Genetically modified food

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Genetically modified foods are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO). Such organisms are the product of DNA mutations, introduced through genetic engineering. This process involves the use of traditional selective breeding after the geneticly modified crop has been made. GM crops which are besed on non-indigenous crops should not be introduced into an area. Genetically modified crops that are based on indigenous crops, however can be. However, as they are man-induced, they still need to be kept from reproducing freely in nature. This is done by using crops that are unable to produce fertile seeds (or that do not produce them at all). In addition, it may be useful to plant the crops in such a way so that reproduction (eg non-sexual reproduction) can be monitored and controlled.

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[edit] History of GM food

From the start, GM food was promoted as likely to increase crop yields, as well as to improve the quality of food. None of this came true. It is now clear that GMOs do not increase crop yields, but in fact decrease them.[1] Also, some very considerable health risks of GM food have been identified.

Some types of GM food had been introduced into the market, but then withdrawn, due to various problems. These include potatoes and tomatoes. In particular, in 1998, there has been a big scandal in regard to GM potatoes involving Dr. Arpad Pusztai; as a result, there has been a considerable backlash against GM food in Europe.[2][3]

The most common GMO foods marketed today are soybeans, corn, canola, cotton seed oil and cassava[4].

Genetically modified food has caused considerable controversy since the early 1990s, when it was first introduced. The controversy generally revolved around the use of a particular technique called transgenesis. Today, cisgenesis is also being used and this technique has been proven equally safe as regular plant breeding by the EFSA[5]

[edit] Transgenesis and cisgenesis

Scientific innovation has allowed us to select a gene for a particular attribute which is desirable from one species, such as resistance to cold from a salmon, and put it directly into anther species such as a tomato. This can allow the tomato plant to survive in colder places, therefore allowing larger quantities to be produced in areas which were previously unsuitable for the production of tomoatoes. This has actually been done, as well as other things which may sound much more odd, such as to take the gene for bioluminescence (glowing in the dark) from a particular type of jellyfish, and putting it directly into the genetic structure of a tomato.

GMO’s allow for great innovation. By changing the plants at a genetic level, we are able to create an almost unlimited number of combinations of plant, while being able to taylor each plant to our own specific needs. In this area, we are only limited by our own imagination.

[edit] Types of GM food according to their function

Besides dividing the food in the type of GM modification technique that was used, we can also divide the food according to their function. If we look at it this way, there are two major types of crops, namely Biofortifying GM crops and Disease resistant GM crops. A special variation are pesticide-resistant GM crops, which are genetically altered so as to allow surviving the spraying of specific (usually chemical)pesticides. As chemical pesticides can not be used in AT, and as no GM crops have yet been developed to allow the spraying of specific organic pesticides, this category is not yet represented here.

Biofortifying GM crops are altered in such a way so as to increase the minerals and vitamins in common crops. Often these crops are basic staple crops, which the largest part of the population consumes, even the poorer ones.[6] Although appropriate technology still advocates a varied consumption of foods, these crops may be useful in some cases where little or no other crops can be grown to supply in specific trace elements of the diet. Aso in some cases, they may be useful to supplement additional trace elements to the poor in case other crops (bearing these trace elements) can not be set up aside the traditional crops fast enough to introduce them to the diet in a speedy manner. In this case, the GM staple crops are simply grown in the mean time until the additional crops have matured enough to produce food.

Disease resistant GM crops are another very important type of GM crop, especially as AT crops can not be sprayed with chemical pesticides. This means that the crops themselves need to have sufficient plant defenses so as to be able to fend off attacks from pests without these pesticides.

[edit] Biofortifying GM crops

See HarvestPlus, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, ZAB Freiburg, ETHZ Plant Biotechnology Group, Africa Biofortified Sorghum, Danforthcenter,

[edit] Disease-resistant GM crops

[edit] Bt plants

As to the Bt plants, these modified organisms are modified so to include the organic insect repellent "inside the plant". This means that no pesticides need to be sprayed on, and can thus be washed off. Animals and pests can also not eat the plant without directly consuming the insect repellent. People too eat it, but Bt is harmless to humans.

