Genetically Modified Food Development Analysis Biology Essay

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Chapter 1


Genetically modified (GM) foods are those foods which are derived from genetically modified organisms. There are many other products produced from GM organisms. Some other GM products are like medicines, vaccines, and fibers. Genetically modified organisms are the organisms in which some specific changes have been introduced into their DNA by special techniques known as genetic engineering techniques.

1.1 Definition: 

Genetically modified (GM) foods are food items that have had their DNA changed through genetic engineering. Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be "genetically modified," "genetically engineered." [1] Such methods are used to create GM plants, which are then used to grow GM food crops. Thus in layman terms genetic engineering means modification of biological products.

1.2 Method:

Genetically modified foods are created using biotechnology to change their genetic material. A variety of techniques for the purpose of introduction of the desired genes or 'inactivate' unwanted ones. To get a genetic modification one has to involve the process of insertion or deletion of genes. It can be done by way of cis-genesis, genes are artificially transferred between organisms that could be conventionally bred while in the process of trans-genesis, and genes from a different species are inserted, which is in the form of horizontal gene transfer. In nature this can occur when exogenous DNA penetrates the cell membrane for any reason.


GM foods were first placed in the market of various countries in the early 1990s. The first genetically modified whole food crop was a tomato called Flavr Savr, which was modified to ripen without softening, by Calgene, later a subsidiary of Monsanto. [2]   Later on a tomato was produced using similar technology to the Flavr Savr was used by Zeneca to produce tomato paste which was sold in Europe during the period of 1996. [3] At present there are a number of food species in which a genetically modified version exists due to there features different from others.


The GM food is the foods which were made by the introduction of GM organism into them. The purpose of producing and developing GM food is to meet the demand of food as per the exploding population of the countries. However, there are some threats caused by the use of these GM foods on health and environment, so these GM food are facing opposition from many parts of the world. Therefore, every country is trying to make certain laws and enactment to deal with the problem of GM food as per their requirement. There have been instances of growing agitation for banning the GM food. Also found harmful by the farmers from their biodiversity point of view.

Chapter 2

List and statistics of Genetically Modified Food

The list of the various food items produced by the GM organisms cannot be given exhaustively, as one can after seeing the statistical data given below see the proliferated growth rate of the these food products. These items are now used in every day life in some of the counties on daily basis. However, the modified foods are found in the different countries depending upon the requirement of that food product in that country.

2.2 List of Genetically Modified Food:

It is unfeasible to provide a comprehensive list of genetically modified food. Some estimates say as many as 30,000 different products on grocery store shelves are "modified." A few of them can be listed as under-

Rapeseed: New variety is having resistance to certain pesticides and is free of erucic acid and glucosinolates, which were toxic.

Honey - Honey is produced from GM crops like Canadian honey comes from bees which collect nectar from GM canola plants.

Rice - The GM variety of rice contains high amounts of Vitamin A.

Soybean - Genetically modified variety is made resistant to herbicides.

Sugar cane - It is made resistant to use of certain pesticides.

Tomatoes - GMO has made new tomato with a longer shelf life and to prevent a substance that causes tomatoes to rot fast.

Corn - increased resistance to certain pesticides

Tobacco - It is engineered to produce low or no nicotine.

Meat - Meat and dairy products usually come from animals that have eaten GM feed.

Peas - The peas had been inserted with a gene from kidney beans, which creates a protein that acts as a pesticide.

Dairy Products - Some cows are injected with recombinant (genetically modified) bovine growth hormone (rbGH) leading to improvem,ent of milk quality as well as quantity.

Vitamins - Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is often made from corn, vitamin E is usually made from soy. Even the Vitamins A, B2, B6, and B12 may also be derived from GMO's as well as vitamin D and vitamin K may have "carriers" derived from GM sources.

Cotton - It is resistant to certain pesticides. The so-called Bt cotton plants that produce a chemical that kills the cotton bollworm have not only reduced the incidence of the pest in cotton fields, but also in neighboring fields of corn, soybeans, and other crops.

