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The Risks of Genetically Modified Foods

Lack of viable storage facilities or transportation and natural calamities affect the food supply in some parts of the world resulting to over billions of people suffering from hunger worldwide / Photo by Sadik Gulec via Shutterstock.com

 

The World Health Organization estimates that over billion of people suffers from hunger worldwide, and ironically, that is despite the fact that more food is being produced more than ever before. Although the reason why the number of people who experience hunger is because of the amount of food that is lost during the harvest due to the lack of viable storage facilities or transportation options. Natural calamities such as drought and typhoons also affect the food supply in some parts of the world. In industrial countries, 40% of all food is destroyed than eaten.

 

Concerned organizations who are pushing the benefits of having genetically modified foods believe that these GMOs promotes it as the solution in alleviating world hunger. The growth of biotech crops is the fastest growing segment in agriculture. In an article published by The Balance, 160 million hectares of biotech crops were grown which is equivalent to 10% of Earth’s arable land in 2011. In an article published by Economia, Jonathan Jones, senior scientist at Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich said, “feeding nine billion people in 2050 will not be easy. About 10% of humans are already malnourished. Sustainable food production is an enormous challenge, especially against the unpredictable backdrop of climate change. We are going to need every tool in the toolbox. Pest and disease resistance genes enable us to replace chemistry with genetics to control many crop problems.”

 

GMO, Is It Worth the Shot?

 

Although the debate about the benefits promoting GM foods in a wider scale is still ongoing, there are some people who are still a skeptic and concerned about the disadvantages and risks that GMO foods pose when humans consume it. Mind Body Green published on their online article that GMO foods have a very few studies. This means that there is no safety net that supports the viability of consuming genetically modified foods, and the government does not require that genetically engineered foods will be tested for carcinogenicity, for harm to fetuses, or for risks over the long-term to animals or humans.

 

Studies also showed that genetically modified corn and soy which are fed to rats have led to a higher risk of developing liver and kidney problems. These studies concerned many health experts even though it is not transferable to humans, but they still illustrate the unpredictable nature of GMOs on living things. In a website called labmate-online.com, they also mentioned that transgenic modification produces organism types which would never occur naturally, making them highly unpredictable.

 

There is no safety net that supports the viability of consuming genetically modified foods / Photo by Elnur via Shutterstock.com

 

The emergence of genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant crops also spurred the so-called “superweeds” which are pest plants that have been mutated to survive the common herbicides. A survey was conducted in 2012 which showed that nearly half of the American farmers reported finding superweeds in their fields. Many farmers have resorted to older and more toxic herbicides like dicamba and 2,4-D which are known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects and have an increased risk of having cancer when humans intake it. Moreover, according to Health Line, A 2013 journal called, Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted a paper that shows that herbicide Roundup and Roundup-tolerant GM corn to cancer and premature death in rats. The journal’s editor reviewed the researchers’ raw data and the peer-review process and they found out that the researchers had used too few rats, and the specific strain of rats was prone to cancer, and the results were inconclusive. After the paper was republished in another journal called, Environmental Sciences Europe, the controversy that surrounded the study’s finding has continued.

 

What Is Genetically Modified Food?

According to Science Daily, a genetically modified food is derived in whole or part from a genetically modified organism such as a crop plant, animal or microbe such as yeast. The original DNA of these organisms is altered through the process of genetic engineering, which is the process of manipulating an organism’s genes directly by transplanting DNA from other organism to another. Genetically modified foods have been on the US market since 1994.

 

 

Genetic engineering technique allows for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding. Most food modifications have primarily focused on crops in high demand by farmers such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton. Genetically modified crops have been engineered for resistance against pathogens and herbicides, and for better nutrient profiles.

 

Furthermore, according to World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called ‘modern biotechnology’ or ‘gene technology’, sometimes also ‘recombinant DNA technology’ or ‘genetic engineering’.”

 

Genetically modified foods remain controversial despite the broad scientific consensus since they claim that there is no more health risk within the usage of genetically modified foods. The repercussions about the increased use of chemical herbicides still concern a lot of experts in agriculture and healthcare, and this has led many debates on whether genetically modified organisms should be labeled or tightly regulated.

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