Genetic Modification of Food Products

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In the ongoing fight against hunger, technological advancement has been adopted to increase food production. Genetic modification, a process that involves the alteration of gene material mainly the DNA of various plants and organisms, is among the major techniques being employed. Improved yield achieved through the introduction of plants resistant to diseases and increased tolerance to herbicides, is increasing food security in many places. Genetic engineering allows the selection of individual genes which are then transferred from one organism to another. However, the course of recombinant DNA technology is disposed to mutations and can result in irregular alterations in the genetic material of the products and their subsequent proteins leading to harmful effects.  More precisely then, genetically modified foods (GMOs) are more harmful to the population than beneficial, and this is due to the reasons below.

One of the most common harmful effects of GMOs in humans is allergic reactions. According to research that was conducted by Rousu (8), the process of transferring allergens into a food product can cause increased allergies to the consumers. The genes introduced in the plant may be transferred to the cells in the body or to the bacteria in the GIT which in turn undesirably affects the human health. It is this new gene in the human body that may trigger allergies such as immune responses leading to hospitalization some cases.

Secondly, the genetically modified foods may lead to the production of toxins in the plants or animals at levels that are entirely destructive to people.  A study by Dona (5), indicated that the process of genetic material insertion into the plant could cause damages in the gene of interest and thus the production of toxins. The newly inserted gene into the plant product interferes with the normal metabolic pathway and therefore one of the major explanations for the production of the contaminants. Bawa (7), states that the liver is the critical organ affected since it is the primary detoxifier of the body.  A study on rats by Schrøder (16) showed that there were significant changes including lesions, atrophied livers, and altered enzyme production while some were heavier as a result of these changes in the liver after consumption of GMOs. These effects are expected to be replicated in humans, in the long run, resulting in high death rates and organ damage. More so, the increased production of toxins leads to the reproductive failures and high infant mortality rates in individuals after a while as evidenced by research done of rats (Dona 9).

Most of the genetically modified foods have reduced nutritional value. The main focus of genetic engineering revolves around increased production, lengthening life expectancy and resistance to pests while the nutritional content of the food is not factored in the whole process.  The alteration of particular nutrients may lead to unexpected changes in the foods’ other nutrients and thus decreasing its value (Buiatti 12). For example phytochemicals present in food are reduced by the genes that work to make the plant more pest resistant.

The environmental ramifications of the genetically modified products can also not be ignored. The products have been found to hurt the environment as a result of the pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizer used in the production process. The chemicals get mixed up with the air while others leach into the ground eventually ending up in water sources that are used by humans for consumption. Some of the weeds have also begun to develop resistance to the chemicals and hence compromising the ability to control them in the future.  Cross-pollination through wind is also another major factor, and with time it leads to the reduction in the biodiversity of the crop strains (Rousu 20).

Activists in favour of genetically modified products have argued GMOs have led to increased food security in most of the parts of the world hence alleviating human suffering. High food production and increased availability are crucial in improving livelihoods and more so as the farmer experience high economic yield from the same. However, even though genetic modification enhances food security in regards to availability, the ability of the body to utilize the product is compromised. With such, the nutrition security of the individuals which mainly reciprocates in food safety and utilization of all essential nutrients is not well covered (Buiatti 17). GMOs therefore only enhance food availability, but they do not ensure nutrition security in regards to nutrient intake which is essential for the proper functioning of the body.

To sum up, it is evident that genetic modification of food products does more harm than good to the population. With factors such as reduced nutrition value, increased allergy, and environmental pollution, alternative solutions should be sought. Even though the technology has reduced food insecurity in most households, it has not solved the hunger issues as a whole. The products compromise the utilization of nutrients due to the allergens, with reduced nutrition value in most of the foods. It is hence essential that the use of the products be reviewed and more sustainable measures are adopted.  

Works Cited

Bawa, A. S., and K. R. Anilakumar. "Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review." Journal of food science and technology 50.6 (2013): 1035-1046.

Buiatti, M., Paul Christou, and G. Pastore. "The application of GMOs in agriculture and food production for better nutrition: two different scientific points of view." Genes & nutrition 8.3 (2013): 255.

Dona, Artemis, and Ioannis S. Arvanitoyannis. "Health risks of genetically modified foods." Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 49.2 (2009): 164-175.

Rousu, Matthew, et al. "Effects and value of verifiable information in a controversial market: evidence from lab auctions of genetically modified food." Economic Inquiry 45.3 (2007): 409-432.

Schrøder, Malene, et al. "A 90-day safety study of genetically modified rice expressing Cry1Ab protein (Bacillus thuringiensis toxin) in Wistar rats." Food and Chemical Toxicology 45.3 (2007): 339-349.

August 04, 2023

Food Science

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