Jul 02, 2020 · GMO foods may offer several advantages to the grower and consumer. For starters, many GMO crops have been genetically modified to express a gene that protects them against pests and insects.
The use of GMO foods remains controversial. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of growing and eating genetically modified organisms, including the effects on human health and the ...
- Amanda Barrell
Jun 05, 2017 · By resisting labels, GMO advocates may risk ceding the moral high ground — transparency — to foods that boast their lack of GMOs. When some food labels say "non-GMO" and others conspicuously ...
What's in Your Food? Even though you may not realize it, you probably eat GMOs now. Up to 80% of processed foods in the U.S. have them. Most of the sugar we eat comes from beets, and almost all of ...
- Suzanne Verity
- Mechanism of action
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called modern biotechnology or gene technology, sometimes also recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.
GM foods are developed and marketed because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both. Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have concentrated on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and the food industry generally).
One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection. The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
Resistance against insects is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This toxin is currently used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is safe for human consumption. GM crops that inherently produce this toxin have been shown to require lower quantities of insecticides in specific situations, e.g. where pest pressure is high. Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields.
Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. In situations where weed pressure is high, the use of such crops has resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the herbicides used.
Generally consumers consider that conventional foods (that have an established record of safe consumption over the history) are safe. Whenever novel varieties of organisms for food use are developed using the traditional breeding methods that had existed before the introduction of gene technology, some of the characteristics of organisms may be altered, either in a positive or a negative way. National food authorities may be called upon to examine the safety of such conventional foods obtained from novel varieties of organisms, but this is not always the case. The WHO Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses aims at assisting national authorities in the identification of foods that should be subject to risk assessment and to recommend appropriate approaches to safety assessment. Should national authorities decide to conduct safety assessment of GM organisms, WHO recommends the use of Codex Alimentarius guidelines (See the answer to Question 11 below). The safety assessment of GM foods generally focuses on: (a) direct health effects (toxicity), (b) potential to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity); (c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties; (d) the stability of the inserted gene; (e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and (f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion. As a matter of principle, the transfer of genes from commonly allergenic organisms to non-allergic organisms is discouraged unless it can be demonstrated that the protein product of the transferred gene is not allergenic. While foods developed using traditional breeding methods are not generally tested for allergenicity, protocols for the testing of GM foods have been evaluated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO. No allergic effects have been found relative to GM foods currently on the market. The migration of genes from GM plants into conventional crops or related species in the wild (referred to as outcrossing), as well as the mixing of crops derived from conventional seeds with GM crops, may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security. Cases have been reported where GM crops approved for animal feed or industrial use were detected at low levels in the products intended for human consumption. Several countries have adopted strategies to reduce mixing, including a clear separation of the fields within which GM crops and conventional crops are grown. Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods. GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.
In contrast, most national authorities consider that specific assessments are necessary for GM foods. Specific systems have been set up for the rigorous evaluation of GM organisms and GM foods relative to both human health and the environment. Similar evaluations are generally not performed for conventional foods. Hence there currently exists a significant difference in the evaluation process prior to marketing for these two groups of food. Environmental risk assessments cover both the GMO concerned and the potential receiving environment. The assessment process includes evaluation of the characteristics of the GMO and its effect and stability in the environment, combined with ecological characteristics of the environment in which the introduction will take place. The assessment also includes unintended effects which could result from the insertion of the new gene. The GM products that are currently on the international market have all passed safety assessments conducted by national authorities. These different assessments in general follow the same basic principles, including an assessment of environmental and human health risk. The food safety assessment is usually based on Codex documents.
While theoretical discussions have covered a broad range of aspects, the three main issues debated are the potentials to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity), gene transfer and outcrossing. Issues of concern include: the capability of the GMO to escape and potentially introduce the engineered genes into wild populations; the persistence of the gene after the GMO has been harvested; the susceptibility of non-target organisms (e.g. insects which are not pests) to the gene product; the stability of the gene; the reduction in the spectrum of other plants including loss of biodiversity; and increased use of chemicals in agriculture. The environmental safety aspects of GM crops vary considerably according to local conditions.
