Organic Food and Beverages
Buy Organics: Where and How?
What Are Genetically Modified Foods?
Part 1 - Genes
Against Genetic Engineering of Foods
What are genetically modified foods? Do the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the significant risk of genetic engineering? Against genetic engineering: why organic farming is better?
Why are environmentalists concerned about the dangers of genetically modified foods? What are the benefits of genetically modified foods? You need to understand the impact of genetic engineering on our environment and understand why organics are better for you.
An understanding of 'what are genetically modified foods' is necessary to learn the risks of genetic modification (GM). For centuries, agriculture and horticulture have cross-bred plants in order to improve the end product.
Improvements in hardiness (resistance to pests and disease), taste, size and yield have all been achieved.This system though, has always carried the safeguard of nature's own system which prevents organisms of different species from breeding with each other.
What are genetically modified foods? When scientists discovered DNA, and the way to extract the genes within it, it was not long before the idea of transferring a gene from one organism into another was born. As the genes in an organism contain the 'instructions' for how it grows and develops, the natural process is subverted within the receiving organism.
The justifiable fear that many have is of the unknown effects GM may have on the organism, and in the context of crops, on genetically modified foods. The biotechnology companies tell us that they have found no negative effects.
Independent scientists however, have suggested that disruption to the natural organic order is not only possible but has already taken place.
The Benefits of Genetically Modified Foods
Do Not Offset the Dangers:
One example of such disruption can be seen in the attempt ...
... made by scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany in 1997, to reduce the sugar content and increase the starch present in the potato.
The result was a disruption in the metabolism of the potato and the loss of both sugar and starch. Tests also revealed components in the genetically modified potatoes that were not there before.
This was not the only occurrence of negative reactions to gene manipulation in potatoes. Click here for more details.
Despite many warnings, such as the one in Germany, the mass planting of GM crops has gone ahead. By 2005, 222 million acres of the planets land were GM cultivated. 55% of this was in the US.
Although GM crops are not yet officially approved for planting in the UK (there are hundreds of trial areas in the UK), genetically modified produce has found its way into the stomachs of UK citizens ...
- ...the Soil Association has published the findings of its investigation into the use of GM animal feed:
- "We have been shocked to find that very large quantities of GM feed are being used in the UK to produce our food. Around 60% of the maize and 30% of the soya is GM in the feed used by dairy and pig farmers. This means that most of the non-organic milk, dairy products and pork being sold in the UK is from GM-fed animals.
- For the full story, click here.
What Are Genetically Modified Foods?
Genetic modification, and the genetic engineering involved in the extraction and transfer of genes, is a young, haphazard and unpredictable business. Its effect on crops, animals, humans, and the environment is not fully tested.
A single organism can contain many thousands of different genes, each doing its own job. Scientists are nowhere near identifying the exact roles of the genes they are manipulating.
It would be natural to assume then, that sufficient measures would be in place to test genetically modified foods for safety. Human and animal, let alone plant health is at stake after all. In fact the only test in place is based on 'substantial equivalence'.
In a perfect world, we could assume that the benefits of genetically modified foods (producing more food for more hungry people) outweigh the dangers and risk of genetically modifying foods.
But understanding 'what are genetically modified foods' means understanding that genetically engineering food has significant risk that has not been properly explored or researched.
To-date the benefits of genetically modifying foods appear to be all with the companies who are developing and producing GM food and earning a profit without much thought to the future health of the planet.