– by Sophia Joyce
When we think of genetically modified or GM foods we all have mixed opinions, some believe its harmful or wrong and some people think that they’re good, as the foods haven’t shown any harmful effects.
Genetically modified foods are foods that have had their genetic material (DNA) modified in ways that wouldn’t occur in nature. Genetic engineering uses techniques to introduce new traits using selective breeding and mutation breeding.
These foods are developed and marketed because there are advantages such as lower prices, greater production benefits and higher durability. But mainly they are developed to improve crop protection from insects, viruses and herbicides.
Scientists have been changing the genetic makeup of plants and animals for generations using traditional cross breeding, but today’s techniques of gene technology provides a wider selection of modification. Gene technologists extract traits from organisms such as bacterium and insert it into plants so they can exhibit the same trait, that is how GM foods are created.
People might not want GM foods but the truth is most of us are eating it every day, foods such as corn, soy, squash, zucchini, canola, milk, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, watermelon and bananas have all been modified for human consumption.
So how necessary is genetically modified food? Pennsylvania State University biology and life sciences professor Nina Fedoroff says that the technology that allows scientists to modify crops will be critical to feed the word’s growing population.
She explains that the human population is increasing and the current growth of food crops is simply inefficient so the genetic modification of foods would help meet food requirements for the population.
The World Health Organisation adds to this by stating that GM foods undertake a vigorous evaluation of safety for human consumption and the foods that are on the market now have already passed safety assessments.
But Greenpeace Australia says that the problem with genetically modified foods is the chemical intensive growing process of crops, as industrial agriculture uses synthetic fertilisers and toxic chemicals that contribute to water and soil pollution.
Other concerns include allergies from the inserted gene traits, gene transfer into the human body that may affect human health and the out crossing of conventional crops by mixing or replacing the original seeds.
In order to reduce environmental and human effects, limiting the use of toxic chemicals in crops and monitoring GM foods and seed transfer will help relive some of the concerns related to GM foods.
Images by Business Insider; Featured Image by iStock.