Brief Overview Of Genetically Modified Food – Are They Safe To Consume?

By | March 4, 2018

“The resilience we need for the future will be delivered by smart plant breeding – and that’s all GM is.” -George Freeman. There’s almost no food that isn’t genetically modified. Genetic modification is the basis of all evolution. Things change because our planet is subjected to a lot of radiation, which causes DNA damage, which gets repaired, but results in mutations, which create a ready mixture of plants that people can choose from to improve agriculture.Prime Focus of this article would be around Genetically Modified Food

genetically modified food

Genetically Modified Food |

What are GM foods? | Genetically Modified Food Definition

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be elucidated as organisms (plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic makeup has been altered by a special technology known as the recombinant DNA technology or genetic modification. It combines genes from different organisms by transferring selected individual genes from one organism into another, also between independent species. Foods produced from genetically modified organisms are known as GM foods.

How are Genetically Modified Food produced?

A multi-step process is involved in the making of a transgenic organism wherein the first step is to choose the gene based on the desired resultant organism. Potential genes can be determined by using microarrays, transcriptomes, and genome sequencing. The next step is to isolate the suitable gene by opening the cell containing that gene. Thereafter, the gene is separated by using polymerase chain reaction or restriction enzymes. The gene can now be extracted through a process known as gel electrophoresis. After isolation the gene is ligated into a plasmid and then introduced into a bacterium. Henceforth, the DNA is inserted into the host genome via a number of techniques like using Agrobacterium mediated recombination in plant cells, microinjection in animal cells, etc.

Genetically Modified Food Examples

1.Papaya has been developed by gene technology which is ring spot virus resistant and thus increasing the productivity.

2.The NewLeaf™ potato, a GM food developed using naturally-occurring bacteria found in the soil known as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), was made to provide in-plant protection from the yield-robbing Colorado potato beetle.

3.Grown since 1997 in the USA and Canada, 86 % of the USA maize crop was genetically modified in 2010 and 32 % of the worldwide maize crop was GM in 2011.

GM Foods Statistics 

1.Commercial cultivation of GM crops started in the early 1990s. The main GM traits that are currently under commercial cultivation are herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, and the main crops are: cotton, canola, maize, and soybean. The choice of transgenic crops varies among the developing countries, with insect resistant cotton being the most important commercially produced transgenic crop in Asian and African countries, while herbicide-resistant soybean followed by insect-resistant corn is predominant in the Latin American continent.

2.For the past five years, developing countries have planted more biotech crops than the industrial countries. In 2016, 19 developing countries planted 54% (99.6 million hectares) of the global biotech hectares, while 7 industrial countries took the 46% (85.5 million hectares) share. This trend is expected to continue in the upcoming years due to the increasing number of countries in the southern hemisphere adopting biotech crops and the commercialization of new biotech crops such as rice, which is mostly grown in developing countries.

3.In 2016, the 21st year of commercialization of GM crops, 185.1 million hectares of these crops were planted by ~18 million farmers in 26 countries. From the initial planting of 1.7 million hectares in 1996 when the first biotech crop was commercialized, the 185.1 million hectares planted in 2016 indicates ~110-fold increase. Thus, these crops are considered as the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.

Genetically Modified Food Pros And Cons

Genetically Modified Food Advantages

  • GM foods act as a curb on the occurrence of certain diseases and disorders.
  • Unlike traditional foods, these foods tend to grow faster and the enhanced productivity provides the population with sufficient food.
  • These food crops do not require a specific season or climatic conditions for their growth and so forth can be grown at places which suffer from droughts or have soil which is inapt for agriculture.
  • The cost of production is less than that of the conventional crops due to their natural resistance towards pests and insects, albeit the cost of seeds is expensive.
  • These foods are environment friendly and chemical free due to in exposure to harmful pesticides and insecticides.
  • Also, these foods outdo traditional foods in taste and nutritional content. Their stable shelf life makes people opt for genetically engineered foods.

Genetically Modified Food Disadvantages

  • The cause for alarm is that GM foods can have adverse effects on the human body.
  • Consumption of these foods is believed to be the cause of development of diseases which are antibiotic resistant.
  • Being a new invention not much is known about their long term effects on the body.
  • Many cultural and religious communities are in opposition to these foods because they see it as an artificial way of production.
  • Also, this method of cross-pollination can cause damage to other organisms that thrive in the environment.
  • With the increase of these foods, developing countries would start depending on industrialized countries because it is likely that food production would be controlled by them in times to come.

Are GM foods safe?                                                                                                                                                                

Many people get uncomfortable with the idea itself that the changes happen deliberately in a lab. “DNA has always been part of our diet, and it’s digested in your stomach along with the rest of your food,” says Alison Van Eenennaam, PhD, cooperative extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology at the University of California, Davis. “There is no evil trace of poison”.

A part of an official statement of the American Medical Association notes that in 20 years, no adverse impacts on human health have been reported or confirmed in professional journals.

Genetically Modified Food Labelling

GM foods that contain novel DNA or protein must be labelled with the tag ‘genetically modified’. Novel DNA and protein is defined in Standard 1.5.2 of the Food Standards Code. When compared to a counterpart non-GM food (e.g. soy beans with increased oleic /acid content), GM foods have an altered characteristic which makes it imperative to label them. Subsection S26—3(2) of Schedule 26 of the Food Standards Code contains the list of GM foods.

genetically modified food

Genetically Modified Strawberry | Source –

GM foods that do not contain any novel DNA protein, and do not have a transformed characteristic, do not require labelling. Since the composition and characteristics of these foods is exactly the same as the non-GM food, so there is no requirement of labelling.

Genetically Modified Food list

It is practically impossible to provide a complete list of genetically modified foods but to name a few we have:

  • Rapeseed
  • Honey
  • Cotton
  • Rice
  • Soybean
  • Sugar cane
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Sweet corn
  • Canola
  • Potatoes
  • Flax
  • Papaya
  • Squash
  • Red-hearted chicory
  • Cotton seed oil
  • Tobacco
  • Meat.
  • Peas
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Sugar beet
  • Dairy Products
  • Vitamins