A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Altering genomes isn’t new. People have been altering the genomes of plants and animals for many years using traditional breeding techniques. But this artificial selection, has been limited to naturally occurring variations. However, advances in genetic engineering have opened the way for precise control over the genetic changes introduced into an organism. As it is now, we can incorporate new genes from one species into a completely unrelated species through genetic engineering
What are the benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) Food?
GM foods are developed and marketed for the following reasons:
- There is some perceived advantage either to the producer/farmer or consumer of these foods which translates into a product with a lower price, greater benefit in terms of durability and nutritional value.
- Developing plants based on GM organisms improves crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
- Genetic modification holds promise to improve production ( through virus resistance), healthfulness, and sustainability
- GMO crops have drastically helped scale up the animal agriculture industry. Vast majority of corn and soy grown in the U.S. are GMO. Not to mention, globally, 70 percent of soy is used to feed livestock.
What are the health and environmental risks of GMO?
There are many ways GMO could adversely affect human being.
- Environment: The main way that genetically modified crops affect the environment is via the increased amount of pesticides through Glyphosate reportedly remains in soil for up to 6 months after it’s been sprayed . Additionally, glyphosate kills plants that negatively impact the habitats of local wildlife, which can reduce insect biodiversity.
- Health: The World Health Organization actually classifies glyphosate as carcinogenic, meaning it can cause cancer. Even though GMO crops are not the direct culprit, it is clear that pesticides like glyphosate and GMO crops work hand in hand. More so, the use of gene transfer involving antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Outcrossing which is referred to as the migration of genes from GM plants into conventional crops, as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security.Read More Here
Regulations of GMOs
Due to all the controversy around genetically engineered food, GMO ironically seem to be more regulated than other conventional foods.
In the European Union, strict labelling requirements are in place. Authorised GMOs are allowed up to a level of 0.9% in non-GMO material, provided their presence is unintentional. There is a zero tolerance level for unauthorised GMOs in food products
According to a policy established in 1992, FDA considers most GM crops as “substantially equivalent” to non-GM crops. They are therefore safe in the USA.
Activities with GMOs in South Africa are primarily regulated under the GMO Act. Because of its potential impact on human/animal health and the environment
Most Asian countries now have regulatory systems for approving the commercialization of GM crops, and for approving food safety of GM crops
Long-term epidemiological studies that estimates exposure to GMO food consumption and adverse health outcome have not yet been conducted. Meanwhile, available time-series epidemiological data which uses a model to predict future impact of GMO consumption based on previously observed values do not show any disease or chronic conditions in populations that correlate with consumption of GMO foods. Research Study is yet to find persuasive evidence of adverse health effects directly attributable to consumption of GM foods.
My take : until researches are clear and consistent about the long term health effects of GMOs, restrain from having them on a daily basis, and only get the ones that have been approved by the appropriate regulatory body of your country