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Gmo Green Facts

Gmo Green Facts

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GMO : Level 1 - Summary on GMO, Genetically modified crops
Scientific Facts on
 
Genetically ModifiedCrops
Source document:
 FAO(2004) 
Summary & Details:
 GreenFacts (2005)
Context
- We are regularly confrontedwith genetically modified foods, be it inthe news or on our plates.In what way are GM crops differentfrom conventional crops?What is known about their possible risksfor human health or theenvironment?
Questions on GM crops
(Food & Agriculture Organization):"
The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-2004
"
http://www.greenfacts.org/gmo/index.htm (1 sur 6)21/11/2005 9:15:43
 
GMO : Level 1 - Summary on GMO, Genetically modified crops
1. What is agricultural biotechnology?
1.1
 Biotechnologyrefers to any technique that uses living organisms, or parts of these organisms. Suchtechniques are used to make or modify products for a practical purpose. Modern medicine, agriculture, andindustry make use of biotechnology on a large scale.
1.2 
Traditionalbiotechnologiessuch as the use of yeastto make bread or wine have been applied for thousands of years. Since the late 19thcentury, knowledge of theprinciples of hereditygave farmers new tools forbreeding crops and animals. They selected individual organisms withbeneficial characteristics and developedhybridcrops.New methods have been developed since the discovery of theDNA structure in 1954. For instance,micro-organismscan be used to produceantibiotics, and thehereditary materialin plants can be changed to make them resistant to pests or diseases.
 
Source: European Commission
2. How can biotechnology be applied to agriculture?
2.1
 Genesare the pieces of DNAcode which regulate all biological processes in livingorganisms. The entire set of geneticinformation of an organism is present in everycelland is called the genome.
2.2 
Thegenetic materialis structured in asimilar way in different species, which makesit easier to identify potentially usefulgenes.Certainspeciesof crops, livestock, anddisease-causing organisms have been studiedas model species because they help usunderstand related organisms.
 
Work on wheat at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.Source: FAO
2.3 
Certain fragments of DNAthat can be easily identified are used to ‘flag’ the position of a particulargene. They can be used to locate and select individual plants or animals carrying beneficial genes andcharacteristics. Important traits such as fruit yield, wood quality, disease resistance, milk and meatproduction, or body fat can be traced this way.
2.4 
Plants can be obtained from small plant samples grown in test tubes. This is a more sophisticated formof the conventional planting of cuttings from existing plants. Another laboratory technique,in vitro selection, involves growing plantcellsunder adverse conditions to select resistant cells before growing the full plant.
2.5 
In conventional breeding half of an individual’sgenescome from each parent, whereas ingenetic  engineeringone or several specially selected genes are added to thegenetic material. Moreover, conventional plant breeding can only combine closely related plants.Genetic engineeringpermits the transfer of genesbetween organisms that are not normally able to cross breed.
 
http://www.greenfacts.org/gmo/index.htm (2 sur 6)21/11/2005 9:15:43
 
GMO : Level 1 - Summary on GMO, Genetically modified crops
2.6 
For example agenefrom abacteriumcan be inserted into a plantcellto provide resistance to insects. Such a transfer produces organisms referred to as genetically modified (GM) ortransgenic.
3. Does conventional plant breeding have effects on health and the environment?
In conventional plant breeding, little attention has been paid to the possible impacts of new plant varietieson food safety or the environment. Nonetheless, this kind of breeding has sometimes caused negativeeffects on human health. For instance, a cultivated crop variety created by conventional cross breeding cancontain excessive levels of naturally occurringtoxins.The introduction of genetically modified plants has raised some concerns thatgenetransfer could occur inthe field between cultivated and wild plants and such concerns also apply to conventional crops. Suchtransfers have occasionally been reported but are generally not considered a problem.
4. Are genetically modified plant foods safe to eat?
4.1
Foodstuffs made of genetically modified crops that are currently available (mainly maize, soybean, andoilseed rape) have been judged safe to eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemedappropriate. These conclusions represent theconsensusof the scientific evidence surveyed by theInternational Council for Science (ICSU) and are consistent with the views of the World Health Organization(WHO).However, the lack of evidence of negative effects does not mean that new genetically modified foods arewithout risk. The possibility of long-term effects from genetically modified plants cannot be excluded andmust be examined on a case-by-case basis. New techniques are being developed to address concerns, suchas the possibility of the unintended transfer of antibioticresistantgenes. Genetic engineeringof plants could also offer some direct and indirect health benefits to consumers, forinstance by improving nutritional quality or reducingpesticideuse.
4.2 
Scientists recommend that food safety assessment should take place on a case-by-case basis beforegenetically modified food is brought to the market. In such assessments, foodstuffs derived from geneticallymodified plants are compared to their conventional counterparts, which are generally considered safe due totheir long history of use. This comparison considers to what extent different foodstuffs can cause harmfuleffects orallergiesand how muchnutrientsthey contain.
 
4.3 
Consumers may wish to select foods on the basis of how they are produced, because of religious,environmental, or health concerns. However, merely indicating whether a product is genetically modified ornot, without providing any additional information, says nothing about its content nor about possible risks orbenefits. International guidelines are being developed for labelling genetically modified foods.
http://www.greenfacts.org/gmo/index.htm (3 sur 6)21/11/2005 9:15:43

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