2.2 Statistics of GM Food

The nations growing GM plants on the largest field areas are the USA (64 million hectares), Brazil (21.4), Argentina (21.3), India (8.4) and Canada (8.2). As before in 2008, the current ISAAA report lists 25 countries that commercially utilise GM plants. Costa Rica is a new entry to this list. Germany was removed from the list of 'gene technology countries' after the enactment of a cultivation ban in 2009. Fourteen million farmers use GM plants worldwide. The majority of these are in developing nations (13 million). This figure has increased by 700,000 since 2008. [4] 

The cultivation areas with genetically modified plants from 1996 - 2009 in millions of hectares can be seen from the below chart: [5] 

The charts from the ISAAA report to learn about the 25 countries that have adopted biotech

crops and the growth of agricultural biotechnology in the United States and worldwide: [6] 

Chapter 3

Strengths and Limitations of Genetically Modified Food

The world population has been around 6 billion people and is predicted to get double in the next 50 years. Therefore, ensuring an adequate food supply for this booming population is going to be a major challenge in the years to come. So, for the purpose of meeting the demands of the growing population the alternative of the GM Food is evolved. However, these kinds of food offer a large number of benefits as well as limitations to the life of the people commonly using it.

3.1 Benefits arising out of GM Food:

There are a number of advantages offered by the GM foods and they promise to meet this need in a number of ways:

Pest resistance:

GM foods can help in eliminating the application of chemical pesticides . Crop losses from insect pests results in devastating financial loss for farmers and starvation in developing countries. Farmers typically use many tons of chemical pesticides annually. Consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides because of potential health hazards, and even the run-off of agricultural wastes from excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers can poison the water supply and cause harm to the environment. Growing GM foods such as B.T. corn can help eliminate the application of chemical pesticides and reduce the cost of bringing a crop to market. [7] 

Herbicide tolerance:

Generally, farmers will spray large quantities of different herbicide to destroy weeds, a time-consuming and expensive process, which requires care so that the herbicide doesn't harm the crop plant or the environment. While crop plants which are genetically-engineered, are resistant to herbicide which can help us to prevent environmental damage, by reducing the amount of herbicides. For example, Monsanto has created a strain of soybeans genetically modified to be not affected by their herbicide product Roundup.

Disease resistance:

The plants are prone to risk from a large number of factors which causes diseases to them like there are many viruses, fungi and bacteria that cause plant diseases. However these days plant biologists are working to create plants with genetically-engineered resistance to these diseases.

Cold tolerance:

Some plants which require moderate temperature for flourishing are badly affected due to unexpected frost can destroy sensitive seedlings. So, an antifreeze gene from cold water fish has been introduced into plants such as tobacco and potato. With this antifreeze gene, these plants are able to tolerate cold temperatures that normally would kill unmodified seedlings. [8] 


Environmental activists has raised great concerns about the hazards associated with the use of GM food and in the words of a researcher working on GM Food named as Dr. Mae-Wan Ho "Genetic engineering is inherently dangerous, because it greatly expands the scope for horizontal gene transfer and recombination, precisely the processes that create new viruses and bacteria that cause disease epidemics, and trigger cancer in cells." Some of the issues are:

Environmental hazards:

Some cases have been reported in which due to the GM food the effectiveness of pesticides are reduced leading to causation of environmental hazards as it may also cause unintended harm to other organisms in any form. Like last year a laboratory study was published inNature [9]  showing that pollen from B. T. corn caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars.

3.2.2 Health Hazards:

There is a growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected and negative impact on human health. Extensive use of GM Food may cause the harm to consumers with kinds of allergies. An article published in Lancet examined the effects of GM potatoes on the digestive tract in rats [10] . This study claimed that there were appreciable differences in the intestines of rats fed GM potatoes and rats fed unmodified potatoes.

3.2.3 Economic concerns:

The production and the distribution of the GM food is a costly process as it involves a number of stages to be cleared before entering into the market. Also the new GM food has to be get patented, in order to protect the product being used by some other person in its own name. Therefore, GM food is a money involving process.

