Pros and cons of genetically modified foods

February 14, 2015 | 0

Genetically modified foods refer to food items created by the insertion of genes belonging to some other species into its DNA, or by deletion of some genes. Genetically modified foods are also called genetically engineered foods. Such genetic alteration is used for both animals and plants; it is however more prevalent in the latter than the former.

Companies develop such modified eatables for many different reasons. For example, some types of food products are genetically altered so that they do not cause allergic reactions after eating them, while some others are modified to increase their overall shelf life.Currently, research is on to create food items which may have the capability to cure varied diseases.

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Some of thegenetically modified foods currently available in shops include soybean, cotton, canola, eggplant, potatoes, corn, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe, etc. Manufacturers and different companies try to make sure that genetically modified foods yield maximum benefits to consumers. However, a lot of people do not want to consume them. Some of the pros and cons of genetically modified foods are discussed below.

Pros of genetically modified foods

  • Genetically modified foods tend to grow more rapidly as compared to the traditional food crops. As a result, the farmer can increase the productivity of the land and provide more food for the population. Also, unlike normal crops, modified foods grow easily in areas where the soil is barren or unfit for agriculture as well as in regions that experience repeated droughts.
  • Genetically modified foods help control the onset of some diseases. It is considered as a major pro of such foods. For instance, the genes of certain foods that cause allergic reactions are modified in such a way so as to prevent and completely eliminate the occurrence of allergies.
  • The cost of genetically modified crop seeds is more than traditional crop seeds. However, modified crops have increased resistance to insects and other pests, thereby leading to reduced or nil use of insecticides or pesticides on them. This eventually results in lowered cost of production as compared to conventional crops. Also, nil exposure to pesticides make the genetically modified foods free from harmful chemicals as well as an environmentally friendly option.
  • Traditional crops typically grow in favorable weather or in a particular season. Unlike normal crops, genetically modified foods can also be sown in regions with unfavorable/harsh climatic conditions.
  • The flavor of genetically modified foods can be enhanced; hence they taste better than normal foods. Altered foods also contain more minerals, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. They are thus ideal for those nations where malnutrition is a severe problem.
  • Genetically modified foods have a longer shelf life. Thus farmers need not worry about their crops becoming rotten quickly.

genetically modified foods

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Cons of genetically modified foods

  • One of the major cons of genetically modified foods is that it can cause adverse effects on the health of a person who consumes it. It is thought that eating such foods can increase the risk to development of varied antibiotics immune and antibiotics resistant diseases. Some experts also believe that intake of such modified eatables can pose increased threat to development of cancer.
  • There are several cultures and religions in the world which do not advocate the consumption of unnaturally produced foods. Vegetarians, vegans, and other non-meat eaters are also against the process of inserting animal genes into plants.
  • Genetically modified foods are grown in regions where the environment naturally does not support its growth. This can cause irreversible damage to the environment. For example, weeds crossbred with genetically modified plants can develop resistance to herbicides and harm the environment.Cross-pollination can also result in harm to different organisms that are flourishing in a particular area.
  • In several nations, different companies usually do not indicate on the label whether or not their products are genetically modified foods, as they feel that it could affect the overall business. Such lack of labelling is unethical as consumers have the right to choose whether or not they want to consume such modified eatables.
  • Experts believe that increasing demand for genetically modified foods would ultimately result in overdependence of the developing nations on industrially developed countries. Such opinion is based on the theory that production of genetically modified foods is most likely to be controlled by the developed nations in the future.
  • Genetically modified foods are a fairly new invention. Hence, even experts are not aware about its long-term effects on human health. Most people thus wish to abstain from using these modified products until all its adverse effects are public knowledge.

Identification of genetically modified foods

Studies indicate that nearly 65 to 70 percent of the processed food products sold in the American markets contain genetically modified foods. Some common modified foods include maize,soybeans, cotton, and grape-seed oil. Thus varied U.S. produced foods containing soybeans that also includes a few baby foods; foods with high-fructose corn syrupor field corn, such as several snack foods, breakfast cereals, and sodas; and foods made with canola and cottonseed oils could potentially contain genetically modified ingredients. Such ingredients may also be present in animal feed.

Laws in the U.S. do not make it mandatory to label a food as containing a genetically modified ingredient. Even if the label indicates that the product is free from genetically modified items, it may not necessarily be true. However, many other countries such as the EU, Malaysia, Japan, and Australia have mandatory labelling regulations with regards to genetically modified foods. This allows consumers to make an informed choice. It may also be noted that poultry and milk products in the EU are exempt from such labelling obligations.

The price look-up code: The best way to identify genetically modified food products is via the PLU or produce label code. It is a voluntary coding system and consists of a range of numbers printed on the tag or sticker of the product. The coding system is administrated by the IFPSor International Federation for Produce Standards of PMAor Produce Marketing Association in America.If the code has ‘8’ as a prefix then it means that the commodity contains genetically modified ingredients. However, if the code begins with the digit ‘9’, then it means that the product has been produced organically or traditionally. It is also important to note that retailers can design their own PLU codes as the coding system is voluntary.

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