Risks and concerns of transgenic food
March 23rd, 2015 | Waleed Ahmad, Manan Aslam and Asif Saeed | No Comments
Generally, food and feed come from the plants and the animals which have been nurtured by humans for many thousand years. With the passage of time, these plants and animals acceded enduredample genetic modifications. Those exhibiting 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. These days, it has become probable to alter the genetic material of living organisms by employing contemporary biotechnology technique known as genetic engineering. The genetic features can be modified theatrically in order to give them a new structure as well as a far greater control over the genetic property of the food thus making old techniques redundant e.g. mutation breeding and the selective breeding.
Organisms, whos DNA has been modified are called as the genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The commodities that include such GMOs or produced from the GMOs are known as transgenic or genetically modified (GM). The commercial sale of GM crops was started in 1994, when Calgene first sold its FlavrSavr late ripening tomatoes. The GM crops are commercially grown now on almost 100 million hectares in particular 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 high 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. USA, Argentina and Canada are the main exporters of transgenic crops. Till now, most genetic alteration of food stuff has mainly focused on the cash crops in huge demand by peasants viz. cotton, corn, soybean, and canola seed oil. GM livestock have also been experimentally generated, none are in the market yet.
Major health and environmental hazards, genetic suspicions, effect on farming, dependency, control, political, social and economic dangers are hatched by GM crops. Strange health consequences are usual objections raised against 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 as a result study remained incomplete. 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 shocks that can cause death. The animal tests attested to the peril and consequently the related item was barred from market. Research scholars from Canada noticed multiple toxins associated with transgenic foods and Monsantos Bt in maternal, fatal and non-pregnant womens blood. The study highlighted that the fetus is assumed to be greatly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of toxins. Some crops are genetically modified to be resilient to glyphosateand. It is employed to kill weeds. New study links transgenic organisms to gluten disorders that influence 18 million Americans. Studies reveal that transgenic animal feed causes stomach inflammation and increased uteri in animals. Experiments on rats have shown considerable weight reduction, effects on kidney and changes in blood chemistry due to use of Mon863 transgenic corn. The results of most studies on transgenic foods show that they may cause pancreatic, hepatic, reproductive and renal effects.
Geneticist David Suzuki said, the problem is that usually geneticists follow the inheritance ofgenes, what biotechnology allows us to do is to take this organism, and move it horizontally into a totally unrelated species without regard to the biological constraints its very bad science.
Number of countries have restricted transgenic products in recent years. Russia, has recently imposed 10 years ban on Monsantos MON810, the only transgenic crop permitted in the European Union. 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 Spainor in virtually 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 Englands 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 body structure and into the environment.
Other available technologies have lesser scientific unknowns, few probability of forming the cycles of farmer loan, and have led to equally considerable alleviation in 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 publically approved for the use in Pakistan in year 2010, but genetically modified cotton seeds have been smuggled into the Pakistan since 2005. Now days, it is used in almost 85 percent of Pakistans cotton belt. Although, there is indication that Pakistans cotton industry has not attained benefit from the introduction of the Bt cotton seeds, as production has remained constant at almost 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. Its not a big investment and you dont 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 huge benefit, but we must advance with caution.
Published in: Volume 06 Issue 09
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