The way governments have regulated GM foods varies. In some countries GM foods are not yet regulated. Countries which have legislation in place focus primarily on assessment of risks for consumer health. Countries which have regulatory provisions for GM foods usually also regulate GMOs in general, taking into account health and environmental risks, as well as control- and trade-related issues (such as potential testing and labelling regimes). In view of the dynamics of the debate on GM foods, legislation is likely to continue to evolve.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the joint FAO/WHO intergovernmental body responsible for developing the standards, codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations that constitute the Codex Alimentarius, meaning the international food code. Codex developed principles for the human health risk analysis of GM foods in 2003.
Codex principles do not have a binding effect on national legislation, but are referred to specifically in the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures of the World Trade Organization (SPS Agreement), and WTO Members are encouraged to harmonize national standards with Codex standards. If trading partners have the same or similar mechanisms for the safety assessment of GM foods, the possibility that one product is approved in one country but rejected in another becomes smaller.
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an environmental treaty legally binding for its Parties which took effect in 2003, regulates transboundary movements of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs). GM foods are within the scope of the Protocol only if they contain LMOs that are capable of transferring or replicating genetic material. The cornerstone of the Protocol is a requirement that exporters seek consent from importers before the first shipment of LMOs intended for release into the environment.
The release of GMOs into the environment and the marketing of GM foods have resulted in a public debate in many parts of the world. This debate is likely to continue, probably in the broader context of other uses of biotechnology (e.g. in human medicine) and their consequences for human societies. Even though the issues under debate are usually very similar (costs and benefits, safety issues), the outcome of the debate differs from country to country. On issues such as labelling and traceability of GM foods as a way to address consumer preferences, there is no worldwide consensus to date. Despite the lack of consensus on these topics, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has made significant progress and developed Codex texts relevant to labelling of foods derived from modern biotechnology in 2011 to ensure consistency on any approach on labelling implemented by Codex members with already adopted Codex provisions.
Yes, intellectual property rights are likely to be an element in the debate on GM foods, with an impact on the rights of farmers. In the FAO/WHO expert consultation in 2003 (http://www.who.int/entity/foodsafety/biotech/meetings/en/gmanimal_reportnov03_en .pdf), WHO and FAO have considered potential problems of the technological divide and the unbalanced distribution of benefits and risks between developed and developing countries and the problem often becomes even more acute through the existence of intellectual property rights and patenting that places an advantage on the strongholds of scientific and technological expertise. Such considerations are likely to also affect the debate on GM foods.
WHO, together with FAO, has convened several expert consultations on the evaluation of GM foods and provided technical advice for the Codex Alimentarius Commission which was fed into the Codex Guidelines on safety assessment of GM foods. WHO will keep paying due attention to the safety of GM foods from the view of public health protection, in close collaboration with FAO and other international bodies.
- Corn (field & sweet) The GM version of field corn protects the crop against corn rootworms and the Asian corn borer. Like GM field corn, GM sweet corn also protects the crop against destructive pests.
- Soybeans. The GM soybean plant is resistant to pests and disease as well as being tolerant of herbicides that are most effective, allowing for less herbicide use overall.
- Cotton. GM cotton requires fewer pesticides and protects against the cotton bollworm.
- Canola. Canola has been modified through biotechnology to make it tolerant to some herbicides. This allows for a reduced amount of chemicals needed for weed control.
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Feb 26, 2015 · GMOs—or genetically modified organisms—are created in a lab by altering the genetic makeup of a plant or an animal. Ninety-two percent of Americans believe that GMO foods—widely found in ...
1992 FDA policy states that foods from GMO plants must meet the same requirements, ... Keep in mind that the processes for creating a GMO plant, animal, or microorganism may be different.
- The health consequences of eating genetically modified organisms are largely unknown. Genetically engineered foods have not been shown to be safe to eat and may have unpredictable consequences.
- Food items that contain GMOs are unlabeled in America. Why so sneaky? The European Union has banned GMOs, as have Australia, Japan, the UK and two dozen other countries that recognize that a lack of long term studies and testing may be hiding disastrous health defects.
- Genetic engineering reduces genetic diversity. When genes are more diverse, they are more robust; this is why a pure bred dog tends to have greater health problems than the dear old mutt.
- Once the mutant genes are out of the bag, there is no going back. Genetically modified organisms contaminate existing seeds with their altered material, passing on modified traits to non-target species.
Feb 15, 2019 · Genetically modified foods may someday provide integral assistance to allow humans to successfully adapt to changing climactic conditions and, in so doing, may enrich far-sighted investors.