Thursday, February 4, 2016
By Anton Antonio
February 4, 2016
Genetics is a branch of science which only a very few understand. These few individuals spent most of their lives in academic study, clinical training and scholarly work on a not-so-popular field of science for them to become competently knowledgeable in this field of study. Not popular as it is, genetics, however, suddenly got into the consciousness of people (particularly consumers) all over the world after genetically modified organisms or GMOs became headline news. The awareness on GMO began to increase in the last five years; people started asking questions on the safety and sustainability of GMO food products.
What does GMO mean? GMO is an acronym which stands for “genetically modified organisms” which refers to food products that has been altered at the gene level. There are other terms that are also being used to describe GMOs such as “genetically engineered”, “genetically altered” or “genetically manipulated.”
Plant modification is not new. Gardeners and farmers have been doing this for centuries in a process called crossbreeding… and crossbreeding of different species of plants have resulted to bigger and more beautiful harvests. Modern genetic engineering, however, is dramatically different from the simple traditional crossbreeding techniques, methods and practices. The malaise that accompanies modern-day GMO technology is born out of the genetic engineering of plant genes using genes from other plants, animals, bacterium and/or viruses. This process irreversibly alters the genetic code or genetic blueprint that determines the organism’s physical characteristics. This modern genetic alteration method managed to produce plants and food products that (1) are weed-resistant, (2) produce their own pesticides, (3) glow in the dark when they need water, (4) contains vaccines against diseases such as malaria, cholera and hepatitis, and (5) contains a higher level of vitamins and minerals. Genetically engineered crops in production at present are corn, soybeans, cotton and canola oil. Genetically engineered corn soybean derivatives such as soy oil, soy flour, soy protein isolates, corn oil, corn starch, corn flour, and high fructose corn syrup are likewise considered as GMOs.
Pro-GMO proponents believe that the genetic engineering technology will ensure food security. However, a growing number of scientists, health professionals, environmentalists and consumers are worried that the growing number of genetically modified foods in our food supply may cause more problems (to health and wellbeing of people and the environment) in the long run.
Food production is the biggest business activity in the world. The food supply chain is of critical importance because people have to eat and their consumption patterns provide the backdrop for business to produce more food in the name of food security. The danger of this purely business mindset is the fact that business is always in there for the money… the profits. Food producers may easily label their products as “GMO-free” --- again, in the name of profits and profitability --- but what guarantee do we (consumers) have that they really are “GMO-free”.
Thoughts to promote positive action…
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