Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Genetically modified, or simply GM foods are foods that have been produced from genetically modified organisms, and are achieved through genetic engineering. Despite their surge in popularity after the turn of the century, many controversies have arisen from the synthesising of these foods. These controversies are varied, but are mainly concerned with the health and safety oh human ingestion of these foods.

The modern process involved in creating GM foods is quite simple. A genetic engineer will simply take out the required DNA from one organism, and transfer it to the organism aimed at producing a new genotype and/or phenotype. There are a number of other ways to achieve a new GMO without having to transfer genes across, such as silencing or omitting certain aspects of the gene sequence.

The first GM food readily available for consumption was a tomato dubbed the ‘FlavrSavr’ tomato (Deakin university, 2006). Nowadays, food items such as corn, rice, soybeans and sugarcane are on the market, ready to buy by the consumer.

There are quite a few benefits involved in the creation and consumption of genetic foods. These include a higher nutritional yield, greater shelf life, lower costs and less need for crop spraying. However the synthesising of these foods can lead to a few negative effects. One such effect is the transferring of one particular allergen of a food to another. A prime example is that of brazil nut allergies to GM soybean allergies, as the allergen has been passed on in the production of the GMO. It can also have a major effect on the biodiversity of a given area, as animals may react adversely to the change from natural food to GM food.

Although the production of GM foods can be controversial and at times even disadvantageous to consumers, their production is important as they provide an inexpensive and highly nutritious alternative to naturally grown foods. The fact they are so readily available for consumers to buy is an indicator of our progression in biotechnology.

Some useful Links:
Genetically Modified Foods - Harmful or helpful?
Genetically Modified Foods - Better health Channel

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