Risks and Concerns of Transgenic Food

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Food and feed come from the plants and the animals which have been a grown up and bred by a human being for many thousand years. With the passage of time, these plants and animals have ensured ample genetic modifications as those with the most suitable characteristics were selected for breeding the succeeding generation. The suitable characteristics were created by naturally happening variations in the genetic make-up of the plants and animals. Nowadays, it has become probable to alter the genetic material of living organisms by employing techniques of contemporary biotechnology known as genetic engineering. The genetic features are being modified theatrically in order to give them a new structure as well as a far greater control over the food’s genetic property than formerly afforded techniques such as the mutation breeding and the selective breeding.

Organisms as plants and animals, who’s DNA has been modified in such a manner are known as the genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The commodities that include such GMOs or produced from the GMOs known as transgenic or genetically modified (GM).The commercial sale of GMcrops started in 1994 when Cal gene first sold its Flavr Savr late ripening tomatoes. The GM crops are commercially grown now on 100 million hectares 22 developed and developing nations. Argentina, Brazil, China, and India are the leading developing-country growers of transgenic crops.

As a whole, we consider that biotechnology has vast potential to fetch many benefits to overcome the dilemma of food security. Commercial production of transgenic crops is the capital intensive due to inflated costs of technology and seed. However, their cultivation has amplified usually, mainly because of the gains accumulated from the lower labor and cost of production and decrease in the usage of chemical inputs and upgraded the economic benefits. As, USA, Argentina, and Canada are the main growers and exporters of transgenic crops. So far, most genetic alteration of food stuff has mainly focused on the cash crops in huge demand by peasant’s viz. cotton, corn, soybean, and canola seed oil. GM livestock has also been experimentally generated, none are on the market.

Major health and environmental hazards, genetic suspicions, the effect on farming, dependency, and control, political, social, and economic dangers created by GM crops. Strange health consequences are as usual objections to GMO food. The most criticized research work done on such organisms is the study of well-known scientist Arpad Pusztai, who observed evidence of stomach and intestinal harm affected by transgenic potatoes and FlavrSavr tomatoes. His research funding was stopped for the publication of basic outcomes and the study was never completed. In Brazil, nut genes were injected into soybeans by an organization known as Pioneer Hi-Bred in 1996. Some personnel, are so allergic to this nut that they go into the anaphylactic shock which may cause death. The animal tests proved the peril and the related item was removed from the markets before any fatalities incurred. Research scholars from Canada noticed multiple toxins associated with transgenic foods and Monsanto’s Bt in Maternal, fetal, and non-pregnant women’s blood. The study also highlighted that the fetus is assumed to be greatly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of toxins. Some crops have been genetically modified to be resilient to glyphosate and it is employed to kill weeds but several studies have depicted that Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth. A new study links transgenic organisms to gluten disorders that influence 18 million Americans. Studies show that transgenic animal feed causes intensive stomach inflammation and increased uteri in animals. Experiments on rats have shown a considerable reduction in weight, effects on kidney and changes in blood chemistry due to the use of Mon863 transgenic corn. The results of most studies directed with transgenic foods point out that they may cause pancreatic, hepatic, reproductive and renal effects and might amend immunologic, biochemical, and hematological parameters.

Geneticist David Suzuki said that the problem is this, usually geneticists follow the inheritance of genes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into an unrelated species without regard to the biological constraints it is very bad science.

The number of countries has totally restricted transgenic products and the sprays that go along with them in recent years. Russia most recently after top official scientists suggested at least a ten year ban and France restricted Monsanto’s MON810 the only transgenic crop permitted in the European Union. Though in many other countries, the same technique is subject to controversial and debated, banned or needs labeling with strict legal penalties for the noncompliance. This also refers to the laws in England, Italy, Germany, France, Greece, and Spain in all European countries. The reputed medical journal, Lancet, issued a remedial that transgenic food stuff should never have been permitted into the food supply chain. Similar types of statements issued by England’s Medical Association and German medical association. The National Academy of Science issued a report that transgenic items introduce latest toxins, disruptive chemicals, allergens, soil-polluting ingredients, unknown protein, and mutated species combinations into our body structure and into the environment.

Public interest litigation was filed in the High Court of Lahore by Shirkat Gah and Pakistan Voluntary Health and Nutrition Association, a firm working towards improving female’s reproductive health. The lawsuit called for the complete restriction on transgenic crops especially Bt cotton that is genetically engineered to make an insecticide. In the public interest appeal filed by Kissan Board Pakistan, a producer’s rights network, the public’s National Biosafety Committee was asked to stopover supplying licenses for transgenic crops until a suitable legal framework was set in place that could consistently assess transgenic seeds. Of the fourteen varieties of corn seeds approved for the consumption in Pakistan while MON810 and MIR16 restricted already in parts of the European Union and China.

Other available technologies have lesser scientific unknowns, the probability of forming the cycles of farmer loan, and have led to equally considerable alleviation of poverty. Organic farming, integrated pest management, and other improved growing practices can enhance yields just as effectively as would introduce the genetically modified organisms. As per, we will not endorse their extensive use ’til more research work has been compiled on long term health impacts. Bt cotton was publicly approved for the use in Pakistan in the year 2010, but genetically modified cotton seeds have been smuggled into the Pakistan since 2005. Nowadays, it is used in 85 percent of Pakistan’s cotton belt. Although, there is an indication that Pakistan’s cotton industry has not attained benefit from the introduction of the Bt cotton seeds, as production has remained constant at 11-13 million bales per year since the initiation of the transgenic seed. Introducing these cotton seeds was meant to enhance agricultural productivity, but according to big farmer, Ehsan Iqbal Ahmad who is working as a president of the cooperative farming union of Pakistan believe that the yield per acre would improve considerably if the government promote modern farming methods and technologies, along with “Cheap fertilizer, good quality seed, timely water irrigation, land leveling, water and soil testing, motivation. It is not a big investment and you do not need a huge budget to introduce farmer-friendly policies, but the returns would be phenomenal, Ehsan said, “One needs to implement transgenic crop production with carefulness” he said, as our agriculture can become dependent on foreign seeds if we start importing modified seeds from abroad and that can become a national disaster. The future of our planet is connected to water and agriculture as he emphasized by adding that GM crops can earn a huge benefit, but we must advance with caution.

This article is jointly authored by Waleed Ahmad Department of Plant Breeding &Genetics (PBG), University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Manan Aslam-Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS), Department of Agribusiness Management, University of Management, and Technology (UMT), Lahore  and Asif Saeed – Department of Plant Breeding &Genetics (PBG), University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.


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Published in: Volume 08 Issue 28

Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=17364