History Of Genetically Modified Organisms It is said that one in the eight people among the world’s growing population of seven billion do not have enough food to eat and effective methods of food production. Genetically Modified technology can help in feeding the hungry and malnourished in developing nations around the world.
Genetically modified or genetically
engineered foods (GM Foods) are foods produced from organism that have had changes introduced into their DNA using genetic engineering techniques that allow
for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.
GM crops have been engineered for resistance to pathogens and herbicides, and for better nutrient profiles. Most food modifications have primarily focused on cash crops in high demand by farmers
such as soybean, corn, canola, and cotton.
According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms plants, animals or micro-organisms which the genetic material (DNA) has been
altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.
Some scientists agreed that foods derived from GM crops pose no greater risk to human health than conventional food.
However, there are ongoing public
concerns on the safety and healthy standard of GM foods, as there is controversy over the use of food made from genetically modified crops.
The disputes involve consumers, farmers, biotechnology companies, governmental
organizations, environmental and political activists and scientists. The major disagreements include whether GM foods could be safely consumed, harm the environment and/or are adequately tested
While scientists are of the opinion that each GM food needs to be tested on a case-by-case basis before introduction, the farmers feel that GM foods go against
nature. They are worried that GMO will destroy sustainable agriculture and create super-weeds.
According to scientists, GM foods are developed and marketed because of their perceived advantage over non-GM foods,
including, better taste, nutrition and quality; increased profit for growers; virus and insect resistance; herbicide tolerance,
and increased food yield to alleviate hunger.
The legal and regulatory status of GM foods varies by country, with some nations banning or restricting them, and others permitting them with widely
differing degrees of regulation.
Nonetheless, members of the public due to lack of understanding or adequate
knowledge like the scientists are much less likely to perceive GM foods as safe.
Investigation showed that the idea of using animal genes in plant foods was considered in 1991, when a company developed a tomato that included a modified gene from a breed of Arctic flounder. This was done to make the tomato more resistant to frost and cold storage. The tomatoes weren’t successful and no one ever consumed a tomato with
However, the first genetically modified food was the Flavr Savr tomato in 1994, by Calgene. It was engineered to have a longer shelf life following the insertion of
an antisense gene that the delayed ripening process. By blocking that gene, the tomato quality could be maintained
for a longer period of time. This led to ease of harvesting along with a greater area for distribution.
In 1995, Bacillus thurngiensis (Bt) Potato was the first pesticide-producing crop to be approved in the USA. Other genetically modified crops that received market approval in 1995 were: Canola with modified, Bt maize, cotton resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, Bt cotton, glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, virus- resistant squash, and another delayed ripening tomato.
With the creation of golden rice in year 2000, scientists genetically modified food to increase its nutrient value for the first
time. By 2010, 29 countries had planted commercialized biotech crops and a further 31 countries had granted regulatory approval for transgenic crops to be imported.
In 2015, 92% of corn, 94% of
soybeans, and 94% of cotton
produced in the US were genetically modified strains. In April 2016, a white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus)
was modified using the CRISPR technique, and received de facto approval in the United States, after the USDA said it would
not have to go through the agency’s regulatory process.