Safe or Harmful? The Reality Behind GMO Foods

What you eat speaks a lot about your health. Eat tons of salty foods are you’re bound to suffer from kidney problems. Being fond of high cholesterol diet exposes you to the risks of heart disease and obesity.

This is why being conscious of what you’re eating is a good habit and continuing that habit will benefit you greatly.

A health-conscious individual like you might not or might have heard the term “GMO Foods“. Various debates about them had been shown in T.V. stations.

Many people are aware that few vegetables, meats, and vegetables that end up in their tables during mealtime are genetically engineered. Still, everyone’s knowledge about GMOs is just the tip of the iceberg. Let us take a look and find out the reality behind GMO foods.

When Did It Start?

Before genetic engineering fully matured, farmers used selective breeding to raise crops and animals that produced much better yields compared to others.

Plants and animals with desirable traits, such as resistance to insects and diseases, are bred with others of the same species to produce better farming results. This resulted in various plant and animal varieties that are more suitable for farming.

However, selective breeding was a time-consuming process. Sometimes, breeding attempts led to failure. Simply put, a better means of improving production needs to be carried out.

In the 1970s and 1980s, scientists discovered that there’s a better way to modify organisms other than selective breeding. Modifying organisms, especially plants, are faster and more efficient if their genes were cloned and were introduced to other organisms.

Such discovery made it possible to increase production, reduce pesticide use, and enhance flavor and nutrition of meats, fruits, and vegetables.

By 1994, the first GMO, approved for sale, was introduced. This was the Flavr-Savr tomato- a tomato variety that was more suitable for farming and consumption compared to its traditional counterparts.

The introduction of Flavr-Savr marked the dawn of GMO food production. Later on, virus-resistant, insect resistant, and herbicide-resistant G.M. papayas, zucchinis, corn plants, cotton plants, soybeans, etc. soon followed.

There are more than 200 genetically modified crops produced in 2012. In 2018, according to ISAAA, 17 million farmers in 26 different countries planted GMO crops in 191.7 million hectares of arable land, and GMO livestock is also being raised.

Such popularity of GMO pushes us to ask. “Is it safe?”

Health Risks of GMO Foods

Information Poster Genetically Modified Foods

According to a publication titled “Genetically Modified Foods: Benefits and Risks” by Massachusetts Medical Society, the World Health Organization has defined the following as the issues of concern regarding GMO foods and their effects on human health.

Allergies

allergy to the food

Genetically modified vegetables, fruits, and meats are widely suspected of causing allergic reactions. Such a risk is also similar to those posed by traditionally grown foods.

The only difference is that allergies caused by GMOs may lead to additional responses such as severe itching, difficulty breathing, or long term effects in severe cases.

As stated in the review article titled ” Genetically Modified Foods and Allergy,”; In 2000, a snack of tacos caused an individual named Grace Booth to develop anaphylaxis.

Research conducted on the incident showed that the taco shells contained a pesticidal protein Cry9C. The genetically modified corn that was the main ingredient for the taco shells was introduced with Cry9C to make it resistant to insects. However, researchers did not make definite claims that it caused the development of anaphylaxis.

Horizontal Gene Transfer

Researchers are also wary of the possibility of horizontal gene transfer caused by GMOs. DNA of genetically modified foods such as fruits and vegetables cannot be fully digested by humans and thus remain in their gastrointestinal tracts.

Researchers dwell on the possibility that bacterias might absorb such DNA in the gut, which may have or may not have harmful effects.

Possibility of the Emergence of a New Strain of Virus From Humans

Various G.M. crops are induced with the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus 35S (CaMV35s). According to the Journal of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, there is a huge concern whether or not such a virus may be horizontally transferred from GMO food to human beings and cause the emergence of new diseases, reactivation of dormant viruses. or the production of a new virus.

Various research papers show that genetically modified foods, introduced with CaMV, did not cause diseases or recombine with viruses in the body when ingested by humans.

However, they cannot give us an assurance that the possibility of new diseases or viruses emerging due to high levels of CaMV in the body caused by the continuous consumption of GMOs is nil either.

