With the passing years and developing technologies, biotechnology is introduced in which the application of genetic engineering is practiced. Also known as genetic modification, it generally involves the genetic alteration of an organism in which the DNA of the organism is modified in order to produce a desired outcome or characteristics. The genetic material is usually altered with techniques that do not occur naturally. The genes of selected individual are extracted from one organism and then are inserted into another organism. Similar effects can be achieved through traditional technique of breeding, but compared to genetic modification; it offers a shorter time span. Yet, some countries are recently applying the genetic modification technique in producing food. Foods derived from genetically modified organisms are known as 'GM foods'. Starting in the 1980s, companies have started using genetic modification to insert foreign genes into their crops.
Recently, genetically modified food has been available in several countries such as the United States, Australia and United Kingdom. The first GM soya was planted in the US, was made to become more resistant to herbicide and this allows weeds to be controlled even after the GM soya has been started to planted, saving up around 33% of the amount of herbicide used. The Americans have been accepted, with around 70% of them are confident to buy GM food even the foods were simply modified to stay fresh for a longer time (ypte, n.d.). And currently in Australia, there are some types of GM crops that have been permitted to be grown commercially.
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But when GM foods were introduced, there are some concerns and doubts arose whether it would affect human health as well as the environment. People started questioning, would these "frankenfoods" harm the human health? What are their effects on the environment? What are their benefits? And most importantly, do we really need those foods? The benefits and dangers of genetically engineered food are recently becoming a subject of intense debate among the population. GM foods have great promise and great dangers.
Those who are supporting GM foods claim that GM foods would benefits the people in such GM foods can improve human health as the nutritional value of the foods has been improved (Whitman, 2000). They also believe that with less use of pesticide, the soil quality can be maintained. Plus, GM foods are made to be last longer and resistant to diseases. And the problem of food shortage is also considered as the main crux in producing GM foods. As the population grows, there would be more mouths to be feed. Adversely, some people are uncertain with the benefits of GM foods. They strongly believe that GM foods can lead to health problems as there is lack of safety in producing GM foods.
As this issue has been vigorously debated, the society keeps questioning, should GM foods be banned?
Even though GM foods would not exactly benefit them, people still have to look deeper regarding this issue. In a further view, we might see that GM foods would turn out more advantages than disadvantages as they are safe and can protect human health, can help to conserve the environment and solve the food shortage problem.
This report includes the evidence why GM foods should not be banned. The research findings are based on several countries in which this issue is controversially debated that are Australia, the United States and United Kingdom.
BODY OF REPORT
2.1 GM foods are safe and can protect human health
Undeniable, GM foods would bring many potential benefits to the human being. One of the reasons in which GM foods can be advantageous is that GM foods can help in protecting human health. Usually the organisms produced by the mean of genetic modification would be healthier compared to that of the traditional breeding method. The production of the food, the application of genetic engineering is used to remove genes which can cause allergies. Research has been done in producing non-causing-allergy peanut by altering its gene. Besides, with a little nutritional enhancement, the production of GM foods seems as a way to solve the problem of malnutrition. Malnutrition commonly happens in third world countries where peoples depend only on a single crop for example rice as the only daily food (Whitman, 2000). The problem is, rice does not contain sufficient amounts of the essential nutrients to put a stop to malnutrition. So, scientists come out with idea to modify the rice by the mean of genetic modification so that the rice would contain a large amount of vitamins and minerals. For example, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Institute for Plant Sciences have starting produce the "golden" rice containing a high amount of beta-carotene or Vitamin A. However, the creation of the "golden" rice was not renewed, maybe because of anti-GM food protesting happens very active in Europe, and hence this rice may not be on the market at all. Besides having a high nutritional value, GM foods also taste better (Kartha, 2009).
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But these new evolutionary new technology has gained public disapproval. Some people are strictly against the selling and buying of GM foods. They argued that the production of GM foods lack of safety and can affect human health negatively. Since this technology is still new, the studies of the long-term effects of such foods on human health have not been actively done. Some claimed that genes added would lead the production of toxins or allergy-causing substances by plants. Also, according to Biotechnology Australia (2008), people claimed that some GM foods productions involve the use of marker genes which are a type of marker gene originated from bacteria that might harm the human health. So they are concern on the health hazards that might arise if they consume GM foods in their diet. Apart from that, they pointed that the production of GM foods is certainly lack of safety.
Although this argument has some merit, a number of qualifications has to be made. It is not true to claim that GM foods could affect human health negatively. The truth is GM foods has been produced and maintained under strict legal requirements where the safety is put in high consideration. As stated in Foodstandards (n.d.), the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in Australia is responsible in protecting the safety of people as well as the environment. They identify the risks that might arise resulting from the GM foods consumption and manage the risks by amending certain dealings with GM organisms (GMOs). By following the Gene Technology Act 2000, the dealings with GMOs must be licensed and only after that the production of GM foods is allowed. Another association which controls the safety of GM food production is the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). They carry out a comprehensive risk assessment on the food derived from GMOs before the foods can be sold. This including testing whether the food contains allergens or toxins (Foodstandards, n.d.). So, the arguments implied by opponents that the production of GM foods is lack of safety cannot be well-accepted as there are systematic regulations carried by the OGTR and FSANZ.
To conclude, GM foods really can help in improving human health as well as preventing malnutrition. The statement claimed by the opponents that GM foods can cause health hazards and lack of safety is weak and hence further research should be done.