3.3 Comparison chart between strengths and limitations of GM food:



• Increased production to ensure food security

Even the cost for its marketing is higher

• Reduced need for clearing for more farm land

• Impact on beneficial herbivore insects and pollinators

• Improved productivity of marginal lands

• Gene contamination: flow to wild relatives

• Fall in the irrigation and agrochemical requirements

• Health hazards for human beings and cattle.

Chapter 4

Position in India

India is currently formulating new rules and procedures to regulate imports of GM agricultural products in response to concerns about their effects on health and the environment. Currently, the Indian Environmental Protection Act (1986) prohibits the selling of GM seed, but there are moves to decide the fate of GM crops. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) is awaiting the findings of a report studying oil seed and cotton crops and a decision is expected shortly.

4.1 Labeling of GM Food

India is in the process of evaluating or implementing label changes with respect to GM foods and has expressed a preference for mandatory labeling of crops. In 2006, India proposed a draft rule requiring the labeling of all genetically modified (GM) foods and products derived from such foods. It focuses on four products that would likely be the first affected by such a regulation in India: cottonseed oil, soybean oil, brinjal (eggplant), and rice. It finds that GM food labeling would generate a specific market outcome for each of these products. this labeling will help the consumers to identify and distinguish the GM food articles from the non GM food stuffs.

4.2 Say no to GM food:

In India there has been a great uproar against the use of the GM food. The states which are more based on agriculture were the first one to say no to GM food and its products as well. The proposed BRAI Act is strongly opposed by the states as they think "It will have disastrous consequences for Indian Agriculture, which still relies heavily on traditional technologies. It will take the control of food from the farmer and give it to multinational corporations, who will enslave our agriculture." Some of the instances are: [11] 

1. Kerala Minister objects to Biotechnology Bill:

Kerala Minister for Agriculture has expressed strong reservations about the Biotechnology Regulatory Bill approved by the Union Cabinet. He objected to the move to centralise and vest a three-member Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) with full powers to take all decisions related to biotechnology including the very concept of introduction of genetically modified crops and foods in the country. The above said Bill sought to restrain freedom of expression and contains the provisions to punish who says anything against introduction of any genetically modified crop or food. Even the persons doing or participating in peaceful demonstration against introduction of genetically modified crops would be liable for imprisonment and fine.

2. M.P. also opposes setting up of biotech regulatory authority:

The Madhya Pradesh government has reacted strongly against the setting up of the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) under BRAI Bill, accusing the Centre of attempting to intrude upon the autonomy of the State. Orissa, Kerala, Assam and several other States have also been opposing the Bill due to the reasons like BRAI will alone have the role of approver for applications pertaining to GMO and is also expected to take over the functions of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee. It makes the proposed authority solely responsible for releasing and controlling GMO's throughout the country and envisages only an advisory role for States.

3. Karnataka government to take steps for stopping cultivation of GM Food:

Coalition for Genetically Modified Free Karnataka (CGMFK) has requested to its Government to take necessary steps to stop genetically modified food crops being cultivated in the State. Representatives of the CGMFK urged the Government to; instead, pave way for the organic revolution. The CGMFK wants the Government to stop all kind of imports of crops to Karnataka. The Government should formally declare Karnataka as "a genetically modified free State" and not to permit the sale of processed or unprocessed genetically modified crops in the State, it said.

Chapter 5

Legal Implications

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that to meet the increasing population the food output must be increased by 60 percent over the next 25 years to cope up with demand. In a report prepared for the submission to the World Bank on the bioengineering of crops written for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which is a group led by Henry Kendall, said that transgenic crops could improve food yields by up to 25 percent in developing countries and would feed an estimated additional three billion people over the next 30 years. So there arises need to regulate the various aspects of GM Food by some legally binding rules or regulations. But blanket permission for use of GM food can not be given and some limitations has to be there in their use and production. Therefore each country is taking some steps in furtherance of these GM food and their derived products.


India is a party to the Convention on Biodiversity and therefore has ratified the Cartagena Protocol (CP) [12] has committed itself to the safe handling of living modified organisms (LMOs) or GMOs. CP gives a broad outline on biosafety which focuses on transboundary movements of GMOs and also covers those GMOs that are intended for food, feed or used in food processing.

