Consumption Safety of Genetically Modified Food
As the world population increases the demand for food also increases. Many countries are not able to produce enough food to sustain their population. Food takes time to grow before it can be consumed and a hungry population cannot wait for that apple to ripen or calf to grow for slaughter. For this reason researchers are working with farmers to produce genetically modified food that can be ready for consumption a lot faster than natural food. With every new invention comes issues and consequences. There are many issues with global significance tied to genetically modified food.
Genetically modified plants are created through genetic engineering techniques. These techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits when compared to previous methods, such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. Genetically modified foods have been for sale to farmers since 1994. Calgene was the first company to genetically modify and sell a tomato plant that would ripen a little later in the season. Calgene named this tomato plant Flavr Savr, which didn’t sell very well. Despite this misfortune, Celgene kept experimenting. Most food modifications have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers such as soybeans, corn, and cotton. Genetically modified crops have been engineered to resist diseases and produce more fruit. Genetically modified livestock have been developed, although none are on the market probably due to the need for additional research and testing to ensure safety for consumers.
Genetically modified crops have the potential to feed millions of people worldwide who currently go hungry. The modification of a plant can completely change its characteristics, like the amount of food it can produce, or its tolerance to disease. Genetically modifying plants can drastically change their ability to produce more and to better support our population. The use of genetically modified food has increased the output by 20 to 30 percent. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the world will have to grow 70 percent more food by 2050. If we do not do something to increase the supply of food, many people will starve to death.
Genetically modified crops could produce more, grow in dry and salty land, withstand high and low temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease and herbicides. Plants that are able to grow in harsh conditions are more successful whereas, natural plants would not survive, thus diminishing or completely eliminating the crop. Altering a plants genes is sophisticated, but it’s like cut and paste, allowing you to change just about anything. Once the desired gene is identified it can be cut out and pasted into the subject’s genome. It is extremely important to cut the right gene in order to make sure you get the appropriate outcome producing a super growing plant.
Many issues from genetically modified plants can directly or indirectly affect people. Plants can be genetically engineered so they are tolerant to bugs and disease, thus lasting longer and producing more. Available food derived from genetically modified crops pose little risk to human health, however they still need to be tested due to the fact that they can easily create a new disease due to cross pollination. A primary concern is preventing genetically modified plants from mixing with the naturally existing plants and creating a harmful plant that could bring about a disease potentially harming the human race severely.
Farmers could lose money when their fields have been contaminated with genetically modified plants, due to pollen drift from neighboring fields. Plants rely on the transfer of pollen to breed and produce offspring, and it’s difficult to control how they cross-breed in the wild. When farmers start growing genetically modified plants, they stop growing the old plants. The old plants are important because they can provide a gene that is tolerable to some insects.
The testing of genetically modified food is done through a long process that involves rapid heating and cooling, which targets specific genes that are in the DNA. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is injected into the gene and it helps separate the DNA. DNA is heated to 94 °C and cooled to 59 °C, which causes strands to separate, then the DNA is reheated to 72 °C for Taq polymerase making complete copies of each DNA strand, completing one thermal cycle.
The amplified DNA can then be run through an agarose gel which make the bands visible for identification of which gene is affected. An electric current is run through the test sample and it separates the cathode and anode ends, which is later used to load gel into the cathode end which increases the number of base pairs of DNA.
If the genetically modified organism is tested positive then there is a problem with the PCR reaction and the test food cannot be trusted for consumption. A certified non-genetically modified organism is also purchased and put under the same tests as the modified organism to show what DNA separation looks like when no genetically modified material is present.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that the world will need to greatly multiply its food production in the near future in order to support the increasing population. Genetically modified food can increase food growth by 20 or 30%. It has been estimated that 70% of all processed foods in the United States contain at least one genetically modified ingredient. Genetically modified food will be crucial in sustaining the world population.
Genetically modified plants also have issues in historical roots. The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. Genetic manipulation of food began with the process of selective breeding around 10,500 BC. With the discovery of DNA in the 1900s and similar advancements in genetic engineering through the 1970s, it is possible to change the DNA within food.
Early testing of genetically modified plants presented many questions and concerns. Lab tests on rats were conducted with injections of genetically modified diseases and resulted in mutations and death. Genetically modified enzymes were the first application of genetically modified organisms in food, and were approved in 1988 by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in cows. Cheese had typically been made using the enzyme complex rennet that had been extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists modified bacteria to produce chymosin, which clotted milk making cheese curds faster. This simple modification makes it so cheese can be produced easier and this process puts less stress on the cow.
Researchers are being proactive and have taken various actions to resolve issues and their effectiveness. Genetically modified food has not been put out for consumer use, even though it seems safe for consumption. Scientists currently continue testing genetically modified food to ensure safety. In the United States and some other countries, genetically modified food has been grown in smaller containment fields to prevent cross pollination and harmful plants. Although genetically modified plant growth has been experimented on for many years and constant testing is researching safety, we are still learning about the effect of growth and safety. Many farmers grow genetically modified plants and follow safety regulations to test their safety, but the safety testing cannot stop which contributes to the cost and affects the profit of the crop. As more farmers join the genetically modified plant growth we learn more about the product and research its safety for consumption.
In conclusion, many modern inventions improve our life but come with a price. Genetically modified foods have increased food production and quality, but we are uncertain of its long term effects on our health. There’s an old saying, ¨you are what you eat¨ that means it is important to eat good food in order to be healthy and fit. That saying could apply to the genetically modified fruit that is being grown, meaning if you eat fruit that has been modified it is quite possible for you to be experiencing some slight modification or changes affecting your own body through consumption. Genetically modified foods seem to be well controlled and monitored but we are learning every day about the exact implications on our life.
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