Definition of GM Foods
The most prerequisite element is the provision of sufficient nutritional elements, is to provide the necessary energy, body building nutrients, and biological regulatory substances. Throughout the history of humankind, human beings have tried to solve the fundamental problem of having a reliable food supply. As Tutelyan (2013) notes, to resolve the present challenge of insufficient food, humankind have invented a wide variety of technological tools backed up by scientific studies and evidence. One of the most efficient and reliable ways is based on modern biotechnology and relies on the fundamentals of genetic engineering. Proponents of genetically modified foods claim that genetic engineering is an extension of natural plant growth. They believe that genetically modified allows gene coding for the trait to be inserted in the host plant with minimal effects (Robinson, Antoniou, & Fagan, 2015). However, the World Health Organization (2014) defines genetically modified as organisms where the genetic material has been altered in a way contrary to the natural way. The technology allows for select individual genes to be inserted into an organism, giving rise to the genetically modified foods.
The Production process of GM Foods
The production of genetically modified foods is made through the process of genetic engineering. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (n.d), the production of genetically modified organisms is a process that can be summarized in nine steps. The first step is the identification of the gene of interest using DNA vaccines and antimicrobial agents. The second step is the isolation of the gene of interest, which is usually available as an element of a library of short sections. In case the gene is not available in this form, then the next step involves the multiplication of the gene through the PCR reaction. During the cloning of the gene of interest, the target gene is placed in a “construct” and litigated enzymatically into bacterial plasmids to produce multiple genes. The fifth step is the construct, which involves the multiplication of the plasmid in the bacteria and recovery of the cloned construct for injection. The sixth step is the transfer of the construct gene into the tissue of the recipient, which is often a fertilized egg. The seventh step involves the integration of the gene into the genome of the recipient, which is particularly important to give accuracy in a controlled site of integration due to the unforeseen and unpredictable effects of uncontrolled integration on existing genes. After this step, the next one is the expression of genes. Definitely, the uptake and integration of the gene do not guarantee that the transferred gene will express itself in the new environment. It is necessary to carry out tests to determine the expression and the level it takes place. The last step is the inheritance of the gene and its transfer to other targets through further generations.
GM Foods Available
Whether genetically modified foods are safe or not, the fact is, these types of foods are available in the market. People have been growing and consuming GM foods even without knowledge, although the law requires labeling of GMOs in the United States from 2018. Some of the genetically modified foods available include corn, which according to Young (2013) includes more than 85 percent of corn cultivated in the United States. Soy is also another genetically modified food in the United States. The soybeans are genetically modified to contain a high concentration of oleic acid, which naturally occurs in olive oil. The zucchini and the yellow crookneck are also genetically modified to add a protein gene that protects the plants against viruses. Other foods that are genetically modified include the alfalfa, which is altered to add a gene that makes it resistant to the Roundup herbicide. Canola and sugar beets are also some of the other GM foods that are available in the U.S. market. Along with that, to increase the production of milk, cows are given rBGH to increase the quantity of milk. Additionally, as listed in the GMOAnswers (), apples, potatoes, rainbow papaya, and summer squash are also some of the foods that have been genetically altered and available in the agricultural fields and market.
Concerns about GM Foods
Biotechnology has provided the world with a wide range of options on ways to develop foods that are perceived to have an advantage to the producers and the consumers. According to the World Health Organization (2014), the foods are desirable due to their high resistance to insects, diseases caused by viruses, and tolerance towards herbicides resulting in high crop yields. Unfortunately, despite their benefits, there has been a wide range of concerns related to GM Foods for human health. Alongside other aspects, the three main issues debated include the potential to trigger an allergic reaction, transfer of genes, and outcrossing. Virtually, the transfer of genes from allergenic organisms to non-allergic organisms is highly discouraged unless it is proven that the protein is not allergenic. Although foods produced using traditional methods are not tested for allergenicity, WHO notes that, protocols require GM Foods to be tested. The other concern associated with GM foods is gene transfer from GM foods to the gastrointestinal tract because it has the potential to affect the human health adversely. The concern would be particularly relevant in case there is a presence of antibiotic resistance genes used in the development of GMOs. Notably, although the transfer probability is relatively low, the use of gene technology that involves antibiotic resistance genes is discouraged. The third concern is outcrossing, which involves the transfer of genes from GM plants to conventional plants or related wild species. The issue could indirectly affect the safety and security of foods. Besides, research indicates that the issue is highly probable as it has been evident in GM crops approved for animal feed being detected in products intended for the human consumption. In the environment, the GMO is likely to persist even after the crops have been harvested. The plants also lead to loss of biodiversity as well as increased use of chemicals in agricultural farms, which could pose a risk to the safety of the environmental aspects. Additionally, consumers have constantly been questioning the safety of GM crops, which is a challenge in the acceptability of these types of foods.
Regulation of GM Foods
The regulation of GM foods is the responsibility of the particular country’s government. According to WHO (2014), in some countries GMOs are not yet regulated. Countries with regulations focus primarily on the assessment of risk to consumer health and environmental risks. In the United States, the regulation of GM foods is the responsibility of three agencies; the EPA, the FDA, and USDA (FAS, n.d). In particular, the EPA is responsible for regulating biopesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide. EPA requires that if a plant carries a gene for BT toxin, then the developer should verify its safety to the environment and ensure it is not allergenic. The FDA is responsible for the regulation of safety of GM foods consumed by humans or animals. The 1992 policy recognizes genetically modified foods as substantially equivalent to non-GM crops. However, if the presence of a gene is detected in GM food crops, then the FDA reserves the right to apply stringent measures requiring pre-market approval of the foods. The USDA alongside the EPA performs risk assessments to evaluate the possibility and reduce the potential of harmful consequences in genetically modified foods (U.S. Department of Agriculture, n.d).
Would you recommend eating GM Foods?
The use of biotechnology has enabled the exchange of genetic materials among living organisms. The use of this technology has enabled the design and creation of organisms that are desired by humans. Scientists claim that genetically engineered crops are safe for human consumption and have no adverse effect on the health of the consumer or the environment. However, despite their assurance, I would not recommend eating GM foods. Alongside the benefits associated with genetically engineered foods, they foods also have far-reaching and potentially harmful effects on human health and environmental safety. Alterations performed on genes usually penetrate the whole organism, and there is a probability of carrying foreign information to the body of the person who consumes the food. Besides, the production of GMOs requires stronger herbicides and pesticides, which can lead to the destruction of important soil microbes and trace minerals beneficial to human health.
FAS. (n.d). U.S. Regulation of Genetically Modified Crops. Retrieved from: https://fas.org/biosecurity/education/dualuse-agriculture/2.-agricultural-biotechnology/us-regulation-of-genetically-engineered-crops.html
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d). The process of genetic modification. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y4955E/y4955e06.htm
GMOAnswers. (n.d). Current GMO crops. Retrieved from: https://gmoanswers.com/current-gmo-crops
Robinson, C., Antoniou, M., & Fagan, J. 2015). GMO Myths and Truths. S.I.: Earth Open Source.
Tutelyan, V. (2013). Genetically modified food sources: Safety assessment and control. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d). Biotechnology Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Retrieved from: https://www.usda.gov/topics/biotechnology/biotechnology-frequently-asked-questions-faqs
World Food Organization. (2014). Food safety: Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/Young, C. (2013). 7 most common genetically modified foods. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/builtlean/diet-and-nutrition_b_4323937.html
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