According to World Health Organization (WHO), genetically modified foods (GMO Foods) are those food items that are produced by using genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified organisms could be plants, animals or microbes. They are produced in a way whose DNA or genetic material has been modified with the introduction of gene derived from a different organism. So, foods produced from genetically modified organisms are referred to as GMO foods.
History of GMO Foods
The first genetically modified food was Flavr-Savr tomatoes developed by Calgene Inc. in the 1990s. Though it reduced the processing cost of tomatoes, sales dropped drastically after it received wide spread criticism in 1998. The next GMO food that was genetically produced was the Rainbow Papaya which made the papaya resistant to viral infection in the 1990s. The real GMO success came in 2011 when 160 million hectares of GM crops were grown. Out of this 90% was grown in the US, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Canada. Approximately 82% of cotton, 75% of soybeans, 32% of corn, and 26% of canola are genetically engineered.
Are GMO foods safe?
For years the one debate that continues is whether GMO foods are safe? However, there isn’t any easy answer to the question. GMOs are a natural extension of modern technology to improve our food supply. GMO foods do increase the productivity of the plant and also provides the nutrient that it is lacking in. But questions about the stability of the gene, loss of biodiversity and increased use of chemicals in agriculture have scientists talking about the disadvantages of GMO Foods.
GMO Foods and Environment
There’s an ongoing debate on the environmental impact of genetically modified crops. Some of the threats that it poses to the environment include:
- GMOs may be toxic to non-target organisms like bees and butterflies
- Toxicity is a huge issue surrounding chemical pesticides and herbicides
- DNA changes in the GM plants can make them resistant to pesticides
- When GM crops are planted, generally in a monocrop fashion, many heritage seeds are no longer used which can put biodiversity at risk. Toxic residues are left in the soil and nutrients are not returned to the soil