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A genetically modified organism is a plant or animal that contains altered genes; this means that the DNA of the modified organism is not naturally found in nature through traditional organism cross breeding. Genetically Modified Organisms have become prevalent in the current world, and the advancements in technology have ensured that genetically modified crops and animals are more nutritious, durable and resistant to diseases and changes in climate. The genes that contain the desired plant or animal characteristics are introduced to the organism that is being modified. The gene modification process results in a product that is similar to the natural organism and the only difference is that it contains a specific gene alteration. Genetically modified crops are modified to ensure that they can withstand chemicals from herbicides or harsh weather conditions. The gene modification in crops ensures that the products can last longer and it also increases crop yields while reducing production costs through the reduced use of pesticides. The increased demand for food over the past few decades is due to the vast growing world population. Food security can only be assured through improved food production by enhancing the production of crops and even animals; this is done through modifying the genes of natural organisms to come up with the desired final product (Bawa & Anilakumar, 2012).
Genetic Engineering of Crops
The first step in modifying the genes of crops is the identification of a desirable trait, the isolation of the identified feature, insertion of the attribute into the genome of the desired organism and the final step is the growth of the engineered crop. After the identification of the desired trait, the gene is isolated, and it is prepared to be inserted into the transfer vector. The transformed plant is then restructured with the aim of turning it into a whole plant through using the tissue culture technique. The modified plant is inserted in the proper medium that contains the nutrients that aid in the development of cells into various plant parts; this forms a plantlet. The plantlets are then transferred to planting pots after growth, and the progress of the modified crop is observed (Gill, Gill, Tuteja, & Tuteja, 2014).
Genetically Modified Food Products in Supermarkets
Genetically modified organisms are very common in local retail shops and supermarkets despite many controversies about GMO’s. The concept of safety of GMO’s lies in the perception of consumers although many genetically modified products have been approved by regulatory organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of the genetically engineered products sold in supermarkets include sweet corn, soy, canola, apples, potatoes, and many green vegetables. The many controversies about genetically modified products are based on the fact that GMOs are created by modification of plant or animal genes (Chrispeels, 2014).
Safety of Genetically Modified Foods
Research studies about the safety of genetically modified food products indicate that the approved GMO’s are safe for human consumption. One of the issues associated with GMO’S is food allergies caused by the recombinant proteins in GMO foods. The food-related allergies occur when a foreign protein compound enters the body and triggers the body to treat the protein as an antigen (Dunn, Vicini, Glenn, Fleischer, & Greenhawt, 2017). The other concern about genetically modified crops is that the food products have high toxic levels. Natural plants have low toxin levels that cannot negatively affect the body but on the other hand, the toxic level in GMO’s is significantly high as the gene modification process involves insertion of a foreign gene into the natural plant and this leads to the production of more toxins. Consumption of GMO food also leads to the development of resistance to antibiotics; the gene modification process uses genes that have a high resistance to pathogens. When GMO foods are ingested, the same pathogen resistance is transferred to the body only that the human body becomes resistant to curative antibiotics; this could adversely affect the health of an individual.
Genetically Modified Foods Regulation
Each government has different ways of regulating genetically modified foods, and the regulatory agencies usually examine the health and environmental risks of a modified organism. The three central agencies that regulate genetically modified foods in the United States include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Food Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The EPA regulates biopesticides like BT toxins and developers are always required to demonstrate that their toxin is environmentally friendly. The FDA is responsible for examining and approving genetically modified foods that are consumed by human beings and animals. Human beings and animals can consume the food products that are passed as safe by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) (Smyth, 2017).
Despite the many controversies surrounding genetically modified organisms, the regulatory agencies such as FDA have approved the GM foods that found in local retail shops and supermarkets for human consumption. Gene modification results in the production of food that is long lasting and also at higher yields; this could be the solution to food security and reduction of malnutrition. Genetically modified crops are resistant to pesticides and even harsh weather conditions such as drought. The safety of GM foods should be further studies to determine the extent of side effects such as food allergies that are caused by consuming genetically modified products (Bawa & Anilakumar, 2012).
Bawa, A. S., & Anilakumar, K. R. (2012). Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 50(6), 1035-1046. doi:10.1007/s13197-012-0899-1
Chrispeels, M. J. (2014). Yes indeed, most Americans do eat GMOs every day! Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 56(1), 4-6. doi:10.1111/jipb.12147
Dunn, S. E., Vicini, J. L., Glenn, K. C., Fleischer, D. M., & Greenhawt, M. J. (2017). The allergenicity of genetically modified foods from genetically engineered crops. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 119(3), 214-222.e3. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2017.07.010
Gill, S. S., Gill, R., Tuteja, R., & Tuteja, N. (2014). Genetic engineering of crops: a ray of hope for enhanced food security. Plant Signaling & Behavior, 9(3), e28545. doi:10.4161/psb.28545
Key, S., Ma, J. K., & Drake, P. M. (2008). Genetically modified plants and human health. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 101(6), 290-298. doi:10.1258/jrsm.2008.070372
Smyth, S. J. (2017). Genetically modified crops, regulatory delays, and international trade. Food and Energy Security, 6(2), 78-86. doi:10.1002/fes3.100
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