GMO Food the Process of Genetic Modification Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

GMO Food

The process of genetic modification of an organism

Genetic modification of an organism is the process by which the genes of an organism are altered to introduce useful genes that are believed to help it to grow and thrive in any given condition. The genes contain DNA, a basic building block of all living organisms that is responsible for the presence or absence of certain traits or characteristics and modification of these genes creates new traits in the plants.

The genetic modification of a crop begins with the isolation of genes that are proved to have certain characteristics so that the same traits can be induced in other crops. The next step is to insert the gene into another crop and the most common technique is through a process called recombinant DNA that transfers the genes through the plasmids. Particle bombardment is another technique used to transfer the gene to another plant. Once this is done, the different plant cells are monitored to identify the modified ones from the original cells. The transformed cells are used to create new plants through tissue cultures under controlled environmental conditions. The growth is monitored to check if the plant exhibits the new characteristics and finally, it is tested for performance and safety before it is released into the market (African Biosafety Network of Expertise, 2010).

Pros and cons of the process of genetic modification

When GMO technology was introduced in 1970s, the idea was to create crops that would grow in harsh conditions and provide abundant food for the growing human population. During the last three decades, unfortunately, none of those have taken place. Only two kinds of crops were produced -- herbicide resistant and pesticide resistant crops and both these crops have only been successful in boosting the profits of companies involved in GMO crops.

The advantages of genetically modified foods is their increased resistance to pests, herbicides and diseases. They are in a better position to thrive in places that could not support these plants in their natural form. This has proved to be a blessing for third world countries that are suffering from high levels of poverty and malnourishment as they are able to consume staple foods such as rice that include other nutrients as well. Lastly, some plants like GM poplar trees are used to clean the soil and water pollution (Whitman, 2000).

One of the prominent disadvantages of genetically modified foods is its impact on the health of consumers. The increase in the number of diseases in the U.S. And other countries has been attributed in part to the consumption of these foods. Recent research conducted on animals show that these genetically modified foods release toxins and allergies that affect every organ in their body. In fact, many research trials have even led to the sterility and death of animals. Also, the lack of knowledge and the unreliability of the effects of these foods on humans make it unsafe for consumption (Institute of Responsible Technology, no date).

Another disadvantage is its impact on the environment. When certain plants are modified for human consumption, it has a detrimental effect on other organisms that depend on it for survival and this in turn, affects the local ecology. Besides, there are also economic concerns about the increased cost of GM seeds and the inability of small farmers to afford them.

Conflicts of interest between Monsanto and FDA

Monsanto is one of the largest agro-business companies in the country and they exert a profound influence on the policies in Washington and the FDA. The FDA has declared the products to be "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) even in the absence of an in-depth research on the effects of genetically modified foods on human beings (Institute of Responsible Technology, no date).. This lenient approach is the cause of all the health problems and unintended side effects plaguing the country today.

The role of the FDA has been largely incompetent. A good case in point is the introduction of a cattle drug in the U.S. named rBGH produced by Monsanto and this failed to get approval in Europe and Canada despite intense lobbying. When this drug was introduced in 1994, the FDA's deputy commissioner Michael Taylor barred dairy companies from making a distinction between the products that contained rBGH and…

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