With the turn of a new century, scientific advancements and breakthroughs have been immense. Scientists have intensified their activities on genetic manipulation of several organisms, and these affairs have had different perceptions by different people in society. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) include all living organisms that have been altered at their genetic level to attain a specific outcome. The genes dictate the physical and physiological activities of a living organism, and any modifications made in the genes would reshape the beings. Living organisms could be altered to obtain new strains of species that have admirable characteristics. Plants that are resistant to diseases, adverse weather conditions, and produce a high quantity of products consumed by humans are more commendable. The article will dwell on GMOs that provide high yield products for human consumption and their applications. This paper would also exhibit matters surrounding this technology and how society perceives it. Despite the desirable benefits that genetic modification has on food production, the technology also has its associated risks that raise ethical concerns about its application.
Plants have been modified genetically to increase their production quantities. Fruits and vegetables are genetically altered to increase their yield during production. Genetic engineering technology is used to manipulate the genes. The DNA sequence of the crops could be changed in several ways to attain desirable traits. Herbicide and insecticide-resistant sequences could be incorporated into the genomic composition of the plants, and these plants would survive in the presence of herbicides and insecticides. China offers an excellent example of the production of GM rice with insect resistance capabilities (Chen, Shelton, & Ye, 2011). Unwanted plants and insects can easily be targeted when the herbicides and pesticides are sprayed in large fields. The technique will, in turn, increase food production as the crops are not affected by insects and other weeds posing competition.
Plants could also be modified to reduce their spoilage rates. The ripening of fruits occurs due to the increased levels of certain hormones. The secretion of hormones is regulated at the genetic level, and this process could be delayed if genes are manipulated. Ripening of fruits is primarily delayed to offer enough time for transportation of the fruits to remote regions. Ringspot virus has detrimental impacts on papaya, and genetic modification is useful to fight this virus (Bawa, & Anilakumar, 2013). Genetically modified papayas are immune to the infection; hence their production would be high. The yield of potatoes has also been increased due to genetically modification of the potatoes. Colorado beetle significantly reduce potato production, and even cause death to potato plants. The variant genetically modified potato strains have an in-built protective mechanism. The GM potatoes produce toxins that kill the pests; hence, potato yield is not diminished.
Several other products are genetically modified for different purposes. Bananas have been modified to offer immunity to humans. Genetically modified bananas can produce vaccines against hepatitis B. Fish could also be modified to mature faster, which shortens the production time. Nut trees have also been genetically modified to grow much earlier (Bawa & Anilakumar, 2013). Therefore, genetic manipulation has been in practice for quite some time. There has been a lot of concern over the modification of animals for consumption, which has made GM animals used as food not extensive.
The Scientific Technology Application
The foreign DNA sequences could be sourced from nature or artificially synthesized. Naturally existing useful DNA sequences could be sourced from other species that manifest the desirable characteristic, while artificial manufacturing could be done using machines like PCR. The identified DNA sequence is then introduced to plant cells in plant tissue culture techniques (Bhojwani, & Dantu, 2013). The resultant plantlets would inherit the new DNA and, subsequently, the advantageous characters. Several mechanisms have been documented to aid in the process of DNA transfer in genetic modification. A much physical process involves coating the appropriate DNA stretch on small metal particles and subsequent bombardment with plant cells. This technique would facilitate the incorporation of the relevant DNA strand into the plants’ genome. These cells will then be grown to form new strains of the plants.
Bacteria and viruses could also be employed to transfer genetic information. Bacteria and viruses can naturally infect plants and incorporate their genetic information into the infected plants. Biotechnology techniques take advantage of this phenomenon by managing the process to achieve the desired outcomes. Plant cells could be intentionally infected with a virus containing a relevant DNA sequence. The process would require sterilization of the original plantlets and further culturing of the product (Bhojwani, & Dantu, 2013). The infected plant cell would then generate a whole plant due to their totipotency nature. Plant tissue culture techniques have to be followed appropriately.
Regulation of Genetic Modifications
Genetically modified plants may pose health issues, and regulations must be set to protect the public’s health. A lot of countries have invested in biotechnology food production, and competition may cause business malpractices. Therefore, regulations are required to ensure companies ethically run their production activities. A country like Canada leads in the production of GMOs, and several health organizations check on the genetically modified crops for approval. Organizations such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Environment Canada, and Health Canada are involved in the acceptance of GMOs used as food (Smyth, & McHughen, 2012). These organizations have not created new requirements but, instead, use the old restrictive rules to approve any product. GM plants have made significant impacts on society, and their application is broad. Unlike GM animals for consumptions, GM plants have reasonable restrictions. The GM crops have to be identical to their original forms in terms of composition. These plants should not pose any health threat to humans, and their acceptance would be unanimous.
