Food, Genetically modified

Bonophool Banerjee Sr. Lecturer Department of Food Production IHM, Taratala Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. Currently available GM foods stem mostly from lants, but in the future foods derived from GM microorganisms or GM animals are li!ely to be introduced on the mar!et. Most e"isting genetically modified cro s have been develo ed to im rove yield, through the introduction of resistance to lant diseases or of increased tolerance of herbicides. #n the future, genetic modification could be aimed at altering the nutrient content of food, reducing its allergenic otential, or im roving the efficiency of food roduction systems. All GM foods should be assessed before being allowed on the mar!et. $%& Code" guidelines e"ist for ris! analysis of GM food. Genetically'modified foods GM foods) have made a big s lash in the news lately. (uro ean environmental organi)ations and ublic interest grou s have been actively rotesting against GM foods for months, and recent controversial studies about the effects of genetically'modified corn ollen on monarch butterfly cater illars have brought the issue of genetic engineering to the forefront of the ublic consciousness in the *.+. #n res onse to the u swelling of ublic concern, the *.+. ,ood and Drug Administration (,DA) held three o en meetings in Chicago, $ashington, D.C., and &a!land, California to solicit ublic o inions and begin the rocess of establishing a new regulatory rocedure for government a roval of GM foods. !hat are "enetically#modified food$% -he term GM foods or GM&s (genetically'modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to cro lants created for human or animal consum tion using the latest molecular biology techni.ues. -hese lants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or im roved nutritional content. -he enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been underta!en through breeding, but conventional lant

breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate. Genetic en"ineerin", on the other hand, can create lants with the e"act desired trait very ra idly and with great accuracy. ,or e"am le, lant geneticists can isolate a "ene res onsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different lant. -he new genetically'modified lant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one lant to another, but genes from non' lant organisms also can be used. -he best !nown e"am le of this is the use of /.t. genes in corn and other cro s. /.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, is a naturally occurring bacterium that roduces crystal roteins that are lethal to insect larvae. /.t. crystal rotein genes have been transferred into corn, enabling the corn to roduce its own esticides against insects such as the (uro ean corn borer. !hat are $ome of the ad&anta"e$ of GM food$% -he world o ulation has to ed 0 billion eo le and is redicted to double in the ne"t 12 years. (nsuring an ade.uate food su ly for this booming o ulation is going to be a ma3or challenge in the years to come. GM foods romise to meet this need in a number of ways4 • Pe$t re$i$tance 4Cro losses from insect ests can be staggering, resulting in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in develo ing countries. ,armers ty ically use many tons of chemical esticides annually. Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with esticides because of otential health ha)ards, and run'off of agricultural wastes from e"cessive use of esticides and fertili)ers can oison the water su ly and cause harm to the environment. Growing GM foods such as /.t. corn can hel eliminate the a lication of chemical esticides and reduce the cost of bringing a cro to mar!et. • Her'icide tolerance( ,or some cro s, it is not cost'effective to remove weeds by hysical means such as tilling, so farmers will often s ray large .uantities of different herbicides (weed'!iller) to destroy weeds, a time' consuming and e" ensive rocess, that re.uires care so that the herbicide doesn5t harm the cro lant or the environment. Cro lants genetically' engineered to be resistant to one very owerful herbicide could hel revent environmental damage by reducing the amount of herbicides needed. ,or e"am le, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide roduct 6oundu . A farmer grows these soybeans which then only re.uire one a lication of weed'!iller instead of multi le a lications, reducing roduction cost and limiting the dangers of agricultural waste run'off.

• Di$ea$e re$i$tance 4-here are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause lant diseases. 7lant biologists are wor!ing to create lants with genetically'engineered resistance to these diseases. • )old tolerance( *ne" ected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. An antifree)e gene from cold water fish has been introduced into lants such as tobacco and otato. $ith this antifree)e gene, these lants are able to tolerate cold tem eratures that normally would !ill unmodified seedlings. • Drou"ht tolerance*$alinity tolerance 4As the world o ulation grows and more land is utili)ed for housing instead of food roduction, farmers will need to grow cro s in locations reviously unsuited for lant cultivation. Creating lants that can withstand long eriods of drought or high salt content in soil and groundwater will hel eo le to grow cro s in formerly inhos itable laces. • +utrition( Malnutrition is common in third world countries where im overished eo les rely on a single cro such as rice for the main sta le of their diet. %owever, rice does not contain ade.uate amounts of all necessary nutrients to revent malnutrition. #f rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated. ,or e"am le, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common roblem in third world countries. 6esearchers at the +wiss ,ederal #nstitute of -echnology #nstitute for 7lant +ciences have created a strain of 8golden8 rice containing an unusually high content of beta'carotene (vitamin A). +ince this rice was funded by the 6oc!efeller ,oundation, a non' rofit organi)ation, the #nstitute ho es to offer the golden rice seed free to any third world country that re.uests it. 7lans were underway to develo a golden rice that also has increased iron content. %owever, the grant that funded the creation of these two rice strains was not renewed, erha s because of the vigorous anti'GM food rotesting in (uro e, and so this nutritionally'enhanced rice may not come to mar!et at all. • Pharmaceutical$( Medicines and vaccines often are costly to roduce and sometimes re.uire s ecial storage conditions not readily available in third world countries. 6esearchers are wor!ing to develo edible vaccines in tomatoes and otatoes. -hese vaccines will be much easier to shi , store and administer than traditional in3ectable vaccines. • Phytoremediation( Not all GM lants are grown as cro s. +oil and groundwater ollution continues to be a roblem in all arts of the world.

7lants such as o lar trees have been genetically engineered to clean u heavy metal ollution from contaminated soil. Genetically'modified foods have the otential to solve many of the world5s hunger and malnutrition roblems, and to hel rotect and reserve the environment by increasing yield and reducing reliance u on chemical esticides and herbicides. 9et there are many challenges ahead for governments, es ecially in the areas of safety testing, regulation, international olicy and food labeling. Many eo le feel that genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the future and that we cannot afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous otential benefits. %owever, we must roceed with caution to avoid causing unintended harm to human health and the environment as a result of our enthusiasm for this owerful technology.


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