Introduction to genetically modified food 1. 1- Purpose and objectives Our purpose in conducting this study was to find out consumer^aeurtm receptiveness to the concept of food that is genetically modified. This was in lieu of the food scare in the US and Britain, where terms like ^aEUR~frankenstein food^aEURTM and ^aEUR~terminator technology^aEURTM are churned out on a daily basis by the western media. The concept, being relatively new in this region, or at least not enjoying as much coverage in the media, resulted in, we found out-a less-informed public. While this left us with pretty much a clean slate- a public that has been spared the scare mongering tactics of nay-sayers to this new technology, or the unseemly scrambles for the moral high ground and the distortions of science in the face of competing ideologies, it also created an onus on us to furnish some of the respondents with the basic information on what genetically modified food actually is- what the technology entails, the pros and cons of the technology, et al. So what exactly is genetically modified food? In the Oxford paperback dictionary, a gene is defined as ^aEUR~one of the factors controlling heredity^aEURTM.
Genetic modification involves the isolation of genetic material from one organism and inserting (splicing) a copy of it into another organism. A real-life example would be in the instance where scientists, having isolated the gene responsible for the manufacture of an anti-freeze substance in the Arctic flounder fish. A copy of this gene is then inserted into fruits such as strawberries and tomatoes with the aim of making them resistant to frost. This is what some groups have found abhorrent in this new technology because while a more modified form of genetic engineering has taken place throughout the years, it has been limited very much to similar organisms- the plants and the plants and the animals and the animals. This new cross- modification has been deemed as unnatural by certain groups.
I would then proceed with the pros and cons of genetic modification in food. This would be divided into the health effects of GM food, environmental concerns and other concerns. Health effects of GM food. The long-term effects has left everyone guessing. Groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the earth and other nay-sayers to this new technology have placed their bets that the long-term effects would be disastrous to human health and biodiversity. What has been come to be known as the Pusztai debacle, based on the findings of the scientist Alfred Pusztai has created an uproar after its findings were first published by the Independent.
The findings of Alfred Pusztai were never recognised by the medical community. Yet, the very uncertainty of the long-term effects has led to be a potent weapon in the exploitation of public fears and played a large part in the engineering of health-food scares. A recent news article ha published that a soybean containing genetic material from a Brazil nut has caused allergies in an individual allergic to nuts. As a result, the product was stopped before reaching the market. Some countries like Austria and Luxembourg have expressed fears that consumption of GM food would lead to an increased resistance to antibiotics in human and animal populations. On the brighter side however, GM foods are ensured to last longer, look better, provides a boost to daily nutritional value and are usually physically superior, i.
e bigger. Environmental concerns Releasing genetically modified plants into the environment represent ^aEUR~genetic pollution^aEURTM. There are long held concerns about the transfer from genetically engineered crop plants to wild relatives to create ^aEUR~super weeds^aEURTM which could out-compete and disrupt the natural biodiversity of an area. At least ten genetically engineered crop plants are known to be capable of transferring their genetic qualities to wild plants. Organic farmers face the danger of losing organic status on their crops if their crops are pollinated by genetically modified crops. This would easily happen if a GM test crop site happens to be a few miles away.
Add to that the aspect that bees cannot be regulated! The introduction of GM food into the world therefore can be said to impose the same standards on everybody whether they realise it or not and could bring up serious issues for allotment holders and casual gardeners growing their own fruit and vegetables who face the risk of genetic contamination. Other concerns The power of multi-national companies is yet another factor for fear of this new technology. Recently in the United States, the powerful biotechnology company Monsanto, a strong advocate of GM food, has leveraged its financial muscle to force some farmers into an agreement where they can only buy seeds form Monsanto. Seeds are not allowed to be re-used the following year, ^aEUR~terminator genes^aEURTM have been introduced where the seeds will self-destruct after a year, thus preventing re-use and prompts the farmer to return to the company, the following year, year after year, to purchase more seed. Few farmers in developing countries can afford to do this and what could result from this is that farmers become little more than mere labourers of the massive multi-nationals, with little independence as to what to plant and in what quantity. Patenting of genes by large multi-nationals like Monsanto, Novartis and Ag revo is another issue of concern.
Some GM companies are currently practising ^aEUR~bio-piracy^aEURTM, -stealing genetic resources from nature and patenting them to ensure that they ^aEUR~own^aEURTM the technology. While proponents of genetic engineering say that GM food would inspire another form of ^aEUR~ Green Revolution^aEURTM which would feed the world better and inevitably benefit the less-developed countries, this is actually conversely true in reality. as their genetic resources, which might include the gene lines of indigenous peoples are bought and patented, i. e, controlled by western companies. Most opponents of GM food are fundamentally opposed to the pace that biotechnology companies are trying to push the technology to Europe for a presumably quick and very large buck as there can be no turning back once GM food is placed on the market. To let proponents of GM food have their say however, it is argued that GM food is the Green Revolution of the 21 st century.
GM foods mean that there would be a higher yield per hectare of land and this is good news to countries like India and China- developing countries who face a real threat of not being able to produce enough to feed their populations in view of rapid population growth. GM foods are consequently cheaper. After all the extensive research done on GM foods, a study was mandatory to examine the status of GM foods in the court of public opinion.