BT cotton was the first transgenic crop to be released in India. After its introduction in the year 2002, there has been a lot of controversy in relation to the BT cotton and its aspects like its performance, impact on the environment, biodiversity and health of cattle. So a regulatory body for approving GM crops in India i.e. Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) [13] was formed which announced its approval for large scale field trials for BT brinjal in September 2007. therefore this committee in India regulates the matters related to the GM food.


At international level there are several international agreements related to the environmental aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These agreements are the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (2003), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

5.2.1 The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD):

This is mainly concerned with the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems but also addresses environmental effects of GMOs. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted by the CBD and came into force in 2003. This protocol gives an Advance Informed Agreement procedure for the intentional introduction of GM species that may have any kind of adverse environmental effects. In the case of genetically modified plants it regulates trans-boundary movement requiring such movement an advance notification by the exporting party and a notice of receipt by the importing party. Also the Protocol set out the requirements for details of the handling, labelling, packaging, and transportation of genetically modified plants. It takes into account the various factors which could adversely affect the human health.

5.2.2 The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC):

The main purpose of this protocol is to secure common international action to prevent the spread of pests affecting plants and plant products for example, containers, packaging materials, soil, vehicles, vessels and machinery. However, it also plays a role in the conservation of plant diversity and the protection of natural resources. Regarding GMO's, the IPPC [14] has identified potential pest risks that may need to be considered, including:

1. New genetic characteristics that may cause invasiveness (drought resistance, herbicide tolerance, pest resistance),

2. Gene flow (transfer of genes to wild relatives or other compatible species), and

3. Effects on non-target organisms (beneficial insects or birds).


In the first case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms [15] which came before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on planting genetically-modified alfalfa as it involves alfalfa that has been genetically-modified to tolerate Monsanto's widely-used herbicide Roundup. In 2006, the USDA approved the seeds for planting after deciding that a full environmental review was not necessary. Similarly, in India as well there are number of writ petitions being filed by the activists like Aruna Rodrigues, but the eminent judges of Indian judiciary like a bench headed by Justice Sabharwal's successor, Justice K G Balakrishnan, [16] has taken steps in favour of GM food after referring to the reports of various committees settled up for this purpose.

Chapter 6


In conclusion, we can say that the GM food and its derived products are the need of today's world in order to meet the increasing demands of the population. However, the GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is a problem which has become unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture in the present scenario. GM crops have not been proven safe rather sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns, which could not be ignored as otherwise would result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. But one can not say that GM crops should be firmly rejected GM foods not only poses some threats but also provide some kinds of benefits like increased food production.

Genetically modified foods may cause the same risks to human health as the other non GM foods and these risks may be in the form of allergies, etc. So what one can do is that before marketing a genetically modified food scientists should determine whether these foods can cause any heightened risks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [17] has published certain guidelines in 1992 to ensure that companies worked with the agency to assess the safety of genetically modified foods. Thus the following points will help one to see the GM food in one way as a good alternative as Genetically modified food plants can play an important role in improving nutrition and agricultural products, especially in the developing world:

1. The genetic modification of food plants can help meet the challenge of the rapid growth of the world population food requirement.

2. Techniques to genetically modify crop plants can make important contributions to the solution of the common problem of the massive losses of topsoil and agricultural land.


Conditions in form of recommendations for the beneficial use of this new technology are as follows:

1. The scientific community should be responsible and also help to ensure that GM food technology works to the effective benefit of people.

2. The methods used for testing the safety of new genetically modified strains of plants should be publicly available, as would enhance the security, in both the private and public sectors.

3. Governments should have the responsibility for ensuring that the tests and their results are conducted in line with the highest criteria of validity.

4. Governments should increase their funding for public research in agriculture in order to facilitate the development of sustainable and productive agricultural systems for better development of technology.

5. Intellectual property rights should not hinder a wide access to beneficial applications of scientific knowledge.

6. Special efforts should be made to provide poor farmers in the developing world with access to improved crop plants and to encourage and finance research in developing countries.