The purpose of this essay is to critically and in detail define genetic engineering in general and discuss its use in food production. It will touch on the both positive and negative effects of this technology in regard to food. Genetic engineering refers to a laboratory technique employed by scientists to alter the genetic make up of an organism, in this case food organisms. Organisms rely on the information stored in their DNA in management of all biochemical process i. e.
the life of an organism and its unique features depend on its genetic makeup. Specific segments of DNA are associated with specific features and are termed genes. Scientists have discovered many enzymes, viruses and other vectors which can be used to introduce genes of their choice into genomes of organisms and this gives the organisms a specific trait. Organisms which have undergone genetic modification are referred to as genetically modified organisms. The genetically modified organisms were first introduced to the market in the 1990s.
Major constituents of the genetically modified foods are plant crops for example soya beans, maize etc but some animal products have been introduced in recent years, for example 2006 introduction of omega-3-faty acids which were produced by genetically engineered pigs (Tokar, B. 2001) Development and growing of genetically modified food Tomato puree, which was developed to be rot resistance, was the first genetically modified food crop to be grown commercially in 1994.
This was developed by an American company based in California known as calgene. However due to production problems and competition from conventionally produced tomatoes it resulted in losses and hence withdrawn from the market. Presently there are a variety of foods whose genetically modified form exists. For example soy beans resistant to bacteria, maize resistant to pesticides, pest-resistant cotton and sugar cane resistant to pesticides.
In recent years there has been an increase in the growth of genetically modified foods in the third world countries, though North America remains the main country that grows these plants for example there is an increase in the growth of genetically modified cotton in India, the cotton is the main source of cooking oil. Other third world countries that are increasing growing GMOs include Brazil, Argentina and South Africa. It’s estimated that 75% of food used United States are GMOs.
The GMOs are meant to benefit producers financially, indirectly benefit the environment and also have benefit for consumer. In 2006 most of the food crops in the United States were genetically modified, for example soybeans resistant to herbicides, maize and cotton tolerant to both herbicide and insect resistant. Crop yield In recent years there are claims by some researchers that GMOs do not have higher yield as claimed by biotechnology companies. For example according to Berkeley, biotechnology is not the solution to the agricultural industry problems.
Most of those opposed to biotechnology companies’ claims that GMO crops are higher yielding are supporting organic farming as the best solution to food security. For example recent studies on ‘round up’ ready soya beans have indicated that they yielded 7-10% less than conventionally breed varieties. There was evidence that farmers used more round up on the round up ready varieties as compared to natural varieties. The only advantage was their ability to resist large amounts of herbicides against which they are engineered to resist (Nestle, M. 2004)