Monday, January 31, 2011

Genetically modified (GM) foods are useful?

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Are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods Beneficial? LifeMojo LifeMojo Home|Invite|RSS|SMS|Help|Login / Register HomeMy JourneyMy Journey HomeGoalsPlanTrackMeasureReportsAnalysisBody AnalysisLifestyle AnalysisLifestyleLifestyle HomeTop RatedNutritionFitnessWellnessMotivationHealth GuidesHealth Guides HomeHealth TipsCalories BurntNutritional ValueHealthy RecipesGlossaryHealth InsuranceCommunityForumsRoutesHealth StoreHealth Store HomeShopping Cart LifestyleLifestyle > Are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods Beneficial?Are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods Beneficial?By LifeMojo Team / January 15, 20110 CommentsAdvancements in the field of food science target towards the availability of food for the growing population. These technological developments also aim to combat malnutrition. The development of genetically modified or GM foods is meant to achieve these objectives. Thus, GM foods have been brought into place with a brighter perspective. But since every process comes with some side effects, so the experts and the society at large are showing concerns over the safe consumption of GM foods. So let us discuss about the GM foods in detail.

Are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods Beneficial?What are Genetically Modified (GM) Foods?When crop plants are created with the application of the latest molecular biology techniques for human as well as animal consumption, then these are termed as GM foods or GMOs, the genetically modified organisms. These plants are made to undergo certain modifications in the labs to incorporate desired traits in them. Some of these traits include better resistance to herbicides or an enhancement in the nutritional content. Breeding has been the mechanism by which desired traits have been included in the foods via traditional methods.

The traditional time consuming practice can be replaced with genetic engineering which aids in the isolation of say, drought-tolerant gene from one plant and insertion of the same in another plant. The new plant which has undergone genetic modifications would be drought-tolerant as well. Genetic engineering even facilitates the transfer of gene from non-plant organisms. For example, the genes from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) can be transferred to corn. The bacterium synthesizes crystal proteins which are harmful for the larvae of insects. When these genes are transferred to corn, then it starts producing its own pesticides to combat insects like the European corn borer.

The GM foods serve many purposes and these are intended to satisfy the hunger of the growing population. The population is in an "ever-growing" state and 50 years from now, it would be a major challenge to meet the needs of the booming population. The GM foods are designed to meet these objectives in several ways.

Benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods Nutrition: The main issue which the third world countries face is malnutrition. Here, people cannot afford to buy multiple foods for them. They have to depend on a single crop like rice as the main or rather the only component of their diet. But rice does not come with all the vital nutrients which are necessary for proper nutrition. This led to the development of genetically modified rice which contains additional vitamins and minerals to meet the body's requirement of vital nutrients. Disease resistance: Plant diseases occur due to the presence of microorganisms like fungi, bacteria and viruses. Plant biologists are on their way to develop plants which show resistance to these diseases. Pest resistance: Chemical pesticides are in constant use by the farmers. But these pesticides are associated with potential health hazards. That is why, the consumers feel a bit worried to buy these vegetables. But genetically engineered foods are created by the inclusion of pest resistant genes taken from other plant sources. This eliminates the need for chemical pesticides. This further lowers down the cost of marketing a crop! Drought and salinity tolerance: The population is on the rise and more lands are to be used for building housing facilities. This means that farmers would have to struggle to produce outputs in lands which were previously considered unfit for agriculture. This requires that plants need to adapt to hostile conditions such as long periods of drought and high salt content in soil and groundwater. The genetically modified plants are assigned proper traits to combat unfavorable situations like these.But the genetically modified foods are not free from criticisms. The concept has drawn negative feedbacks from public interest groups, environmental activists, professional associations, government officials and religious organizations. People have been pointing towards the potential health hazards associated with GM foods and have blamed the agro-business for its profiteering motives. The government has also been criticized for its lack of control on the development, marketing and consumption of GM foods.

What are the Controversies Associated with Genetically Modified (GM) Foods? Allergenicity: Worldwide, reports of allergies to all kinds of foods (particularly nuts, fish and shellfish) seem to be increasing, but it is not known if this reflects a genuine change in the risk of allergy, or an increased awareness of food allergies by the public. There is a possibility that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals. A proposal to incorporate a gene from Brazil nuts into soybeans was abandoned because of the fear of causing unexpected allergic reactions. Unknown effects on health: There is a conception existing among people that the introduction of foreign genes into food plants can cause negative effects on human health. If allergenicity can be considered as an exception, then the advocates of genetic engineering argue that the genetically modified foods do not pose harm to human health. Economic concerns: Marketing of genetically engineered foods is a pretty lengthy and expensive process. And we do have to consider the fact that the agri-biotech companies would set a price based on a high return on their investments. Environmental effects: The large scale growth of GM plants may have direct effects on organisms that feed on or interact with the crops. Just as some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned pesticide DDT, many people are concerned that insects will become resistant to B.t. or other crops that have been genetically-modified to produce their own pesticides. Other possible effects might come from the spread of genes from modified plants to unmodified relatives, which might produce species of weeds resistant to herbicides.GM foods have the potential to serve mankind by reducing malnutrition and the environment as a whole by increasing the output and eliminating the need for chemical pesticides. But the technology poses immense challenge to the government in the areas of safety testing, regulations, international policy and food labeling. People believe that genetic engineering is meant to serve greater purposes in the near future, but the government should take proper measures to prevent unintended harm to mankind and the environment.

At the end it can be concluded that genetically modified foods can solve the world's hunger and malnutrition problem. Since there is over-enthusiasm on this concept, the government needs to be proactive so as to frame proper regulatory measures to facilitate safe testing and applications with special considerations on international policy and food labeling. The future is yet to see some other miracles of food technology and who knows we might develop other methods to combat growing concerns on the health hazards of GM foods.

Tags: Food, Nutrition, Genetically Modified Foods, Controversy

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