Adefolake Adekola: the pros and cons of genetically modified crops

Genetic modification (GM) is “a special set of genetic technology that modifies the genetic machinery of living organisms (animals, plants or microorganisms).” It can also be called a genetically modified (GE) or a genetically modified organism (GMO). GM copies a gene or genes from an organism with a desired trait, adds the gene (s) to a single plant cell in a laboratory, and a new plant is generated from the plant cell containing the added DNA. Corn, potato, banana, sugar, tomatoes, soybeans, rice, cotton, peas, apples, pineapples, etc. are just a few of the crops known to be currently genetically modified in various countries. Their studies show that GM crops are grown on more than 160 million hectares in 29 countries and imported by other countries.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), traditional modification methods like selective breeding and crossing to breed plants and animals with more desirable traits have been in use for thousands of years and most of the foods we eat are the result of these reproductions. However, scientists wanted to make the same changes in a short period of time and much less susceptible to disease.

We have conflicting research on exactly when the first GM crops or animals were approved, but we know for a fact that they have been around for several decades now. In 1982, the FDA approved the first genetically engineered GM consumer product: human insulin to treat diabetes. Since then, we have lived in a world with GM crops and animals. Other studies have shown that the DNA in GMO animal food does not turn into the animal’s meat, eggs or milk. So, for those who have concerns about consuming animals that have consumed GMO crops, you have nothing to worry about, however, some companies do not state on their labels whether the food product is genetically modified or not, especially if the food meets the necessary requirements. conditions. This makes it more difficult to detect whether one is consuming organic foods or genetically modified foods.

Benefits

  • Genetically modified foods are useful in controlling the onset of certain diseases like the ring spot virus in Hawaiian papaya.
  • By altering the DNA system of these foods, the properties that cause allergies are successfully eliminated.
  • These foods grow faster than traditionally grown foods.
  • In places with drought or poor soils for agriculture, GM crops can grow in adverse climatic conditions.
  • Their production cost is said to be lower than that of traditional crops due to the natural resistance to pests and insects. This reduces the need to expose GM crops to harmful pesticides and insecticides, making these foods free of chemicals.
  • Genetically modified foods are reported to be high in nutrients and contain more minerals and vitamins than those found in traditionally grown foods.
  • They have an increased shelf life and, therefore, there is less fear that the food will spoil quickly.
  • They are of better quality and are used for medical services.
  • Help relieve hunger in the world.

The inconvenients

  • Genetically modified foods may or may not have harmful effects on the human body, there is uncertainty about this as scientists and health practitioners are still unclear.
  • Consuming these genetically modified foods can cause disease to develop, which will be immune to antibiotics.
  • The method of cross-pollination in GMOs can damage other organisms that thrive in the environment.
  • It is possible that viral resistance can lead to the formation of new viruses and therefore new diseases.
  • Challenges in many areas such as food safety testing, regulation, policy and labeling.
  • Another concern associated with GMOs is that private companies will claim ownership of the organisms they create and not share them at a reasonable cost with the public.
  • Some people believe that tampering with nature is wrong, and others argue that inserting plant genes into animals, or vice versa, is immoral.
  • There are fears that GMOs may cause unintentional loss of biodiversity.

Science continues to evolve and new research keeps coming out. Now we have genome modification which includes several new techniques in which scientists precisely modify genome sequences. Personally, I am more interested in the possible long term effects, research is still ongoing.

Yet the real question is, is GM safe?

About Alma Ackerman

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