Genetic Modification is a process of altering the living organism’s genetic trait through the recombinant DNA or rDNA technology (Hino 126). Through this technology, the transfer of one or more genetic trait from one organism to another is now possible. In the traditional plant biotechnology, new plant variety is only developed between the same plant species. For instance, new breed of rice is developed between varieties which gene-crossing is possible.
From this cross-cross pollination, the best variety of hybrid rice is chosen and grown. However, this process takes significant amount of time for the desired characteristics of the hybrids can only be observed as after the plants have properly grown. Nowadays, by means of genetic modification technology, breeding of a wheat variety to impart the desired characteristics of a variety of rice can possibly be done. As such, the useful genetic traits, regardless of species, are used as breeding materials.
Consequently, insect-resistant, virus-resistant, and herbicide-tolerant crop varieties were successfully developed, grown, and commercialized (Hino 126). The rDNA technology is applied in plant species to develop plant varieties with high resistance against pest and diseases which eventually result to high quality and abundant yield (Hino 126). Since 1994, the genetically modified crops have been legally marketed in Canada and United States (Hino 126). In fact these countries are presently exporting genetically modified food products to other countries.
In these circumstances, significant issues and concerns were raised by the consumers concerning the possible health risk of GM food consumption. Hence, there is a need to determine the cause of these confusions and find ways to relieve anxieties. Genetic Modification Technology Issues and Concern With the present six billion populations of the earth and the expected eight billion increased by 2020, even industrialized countries were predicted to experience food shortage (Hino 126).
In line with this scenario, the world’s arable land is annually decreased by a million hectare. Thus, the development of new crop varieties which can generate adequate food supply for the fast-growing world population is a crucial thrust that every nation must prioritize. As well, the health risks associated with the application of pesticide, herbicide, fungicide, and fertilizers in growing crops gave impetus for a new breed of crops which have high resistance against virus and plant diseases.
Presently, the United States, Canada, and some Asian countries have been cultivating hybrid crops which are effective in the reduction of agricultural chemical applications and insect-control which eventually result to higher production (Hino 126). Furthermore, initiatives are now in progress to produce industrial materials and pharmaceutical active substances from hybrid food crops (Hino 126). However, the safety of producing GM crops for consumption still remained as a crucial issue. Various factors have contributed on the public concerns and anxieties about the GM food products.
Aside from the consumers’ concern on the safety of GM foods, the mass media generally coined allergy and cancer issues to GM crop consumption along with the failure of the scientific community to conduct legitimate information campaign and educate the minds of the public (Hino 128). These conditions often lead to public mistrust due to the inability of the consumers to accurately understand and realize the nature and benefits of Genetic modification technology. There are other causes of public mistrust for GM foods.
For ethical reason, the public perceived scientists, who manipulate everything for prestige, as acting like God by tinkering living organisms and breaching the natural barriers set by the evolution process among species (Moseley 131). In addition, consumers tended to judge that the genetic modification technology as an expensive means to boost the agricultural production of third-world countries (Moseley 131). This may entail then high market prices for agricultural products that directly limit the buying power of the less fortunate citizens. Nevertheless, consumers worry on the future consequences of genetic modification technology.
For instance, the development of new breed of infectious diseases due to the consumption of GM foods may possibly cause another black death in the future. In order to resolve the abovementioned issues and facilitate the public acceptance of GM foods, the scientific community in tandem with the government should educate the consumers on the present scientific facts concerning GM crop cultivation and GM food consumption. The discussions on the benefits of Genetic modification technology should be brought to the community level in order to provide direct answers on the public’s inquiries.
In the United States, GM food products are regulated through the coordinated effort of the three government agencies which was outlined in 1992 (McIrney, Bird, and Nucci 46). The U. S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, validates the safety of a plant hybrid for cultivation while the Environmental protection Agency, EPA, verifies the environmental safety of the products of genetic modification technology. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration or FDA evaluates the safety of GM food for consumption.
These agencies ensure that every GM food has undergone food and environmental safety assessment prior to commercialization. Meanwhile, it is important to note that all food products are not inherently safe for natural toxics like glycoalkaloids and solanine respectively in broccoli and potatoes are naturally present and only limited number of crops is absolutely free from any harmful constituents (Harlander 132). This necessitates then the establishment of a food safety system that will ensure the natural toxicants are under a minimum level that is safe for consumption.
Upon the commercialization of any GM food product, the food safety agencies give assurance on its safety by comparing its properties with its conventional counterpart. Specifically, the safety evaluation largely depends on the “substantial equivalence” of every GM food. The GM food product is compared to its conventional counterpart in terms of potential allergenicity, toxicant level, and other environmental and agronomic factors (Harlander 132). Then, if it is quantitatively proven that a particular GM food product is substantially identical to its conventional counterpart, the GM food is certified safety for commercialization.
Moreover, the different scientific organizations in the World validated that the commercialized GM foods are not inherently less safe than their conventional counterparts (Harlander 133). As well, the associated health risks of GM foods are just of similar nature with their conventional counterparts. In fact, for about 300 million acres of GM crops cultivated and harvested around the world, any single case on the adverse health effect of GM food consumption has not yet formally documented (Harlander 133). Conclusion
The products of genetic modification should be then a subject of evaluation in concurrence with the country’s health guidelines in order to ensure food safety among its constituents. Every government should validate the safety of specific GM food product prior to its legal cultivation and commercialization. Nonetheless, scientific means of evaluation on the safety of GM food crops should be carried out and conduct information campaign on a community level so as to inculcate the importance of Genetic modification technology in the food demand in the rapid growing population of the world. Works Cited Harlander, Susan K.
“Safety Assessment and Public Concern for Genetically Modified Food Products: The American View. ” Toxicologic Pathology 30, 1 (2002): 132-134. Hino, Akihiro. “Safety Assessment and Public Concerns for Genetically Modified Food Products: The Japanese Experience. ” Toxicologic Pathology 30, 1 (2002): 126-128. McInerney, Claire, Bird, Nora, and Nucci, Mary. “The Flow of Scientific Knowledge from lab to the Lay Public. ” Science Communication 26, 1 (2004): 44-47. Moseley, Bevan E. B. “Safety Assessment and Public Concern for Genetically Modified Food Products: The European View. ” Toxicologic Pathology 30, 1 (2002): 129-131.