Impact of GMOs on Society
GMOs have received mixed reactions from society. Economically, GMOs are friendly as the yield of products is high. Spoilage of products has reduced immensely, and this adds up to the economic benefits enjoyed by producers. Genetic engineering techniques are expensive as skilled personnel is, required and advanced biotechnology processes are involved. The concept of the use of GMOs has been exceedingly politicized. Different political parties across the world have taken stances on the matter based on their political differences and not the merit of GMOs. Controversies continue to intensify due to these political disagreements, and the application of GMOs might be hindered. Societal acceptance of GM foods is influenced by their capacity to understand the process and health risks concerned (Bawa, & Anilakumar, 2013). The public may not be knowledgeable enough to have their opinion on the matter, forcing them to follow whatever rumors are available. Some oppose the genetic modification of organisms out of fear for the loss of Mother Nature. These people are afraid of the harmful effects that GMOs pose on the environment, and their concerns are justified.
Advantages of GMOs
The intense application of GM food across the world occurs because of the several superiorities that GM foods have compared to natural forms. Genetically modified crops can withstand harsh weather conditions, grow in a different season, and are resistant to pests and diseases. GM foods can be fortified to contain more minerals and vitamins, and these foods usually taste better than the original strains (Varzakas et al., 2018). The most vital trait is the long shelf-life that GM foods possess. Unlike the initial species, the GMOs can stay for long periods before they get spoilt. Therefore, genetically modification of foods has made food to be available at all times throughout the year, and also to all parts of the world due to increased shelf-life.
Disadvantages of GMOs
GMOs have been associated with health problems. There are beliefs that GM foods reduce immunity, which would increase the susceptibility of humans to diseases. GMOs are new to society, and several long term health troubles have been projected. These health issues have not been proven scientifically. Production of GMOs is expensive, and developing countries may not be able to finance it. These countries are afraid that they would have to rely on developed countries for food if GMOs are applied globally (Bawa, & Anilakumar, 2013). GMOs are perceived to be unnatural and unreligious, and this view reduces their acceptance by society.
Without any doubt, GMOs are very important. The GM foods offer room to resolve hunger and malnourishment experienced in remote areas of the world. The use of GM foods has to be implemented carefully to attract support from society. Scientific research has to be conducted to remove health-related issues. Scientific reports would disconnect all the health problems linked to GMOs, and GMOs would come out victorious. Specific health organizations have to be established that would regulate all products resulting from biotechnology production. Therefore, the use of GMOs should continue as the technique offers room for huge potential future scientific breakthroughs.
Genetically modification of organisms, especially plants and animals for food, is useful. The practice has multiple benefits for everyone in society. The consumers get food throughout the year while the producers enjoy economically due to the decrease in the cost of production. With extensive research and insight in several credible sources of information such as WHO statements, one can agree that GM foods are safe for use. World-renowned publishers and lecturers have also documented on the merits of GMOs, and one could quickly agree that GMOs are far from what some people brand them to be. Finally, for GMOs to be widely accepted, the recommendations have to be fulfilled.
Bawa, A. S., & Anilakumar, K. R. (2013). Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review. Journal of food science and technology, 50(6), 1035-1046.
Bhojwani, S. S., & Dantu, P. K. (2013). Plant tissue culture: an introductory text (pp. 39-43). India: Springer.
Chen, M., Shelton, A., & Ye, G. Y. (2011). Insect-resistant genetically modified rice in China: from research to commercialization. Annual review of entomology, 56, 81-101.
Smyth, S. J., & McHughen, A. (2012). Regulation of genetically modified crops in USA and Canada: Canadian overview. In Regulation of Agricultural Biotechnology: The United States and Canada (pp. 15-34). Springer, Dordrecht.
Varzakas, T., Kandylis, P., Dimitrellou, D., Salamoura, C., Zakynthinos, G., & Proestos, C. (2018). Innovative and fortified food: Probiotics, prebiotics, gmos, and superfood\. In Preparation and Processing of Religious and Cultural Foods (pp. 67-129). Woodhead Publishing.