consumed while there are instances where they are being developed for the betterment of their shell life thereby reducing the chances of getting spoiled or rotten, they also give high yields.
The production of GM food is also less expensive as it does not involve the usage of pesticides and insecticides in its production. (Kartha). The most controversial biotechnology policy in the present scenario is regarding the development and the consumption of the GM foods. (Bocco)
The GM food has several advantages which make it popular among the developed nations but as it is a new concept about which authorized published data is unavailable much is not known about it. However evidence reveals that consumption of GM food items is presenting a threat to the human kind.
In US the dependence on the GM food has increased evident from the market structure as 80 percent of all corns produced in the country were of GM variety in 2008. Following the league was the production of cotton, in which 86% were of GM variety and similarly in the production of soy bean which accounted for 92% in the GM variety (Weasel, p. 198). But the effects of the GM foods on the health of human kind is still at its infancy as there are very few reputable scientific evidences which would suggest the safety of consuming these foods.
The GM food has natural resistance from the pests and insects. Thus they do not need the use of pesticides and insecticides which makes the process of production less expensive than the traditional process of producing foods and can also grow in areas where the soil is not suitable for growing crops due to the much exposure to the drought and famines. In these places normal crops are difficult to be grown but the GM foods acts as a boon here. These favorable characteristics of the GM food have made it popular among the producers and the farmers, 67% of whom are not aware of the effect the GM food can have on the environment and human body. (Pattron, n.d., p.1)
It has been also argued that GM foods have high nutrition values and consists of more minerals and vitamins than the traditionally produced foods, this has been predicted on the basis of the fact that the DNAs are modified and genes are altered and they also taste good but no evidences has been given in favor of it which would suggest so. (Kartha)
The GM foods have been able to capture the market in the last two decades due to several factors in favor of it like the struggle of many developing nations to meet its food and dietary requirements, added to it is the predicted increase in the global population by 50 per cent within the year 2050 and with rising concerns about how to meet the need without creating large scale environmental hazards (Legge, p. 59). The series of problem raised during the past decades have made the nations involve in the production of the GM foods without expressing any concern about the consequences of consuming it.
Disadvantages and Cons of Genetically Modified Foods
Though the GM food has been widely accepted but a study reveals that the majority of the consumers that is 90% know very little about GM foods and some are unaware of their consumption of the GM foods. (Pattron, n.d., p. 1)
The study conducted also reveals that the GM food gives rise to diseases which are resistant to antibiotics. The Advisory committee on Nobel foods and processes (ACNFP) in 1996 had suggested the UK government to vote against the launching of the BT maize in the market as it contained an intact gene which had the risk of transferring the gut micro flora in animals and humans. (Nottingham, p. 94)
Deaths and near deaths has been reported in the US due to the consumption of the GM foods which caused allergic reaction from the food supplement L-tryptophan. The Brazil nut gene which was spliced in soybean resulted in allergic reactions in a few vulnerable persons. The rBGH hormone that are injected in the dairy cows have been reported to contain IGF-1 chemical hormones which increases the threat of human breast prostrate and colon cancer ranging between 400% to 500%.
Experts are of the opinion that GM food contains lower levels of vital nutrients like phytoestrogen that acts as a resistant against the heart diseases and cancer in the body.
A study conducted in Trinindad reveals that 75 % of the respondents are of the opinion that the consumption of the food which have been claimed to be of the GM variety over the period of five years has caused allergic reaction among 20% of them, 18% has become vulnerable to cold and infections, 17 % has been affected by cancer, 22% people suffering from hormonal imbalances and respiratory problems, 5 % are suffering from the immuno-suppression and all these claims were supported by medical documents. (Pattron, n.d., p. 4)
This has been also said that the increased dependence on the genetically produced food will force the developing nation to become more dependent on the Industrial product, hence empowering the developed nations to gain control over the food production. On the social ground many nations are against the production of GM food as they feel that GM foods are grown unnaturally while some cannot accept the idea of transferring the animal genes into the plants. (Kartha)
Some are of the opinion that the environment too will be affected adversely with the GM food productions as a result of the unintentional transfer of genes by the process of cross pollination. This process might have unknown effect on the organisms like soil microbes which might result in the loss of the bio- diversity and the loss of flora and fauna. (Lei, n.d.)
The genetic engineering in an unpredictable technology about which little is known. It has certain benefits that can be utilized for the good of the human kind. But the adverse effect that has been claimed by the consumption of the GM foods cannot be ignored. The whole world economy should step forward in coming up with ways so that the harmful effect of the GM foods can be eliminated and the benefits derived from it can be utilized by the world population. The use of certain toxins and hormones has to be avoided while modifying the food genetically. The advent of GM food without its cons or disadvantage is always a welcome as it helps in reducing the escalated hunger and other social problems associated with it. GM foods are genuine issues and the non availability of data about it adds to the problem. People are basically being a part of the watch and see situation where all are guided by an optimistic idea ignoring the possibility of anything worse. Its adverse effect on the human health is a major concern and technology has to be developed in a way that it can overcome its ill effects and act as a boon for the world economy.
- Bocco, D. “What are the Pros and Cons Of the genetically Engineered Food?”, Wisegeek, May 17, 2011 from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-genetically-engineered-food.htm
- Freedman, J. Genetically Modified food: How Biotechnology is changing what we eat, New York, The Rosen Publishing Groups.
- Kartha, D. “Genetically Modified foods pros and cons”, BUZZLE, retrieved from: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/genetically-modified-foods-pros-and-cons.html
- Legge, J. “Public Opinion, risk assessment, and biotechnology: Lessons from attitudes toward genetically modified foods in the European Union”, Review of Policy Research, 27(1), retrieved from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=ccee20bf-164c-4c0e-a3d3-569660c8e5e6%40sessionmgr115&vid=1&hid=104
- Lei, (n.d.) “Genetically modified food: pros and cons”, Blisstree, retrieved from: http://blisstree.com/feel/genetically-modified-food-pros-and-cons/
- Nottingham, S., Eat your genes: how genetically modified food is entering our diet, London: Zed Books.
- Pattron, D. (n.d.), “A survey of Genetically Modified foods consumed, health implications and recommendations for Public health food safety in Trinidad”, Internal Journal of food safety, V(7), 4-14, Retrieved from: http://www.internetjfs.org/articles/ijfsv7-2.pdf
- Radas, S., Teisl, M. and B. Rose, “An open mind want more: opinion strength and the desire for the genetically modified food labeling policy”, The journal of Consumers affairs, 42(3), 335, from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=fd4cb3b3-9eec-4f36-833a-edcad9ec9151%40sessionmgr4&vid=1&hid=18
- Weasel, L. Food Fray: Inside the controversy over genetically modified food, AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn