Genetically modified foods or genetically modified organisms (GMO) is a term used to describe crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. Such crop plants have been modified in a laboratory to enhance various traits, such as the ability to resist herbicides or improve nutritional content. This type of enhancement is usually done through a breeding process; however, conventional plant breeding can be time consuming and in some instances, inaccurate.
Another process used is “genetic engineering”. This process creates crops with a specific desirable trait at a more rapid pace and with greater accuracy. For instance, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought and tolerance and insert that gene into different plants. In the end, the new “genetically modified” plants will manifest drought tolerance.
Arguments against genetically modified foods
The benefit of genetically modified foods seems obvious, doesn’t it? So, you might ask, what’s the debate?
There are still many unknowns that raise questions about whether or not GMOs are safe for animal and human consumption. Other concerns include:
- Buyer beware: it’s hard to spot which crops on the market are genetically manipulated.
- The long-term effects of GMOs is unknown. Some researchers point to genetically modified soybeans that have been shown to contain plant toxins and fewer essential nutrients such as methionine, cysteine, threonine, carnitine and B vitamins.
- Agro-chemical companies and the government are planning to charge farmers a fee to grow their GMO crops, thus affecting the economy and the environment.
Examples of genetically modified foods
- Sugar cane
- Sweet peppers
- Cocoa beans
- Yellow squash
Effects of genetically modified foods
- Allergic reactions
- Genetic pollution
- Ethical hazards
How to avoid genetically modified foods
- Eat natural foods whenever possible.
- Try to consume organically grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible. If you can grow them in your own backyard, even better.
- When shopping for meat, look for “hormone and antibiotic-free” information on the label.