Genetically modified food is not a recent phenomenon. Cultivators of plant and animals products have been cross-breeding to produce more desirable traits for centuries. Over recent decades, however, they have been able, with the aid of new technologies, to refine these techniques. This has allowed them to produce more abundant crops.

Food biotechnology is one area in which a new dimension to the improvement of a food product has been provided. Modern day scientists can add desirable hereditary traits to virtually any plant or animal. This allows them to produce more nutritious foods that are also able to withstand adverse growing conditions. This would appear to be a great thing.

Yet, despite the clear benefits of genetically modified food – better food that is packed with more nutrition and able to handle drought and insect infestations – a growing number of people are concerned about the collateral damage to our health and the environment. An example of the latter could be if insects develop a resistance to the pesticides produced by crops that have been genetically modified.

It is estimated that between 60 and 70 % of processed foods contain at least one genetically modified food ingredient. This is clearly an issue that is difficult for food consumers to avoid. It pays to weigh the benefits against the potential risks in order to make an educated decision about where we each stand on the issue of genetically modified food.

Benefits of Genetically Modified Food

Benefits to Plants

(1)  Pest Resistance

(2)  Herbicide Tolerance

(3)  Disease Resistance

(4)  Cold Tolerance

(5)  Drought Tolerance

Benefit to Humans 

(1)  Improved Nutrition (example: Golden Rice which has added vitamins  and minerals)

(2)  Pharmaceuticals (example: edible vaccines contained in fruits and vegetables)

Risks of Genetically Modified Food

 Environmental Risks

(1)  Collateral damage to other living things – GM alteration interferes with the balance of nature which may lead to all manner of problems

(2)  Reduced effectiveness of pesticides

(3)  Gene transfer to non-target species, such as weeds

Human Risks

(1)   Allergic reactions

(2)   Human health risks – although scientists believe that there are no human health risks associated with genetically modified food, the long-term effects remain unknown.

 

In conclusion genetically modified food is here to stay. It would pay to keep up with the latest research regarding the potential benefits and risks as more research comes out. If you do decide that you’d rather avoid all genetically modified food, buy products which are labelled as organic – they are guaranteed to be GM free.

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