Genetically Modified Foods: to Eat or not to eat


Abstract


Genetically modified (GM) foods have been around for quite some time. Chances are, just about everyone has eaten some type of GM food product. With the new and developing technologies that the biotechnology industry has to offer, the GM food market has risen in leaps and bounds. A genetically modified food is a food that has had its genetic make-up altered in some way by DNA technology. It can involve the transfer of genes from one organism to another or be sprayed with a genetically designed pesticide. The characteristics of the product may or may not remain the same depending on which genes have been altered. Some changes that are often seen include their color, flavor, texture, and their ability to resist insects and tolerate herbicides. The use of this science has given rise to much conflict in the public sector and has scared many consumers. As biotechnologists, it is our job to educate the public and inform them of the risks or lack of risks in genetically modified foods.


Introduction


With a growing world population and the race to be the first to develop the next technological break through, the area of genetic manipulation has become a popular area for discovery. The agricultural industry is very open and excited for the introduction of new technologies that will provide them with a much higher yield and an overall better quality product. Many of the suppliers that use these agricultural products have become skeptical and cautious when buying from the farmers due to the media and government regulating bodies. The most powerful body that will make or break this field is the consumers. If people will not buy the products at the store, then the market for GM food will dissolve. In this paper we will discuss some of the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods and hear positions in favor of, and in opposition to such products.


Positions and Discussion


To eat or not to eat, that is the question. How often do you think of genetics or biotechnology as you are enjoying your favorite foods? Does gene splicing ever cross your mind as you slice tomatoes, or do you ever think about growth hormones as you sink your teeth into that juicy steak? Not very often if you are like most people, but perhaps you should. Many of the items you eat have been genetically modified by using biotechnology in some way. These products are often referred to as GMOs (genetically modified organisms). There are several different types of modified foods. Designer foods are processed foods that are supplemented with ingredients rich in disease preventing substances by genetic engineering. Functional foods are any modified food that may provide health benefits. Biotechnology and the human understanding of it have allowed for great advances in the world of agriculture. Perhaps one of the best advances is GM foods. By altering one or a few genes scientists can create a more user friendly and helpful organism. The first genetically modified plants were introduced experimentally in 1982. Since then, different combinations and varieties have been tested and the first of these crops became commercially available in 1996. Some people are frightened by this new technology and feel these foods are unsafe. " The ability to splice genetic sequences into living organisms where they would not normally be found raises fears that we are somehow creating Frankenstein-like versions of corn or unleashing something that we will not be able to control". (Mainschein, J. (01-01-2000). Who\'s in Charge of the Gene Genie?.The World & I, 84.) The main reason that genetically engineered food could be dangerous is because there has been no adequate testing to ensure that altering genes that perform an apparently useful function as part of that plant or animal is going to have the same effects if inserted into a totally unrelated plant or animal. Cross-breeding by farmers and evolution by Nature, has always involved gene transfer between similar species, not completely different species like a fish and a potato, which is alarming to the public. It may be that in the long term, genetically modified food could provide us with benefits and be a safe alternative, but we cannot know that at this time due to the lack