Genetically modified organisms are as a result of alteration of the genetic make up of the organisms involved. Basically, genes are deleted or inserted to the organisms’ DNA to produce a superior quality product with a pre-determined nutrient content or reproductive capacity. Additionally, the products come with superior qualities such as resistance to droughts and attacks by destructive pests. The process of altering the genetic material of organisms is extensive and cannot possibly be exhausted easily.
Debate has however shifted to the GMO foods that are sold commercially especially in the United States, Africa and Europe their characteristics, effects on the consumers, the pros and cons surrounding their safety issues and the whole process that surround their production. Genetically modified foods have been approved in many countries while many more have adapted a wait and see attitude. The fact that the food’s genetic make up has been altered is the bone of contention. Advocates for genetically modified organisms have touted them as the best solution to rampant nutrition and hunger problems especially in the third world.
However, there are experts who contend that the foods have long-term effects on consumers and therefore commercial consumption should not be allowed This paper will seek to address the above issues in a little more detailed manner to shed some light on whether the its safe to consume GMOs or not.. 2. Commercially Sold GMO’s Due to the resistance to GMO’s by non governmental organizations and various governments, there has not been widespread commercial success as far as they are concerned.
Full commercialization of the GMO’s has not been possible since most governments of the world have feared backlash from consumers. A regulatory approach has been the policy adopted by most countries in approving GMO’s. Uptake of GMO’s remains geographically limited and by 2008, only 25 countries carried out any significant commercial planting of GMO’s. Only a small number of crops are produced commercially. They include cotton, soybeans, corn and tomatoes (Nelson, 60). Picture of GMO tomatoes (source: http://www. inhabitat.
com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/tomatoes-the-ewan. jpg) The US, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada are the leading commercial producers GMO’s. In the US, at least 70% of all foods sold have GMO content (Paarlberg, 2010 p 166). Nearly all transgenic crops approved so far have been industrial crops like soybeans and yellow maize. Only South Africa had by 2008 approved a GMO variety of maize that is a staple crop in the country (Paarlberg, 166). Philippines has also approved GMO maize for animal use only though. 3. Process of altering genetic make up of an organism
Every living organism has a definite genetical make up that gives it characteristics typical of the species it belongs to. These characteristics are contained in coded information stored in the DNA of cells. Picture of DNA (source: www. csb. yale. edu/… /ribbons/help/dna_rgb. htm) Some characteristics in organisms; both plants and animals are more desirable than others. For this reason, scientists seek to change the building blocks of DNA by deleting and adding some Genes with desirable characteristics to produce a sort of “designer hybrids” of an organism.
This process is referred to as “DNA manipulation” or “Cutting and splicing DNA” (Sanderson, 141). This process therefore involves the taking of genes and segments of DNA from one species and inserting then to another artificially modifying the DNA of the other species (Smith, 1). Through the process of recombinant-DNA formation, genetic material is transferred from one organism to another. 3. Differences in GMO’s There is not marked difference between GMO’s and the traditional foods from which they are derived.
The main aim of carrying out genetic alteration of organisms is to confer on them the desired characteristics. Therefore, the differences are varied depending on the preference of the interested parties developing them. Many organisms spot the physical characteristics that they have been tailored to have. For instance, if scientists wanted bananas to taste and smell like fish they can easily alter the composition of banana genes to that effect. 4. Safety Safety standards for GMO’s and ways to ensure safety have been a subject of discussion in many jurisdictions.
“Substance equivalence” is one of the approaches that tests for safety and eliminates any risks that may be posed by the products FAO, 16). This process seeks to ensure that any GMO product is not drastically different from its traditional counterpart. The process includes the identification of the source of the product, its effect on cooking and processing, the transformation of its DNA, effects on function, potential toxicity, allergenicity and possible secondary effects. If A GMO derived food is drastically different from its traditional counterpart, further tests are carried out before it’s released for use (FAO, 16).
Different authorities have set up bodies that scrutinize and implement various guidelines meant to enhance the safety of GMO’s. China has the agricultural GMO’s Safety Administration Regulation. The European Union by far has the strictest standards as regards the safety of GMOs. In the EU labeling is seen as the consumer’s right to know what is contained in any GMO product (FAO, 16). Companies are therefore compelled to disclose the contents and effects if any a GMO product is likely to have.