Genetically modified organism (GMO) may be a plant, an animal, and other organisms, including micro organisms, whose genetic structure has been altered in a laboratory making use of transgenic technology or genetic engineering. As a result, it produces a combination plant, animal, bacterial as well as virus genes that are not found in nature or are not created by means of traditional cross-breeding techniques.
For several thousand years, humans modified organisms using various breeding techniques. Over generations, people have been breeding corn, cattle and also dogs to create specific desired characteristics in them. However, during the last few decades, advances made in biotechnology have enabled scientists to directly alter the DNA of various crops, animals and micro organisms.
Some traditional methods of modifying animals and plants involve cross-breeding and selective breeding - both can take a very long time to happen. In addition, cross-breeding and selective breeding time and again yield mixed results. In these cases, sometimes the modified plants and animals may have some unwanted characteristics together with the desired traits. On the other hand, use of biotechnology has made it possible to target specific DNA modifications in plants and animals, enabling scientists to avoid the problem of having unwanted traits. At the same time, it helps to enhance the genetic structure of an organism and just have the desired traits in it after modification.
Most GMO animals are mainly developed for research in laboratories. These genetically modified animals are basically used in the form of models to examine the functioning of particular genes and generally how these specific genes are related to our health and various diseases. However, a number of GMO animals are also created for human consumption. For example, salmon has been genetically modified so that it matures more quickly. Even the United Stated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certified that these genetically modified fish are suitable as well as safe for consumption.
Perhaps, genetically modified organisms are most evident in the produce section. The first ever genetically modified plants that were created for human consumption were brought in way back in the mid-1990s. In present times, about 90 percent of soybeans, corn and sugar beets available in the markets are actually genetically modified.
Crops that are engineered genetically have higher yields and also a longer shelf life. In addition, they are resistant to pests and diseases. They also have a better taste. These are beneficial for both the farmers as well as the consumers. For instance, when a crop is genetically modified and offer the aforementioned benefits, they may be less expensive for the consumer. On the other hand, when crops are pest-resistant farmers also gain as they do not have to purchase and use too many pesticides for growing superior quality crops. In this way, genetically modified crops can also be beneficial for the environment compared to the crops that are grown conventionally.
Aside from genetically modified foods, there are also genetically modified animals, which are mainly used for the purpose of research. These genetically modified animals are often used in the form of models for biological systems - for instance fluorescent fish kept as fish and also genetically modified mosquitoes to help in controlling diseases borne by mosquitoes. Nevertheless, such genetically modified animals have comparatively uncommon applications outside the fundamental biological studies.
However, the situation is not the same with plants. Plenty of are modified genetically for research purpose, but the main aim of nearly all genetic modifications of crops is to create a plant strain that is beneficial socially or commercially. For instance, when plants are modified genetically it may not only increase yields, but also enhance their resistance to pests that cause various diseases. Moreover, it may enhance the ability of some crops to grow even in regions that are inhospitable, possibly in colder regions too. Additionally, genetically modified fruits help to keep them ripened for a longer period, for instance, endless summer tomatoes. It also allows additional time for the fruits' shelf life after they are harvested for relatively longer use. Some genetically modified foods also augment their nutritional value, like the golden rice which is intended to be rich in vitamin A content. In addition, it may also enhance the utility of a fruit, for instance non-browning apples.
Precisely speaking, genetically modified foods can improve any characteristic of fruits and manifest them by adding or inhibiting a particular gene. This way, new foods can be created and introduced in the market. In fact, it is also possible to develop new food that requires multiple genes. However, to achieve this, a more complicated process is required, which is yet to be achieved in the case of commercial crops.
Corn is one of the most well-known GMO foods and, therefore, one does not have to do much thinking to stay away from it. People who have watched a documentary on GMO foods ought to know that corn is a highly genetically modified food. In fact, nearly half of the corn growing in U.S. farms for Monsanto generally is genetically modified corn. What is worse is the fact that the major part of it is meant for human consumption. The genetically modified corn from Monsanto has been linked with various health problems, which include weight gain as well as disruption of different organs.
In fact, soy, which is present in several vegetable products, soybean oil, tofu, soy flour and several other edible products is also genetically modified so that it can resist herbicides.
In 2019, genetically modified sugar beets were brought in the U.S. market. Similar to various other foods, Monsanto modified sugar beets with a view to make the capable of resisting herbicides. In fact, Monsanto had to face a number of court related issues and also the USDA regarding planting its genetically modified sugar beets. The company was also directed to remove all its seeds from the soil as it did not have the approval of the authorities and the issue was considered illegal.
A toxic additive called aspartame is used in several food products. It is important that we avoid using this additive for several reasons. A major reason is that aspartame has been developed using genetically modified bacteria.
Tropical food lovers may find this one as a great surprise. Since 1999, people have been growing GMO papayas in the Hawaii islands for consumption. While these papayas cannot be marketed in the European Union (EU), the U.S. and Canada welcome their sale in their countries.
Interestingly enough, canola oil is among the most common diets in the U.S. that has been chemically altered. This oil is extracted from rapeseed employing a succession of chemical actions.
Consumption of genetically modified cotton oil, especially the cotton that has its origin in China and India pose a serious health threat.
The dairy products you consume may also enclose growth hormones, as these hormones are pumped in about one-fifth of all dairy cows in the U.S. Actually, 27 countries have already banned Monsanto's rBGH, which is a major health hazard. Nevertheless, it is still present in majority of dairy cows in America. Therefore, if you need to drink milk, it is advisable that you buy organic product.
Even yellow squash and zucchini, which are close related varieties, are genetically modified to enable them to resist viruses.
Everyone is aware of the health hazards of consuming these foods. For instance, recently the Bt toxin which is found in GMO corn was found in a pregnant woman's blood and also her babies. Possibly, we are still unaware of the more terrifying risks of using the GMO foods. While it is important to have these foods on your GMO food list so as to avoid consuming them, it is also necessary to buy and consume foods that are 100 per cent organic. This is because consuming organic foods is the safest.