Tuesday, 15 May 2012

An Insight into GM Foods


An Insight into GM Foods
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(Haro von Mogel, 2009)

Ever heard of altering the genetic material of the foods you eat? Well it sounds disgusting. A topic of interest will be based on GM foods which are abbreviated for genetically modified foods. Genetically modified foods involve the process of excising a specific protein or gene from a donor organism with a desirable trait that is spliced into a host organism through biotechnology (Millis, 2006). This technique results a recombinant DNA (Millis, 2006; Reece, 2012) which is ideally for two organisms that cannot naturally cross breed thus, allowing the host organism to express a desirable trait which appears to be unnatural since it is surpassing its own potential. A precise detail of this process in the donor organism incorporates restriction enzymes in the restriction site that specifically excise at a particular point in the DNA sequence (Reece, 2012). Both ends of the DNA fragment are protected by the restriction enzyme which is then spliced into the host organism by DNA ligase (Reece, 2012). The advantage of this technique is beyond natural reproduction enabling scientists to manipulate and develop the genes of organisms with all sorts of expressions (Reece, 2012).

Confused? Well I hope this example would help. Imagine a tomato that you want to preserve in the freezer for a few weeks but from general knowledge, we know that after a tomato is thawed, the surface and texture becomes soggy which is unfavourable. Now this is where gene technology is involved. Scientists have carried out an experiment by following the technique of forming a recombinant DNA allowing the tomato to contain the anti-freeze protein from an Arctic Flounder fish to prevent the tomato from freezing since a tomato and a fish definitely cannot cross breed through natural reproduction (Biotechnology Online, 2012). However, the experiment was ineffective even though the tomato contained the anti-freeze gene, it did not express that trait (Biotechnology Online, 2012). Here is a simple diagram pertaining to the tomato-fish experiment.


 
 
 

(BBC, 2003)

Biotechnology can assist with agriculture by genetically modifying crops to reduce the difficulties of maintaining sustainable crops (Reece, 2012) and also increase nutritional value which can benefit the consumers. Farmers experience various degrees of difficulties in maintaining conventional crops. The advantage of biotechnology allows scientists to develop a variety of organisms with desirable traits that are resistant to insects, drought-tolerant, self-fertilised and enhanced nutritional content. For farmers, this allows a rate of improvement in the amount of crops lost from pests, faster growth rate and for foods that can tolerate in certain conditions such as drought (Millis, 2006; Better Health Channel, 2010). For consumers, this allows an increase in nutritional value to prevent malnutrition (Millis, 2006); Better Health Channel, 2010). Thus, this would allow more time for farmers and lead consumers to reduce the number of times to visit the general practitioner and save money from purchasing vitamin supplements.

Let’s look at GM foods as a negative aspect. The production of GM foods is causing a majority of concerns for the consumer and the environment itself. The major potential threat involved is the cross breeding between the pollen from GM crops with the conventional crops which could develop an entire new specie that can be a super-weed, resistant to pesticides and dominate other species within its region (Millis, 2006; Bownas, Christen, & Haun, 2008). Another disadvantage is an allergy issue that could initiate severe side effects or death because consumers would be unaware of the components involved that may have an impact on them (Better Health Channel, 2010). Thus, the production of GM foods would expose various threats that could possibly be uncontrollable.

Generally, the idea GM foods are not satisfying and would not be worthwhile. Consumers would prefer conventional crops instead of goods that have been distorted to surpass its natural properties. Although it may be ideal for farmers, it would also require a significant amount of time to prevent the probability of potential threats that may arise.

Reference

BBC. (2003, January 03). GM Science. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from BBC: http://www.genomicgastronomy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/BBC_GMfood.pdf

Better Health Channel. (2010, May). Genetically modified foods. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from Better Health Channel: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/genetically_modified_foods?open

Biotechnology Online. (2012). Feed Me. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Biotechnology Online: http://www.biotechnologyonline.gov.au/foodag/feedme.html

Bownas, J. L., Christen, K., & Haun, H. L. (2008, November 05). Genetically Modified Foods and Organisms. Retrieved March 17, 2012, from Human Genome Project Information: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/gmfood.shtml

Haro von Mogel, K. (2009, November 25). You’re Eating Viral DNA. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from BioFortified: http://www.biofortified.org/2009/11/youre-eating-viral-dna/

Millis, N. (2006). Genetically modified organisms. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from Australian Government: Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/publications/emerging/gmo/index.html

Reece, J. B. (2012). Campbell Biology (9th ed.). Pearsons.

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