Genetically Modified Food Sources

by Selam Belay

What Is Genetic Engineering?

Genetic engineering is the modification of animal or plant genes by inserting the gene of another organism. Genetic engineering can be applied to many plants and animals. The common plants and animals where genetic engineering is applied include corn and soybeans. One of the reasons for genetically modifying plants is to make them resistant to some kinds of insects or diseases. On the other hand, genetic engineering results in a more productive plant seed or animal breed. For example, farmers can produce more corn per acre if they use genetically modified corn seeds. On the other hand, there might be unknown harmful effects on human and animal health when genetically modified food substances are consumed.

Genetically Modified foods:
Genetically modified foods are foods that are created by the process of genetic engineering. Genetically modified food sources have both advantages and disadvantages.

Some Advantages of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods:
Genetically modified food sources are advantageous since they are generally tolerant to pest, disease and cold. They also tolerate herbicides, resist drought and tolerate a high levels of salt. For example, by introducing an antifreeze gene from fish to some plants like potato and tobacco, these plants could tolerate freezing conditions. Such freezing condition could kill the non-modified plants.

It is evident that some tropical countries are suffering from lack of proper amounts of rain to cultivate their lands; as a result, such areas are frequently affected by droughts. But if such countries use drought resistant GM food sources, they could avoid the consequence of drought and could feed their people appropriately. In addition to drought, insects and other organism frequently attack almost all kinds of naturally occurring foods. On the contrary, genetically modified food sources might have the ability to tolerate the effect of such microorganisms or insects.

The other advantage of GM foods is that they can provide sufficient amount of important vitamins to consumers. People in third world countries suffer from lack of not only proteins and carbohydrates, but also minerals and vitamins. Some genetically modified rice called the ‘golden rice’ or corn contains very high amount of vitamin A. Consequently, if developing countries use such GM foods, they can provide enough vitamin A to their people.

Some Disadvantages of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods
Some people agree that there might be a possibility of introducing harmful traits to the GM foods. If it happens many would face huge health problems. On the other hand, GM foods are domination the natural ones, and some people think that there is a possibility to loose all the natural food sources. Others believe that using GM foods may allow farmers to fall in the hands of industries that produce the GM seeds for the GM food sources. This means a single company can dominate the seed market and other small farmers may be forced out of farming.
Table 1: Countries That Grew Commercialized GM Food sources in the year 2000
Country % Share in the Market
U.S.A 68
Argentina 23
Canada 7
China 1
Others (Bulgaria,France,Germany,Mexicoetc) 1
We all know that the world’s population is growing very fast and the amount of food that is growing is becoming scarce. In order to solve these problems, scientists are trying to genetically modify certain food substances like corn, and many animals. Genetically modified foods are resulted from genetically modified plants or animals. For example, a genetically modified cow can provide more milk or beef depending on how the gene is modified. Chickens, fish and other animals can grow faster and bigger and provide us with enough protein. Even if some people don’t agree in eating or producing genetically modified food fearing of bad consequences, many agree that the effect of such food source on health is very small compared to their advantages.
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