Prospects and Constraints of GMOS

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Scientific inventions have no endings. Science created something for benefits but it occurred to be a loss to human beings. Typical example is the GMOs/transgenic organisms. GMOs or genetically modified organisms are made by genetic engineers through insertion, deletion or altering the genes in the genome of the particular organism. History of GMOs goes back to 1935, when first time DNA was isolated by Russian scientist Andrei Nikolaevitch. In 1973 “Recombinant DNA” technology was developed by Professor Herbert Boyer. DNA contains genes and provides instructions to build a living thing and its characters. So, manipulation of genetic makeup became very interesting field. This field is totally different from conventional breeding procedures.

Bt cotton was developed in US in 199 that became an interesting field of GMOs. This technique has revolutionized the cotton industry by increasing yield and producing resistance against certain diseases and insect pests. GMOs products are obtained by improving the genome of particular organisms. Even one of the gene that is responsible to salt resistant in fish, has been inserted in tomato plant to make it tolerant to salt effected soils. It is an amazing fact that United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that at least 81% of soybeans and 40% of maize grown in the USA are genetically modified. Proponents and critics have different views about the use of GMO foods.

Insulin was the first products artificially obtained by the genetically modified bacteria. GM plants were more tolerant toward herbicides. So, scientist has achieved the goal to avoid residual effects of pesticides and insecticides of food crops. Genetic engineers have created tolerance in plants to cold, heat and drought. In one report of FAO, it is cleared that most of the GM foods have more nutrition than traditional foods, as was shown in vitamin A-enriched rice (golden rice).  Seedless watermelon and grapes are produced through GM technology. GM foods are stronger in color, more delicious and have more shelf life.  Increase in shelf life have made possible to move GM foods to affected and remote areas.

Proponents claimed that everything we eat is genetically modified naturally by environmental factors.  In one of the research in Oklahoma State University reports it was proved that GMO crops and animals often requires less chemicals, time and tools, and may help to reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion. So, these GMO crops can play a major role in sustaining healthy environment. GM crops have reduced the cost of labor/management practices and pesticides/insecticides.

The common drawback of GM diet is production of allergic reactions in human body. This phenomenon is associated with a protein that is actually present in another organism from where the gene was obtained. So, when it comes in recipient body, it creates problems of allergy. GM plants are produced by making their immunity up to a level, that these can resist certain diseases and insect pests. This resistant is found to be lethal to human beings. According to Iowa state university, using GMOs it was found to be lowered down the immunity by decreasing the antibiotic resistance inside the body of human beings. However it is also reported that certain insects have become tolerant to toxins produced by GM plants. Moreover, seeds of GM crops are also expensive, a poor farmer cannot afford.

According to one report of FAO, GMOs are becoming a cause of gene migration. These genes can pass to any other genotype or even to another species. The report declared that if the genes that produce resistance against herbicide, if transfer to weeds, it will be difficult to control weed growth (as weeds becomes resistant to herbicides). So, this has become an inconclusive approach. Critics argue that these foods are not up to safe level. Those countries which have food security issues, if they are going toward this technology, it means they are creating more trouble. American Academy of Environmental Medicine suggested that patients should avoid GM foods.

We have to create a safe level to use GM foods. We should only buy some certified GM foods. We have organic foods as another option, which is health nutrition without any hazardous chemical residues. So, balance use of GM foods, conventional foods and organic foods should be followed. If we are going to grow Bt cotton, we should grow it in an enclosed space or far away from grazing animals. A long term research is required to recommend GM food usage. We should not decide anything so quickly that has health risks. Those persons, who are more allergic to GM foods, should avoid from it. So, by comprehensive approach we can get benefit from this technology.

This article is collectively authored by Mujahid Ali, Dr. C.M. Ayyub, Dr. Zahoor Hussain.


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