"Bt" stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a type of a soil bacterium. Using genetic engineering, toxin genes isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis are transferred into food plants, creating considerable problems with pests and animals.

[edit] Nitrogen-fixating plants

At present, work is underway on implementing nitrogen-fixation with crops that in their natural state, do not have this function. This will result in a lower requirement in fertiliser (either chemical or natural). This again ensures that less fertiliser ends up in parts of the world that are better off without this fertilisation (ie in the sea where it promotes algae growth, ...) The work is being done at the John Innes Centre.[7]

[edit] Natural-predator rallying plants

Some plants are genetically modified to attract natural predators in case of infection. This includes eg plants that attract predatory wasps, ... [8]

[edit] Pesticide-resistant crops

"Roundup Ready" plants, are the type of plants that are engineered to withstand massive applications of herbicide, which will kill all other plants in the area. (The farmers tend to like these GMOs, because they don't have to do any weeding.) But, of course, lots of herbicides will to a lot of damage to the environment.

Quite predictably, the wide introduction of "Roundup Ready" GMOs has massively increased the amount of chemicals used, and damaged wildlife and water-tables. A study by Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist of the Organic Center,found that farmers used 5-10 times more "Roundup" herbicide on Roundup Ready soybeans than on conventional ones.[9]

[edit] Dangers of GM food

There are two types of safety assessments of GM foods, the industry-sponsored studies, and the independent studies. The industry-sponsored studies, of which there's quite a lot, are mostly white-wash (i.e. science-for-hire); among these studies, deception and falsification are the norm. On the other hand -- although few in number -- just about all independent studies on health impact of GM foods indicate serious risks to health.[10]

A long list of dangers of GM foods can be found here.

[edit] Resistance against GM food

There's a very considerable resistance against GMOs in Europe, Japan, as well as in other parts of the world. Some European governments have issued bans on all GM food.

As of now, US and Canada remain the bastions of GM food -- this is where the whole project started. Most people in these countries don't even know that they are eating it, and don't suspect how their health is being damaged.

Nevertheless, the biggest testament of growing resistance against GM food in North America is the massive increase in popularity of Organic Food, which excludes GM food.

An organic farmer in Western Australia sued his GM canola growing neighbour for contaminating his farm with GM canola which led to the organic farmer losing his organic certification. The judge accepted the evidence of the 'incursion' of GM plant material but rejected that this was 'contamination'.[11] The farmer has since regained his certification.[11]

[edit] Notes

  1. A study of genetically engineered Roundup Ready soybeans by Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist of the Organic Center(Bendrook, 1999). The report reviewed over 8,200 university trials in 1998 and found that Roundup Ready soybeans yielded 7-10% less than similar natural varieties.
  2. James Randerson interviews biologist Arpad Pusztai.The Guardian. 15 January, 2008.
  3. Interview with Arpad Pusztai,10 November, 2000
  4. cassave GM crops
  5. Kijk magazine 10/2012
  6. Biofortifying crops may decrease mineral deficiencies with poorer populations
  7. Nitrogen-fixation with crops
  8. Natural predator rallying plants
  9. Organic Farming can Feed The World!
  10. Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007. ISBN 9780972966528
  11. 11.0 11.1 Paull, John (2014) Organic versus GMO farming: Contamination, what contamination? Journal of Organic Systems, 9 (1), pp. 2-4.

[edit] Bibliography

  • F. William Engdahl, The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation., Global Research, 2007 ISBN 978-0973714722
  • Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating. Yes! Books, 2003. ISBN 0972966587
  • Jeffrey M. Smith, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA USA 2007. ISBN 9780972966528

[edit] See also

[edit] External links