What we’ve discussed here are only a few issues that GMO foods currently face. Still, even if there are a lot of controversies regarding their safety, it’s really remarkable that they’re widely accepted by farmers and companies from various states in different parts of the world today. So what makes them popular? Let us take a look at some of the benefits that GMO foods give.

The Benefits of GMO Foods

To make their stand neutral regarding the question about GMO foods, WHO also provides the following reasons why GMO foods are widely accepted which we will briefly discuss in this section.

Insect Resistance

GMO plants are more insect resistant compared to normal plants. This is made possible by giving them the gene derived from Bacillus thuringiensis.

Plants modified using this bacterium’s gene produce toxins for themselves which are highly effective at killing various species of insects. The toxin produced is considered safe for humans.

Aside from this, farmers who grow such plants enjoy the leisure of applying very little insecticide which helps them to save money, make pest control safer, and maintain good soil conditions.

Herbicide Resistance

There are lots of GMO foods that came from herbicide-resistant plants. One of these is corn. Corn plants are introduced with a bacterial gene which allowed them to resist the adverse effects of herbicides.

Due to this, corn farmers now enjoy raising crops that require less tilling of the soil. Aside from this, herbicide-resistant GMO corns also help to prevent soil erosion.

Disease Resistance

Genetic modification also made it possible for both plants and animals raised for food to become disease resistant. This makes it possible for farmers to raise them using fewer fertilizers and vitamins.

This means that GMO foods such as meats, vegetables, and fruits contain lesser harmful chemicals due to the minimal use of agricultural commercial enhancers or disease-preventing medicines.

Nutritional Enhancements

GMO foods may contain more nutrients compared to their traditional counterparts. One good example is golden rice. Golden rice is a GMO food made from the incorporation of genes derived from microbes and daffodils.

The result is a rice variety that contains large quantities of vitamin A that no other rice species can compare.

More Effective and Efficient Means of Production

Perhaps the greatest benefit that humans get from GMO foods is that they make production efficient and effective. Right now, people are enjoying tomatoes that are able to resist harsh winters.

GMO cows and pigs are now being raised which provides more meat. There are also GMO chickens that lay larger quantities of eggs compared to normal ones. That being said, GMO foods help to cater to the ever-increasing demand of people from different countries.

GMO Foods: Safe or Harmful?

Genetically modified tomato

As we’re nearing to the end of our discussion, we’re pretty sure that you’re thoughts are divided whether GMO foods are safe or harmful. Honestly, we don’t know the answer for sure.

Controversies regarding GMOs mostly came from their attackers and existing research that talks about their disadvantages are scarce and still has a lot to prove.

Human clinical trials that give us a picture of GMO effects on human health are very little also. Most research papers that show the disadvantages of GMOs on human health base their claims or arguments on perceived effects on subjects such as rats, mice, etc.

Even though most research papers cannot prove that GMOs are harmful, this doesn’t mean that they’re safe either. Right now, governments, especially developed ones, place various restrictions on companies and farmers capitalizing on GMO foods.

Products derived from GMOs are usually subject to strict tests before they are given the go signal to be distributed among the populace.

This is why we’re certain about one thing. The safety or harm brought upon by GMO foods is still undetermined. The debates of those who support the popularity of GMOs and those who oppose it will continue in the future. Research talking about their advantages or disadvantages will continue to be published.

What’s The Best Way to Ensure That Your Food is Safe?

If you’re suspicious of GMO foods, owning a large piece of land will be advantageous because it’s possible for you to grow and raise your own food by yourself.

For starters, you may opt to grow your own vegetables and fruits. Just be sure that you’re not growing them from GMO seeds. Planting will require hard work but later on, you’ll be enjoying naturally grown foods readily available near your home.

For those living in cities, rejoice because soon enough, GMO foods sold in markets will be having their own GMO labels. This will inform consumers whether the foods that they will be buying are genetically engineered or not. At present this practice is being observed by a few companies in the U.S. and full implementation is expected to happen by 2022.

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