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Genetically modified foods or GM foods are such kind of foods which are derived from the GMO Genetically modified organism. Normally genetically modified crops are used to produce GM foods. Genetic engineering is applying to bring change in the DNA and this change leads to GM foods. Mutagenesis is also used to do it but genetic engineering is much more accurate, where the organism is uncovered with the help of chemical or radiation and brings stable and non specific changes. There are some other techniques too to modify the organism of foods such as somaclonal variation and selective breeding (UK GM Science Review panel, July 2003).
The Techniques of Genetic Modification
In 1946, scientist first realized that it is possible to transfer the DNA in the plant organism (Lederberg J, Tatum EL, 1946). Then the first GM (genetically modified) plant was born in 1983. It was done by a tobacco plant which was antibiotic resistant. In the 90's decade scientists tried to develop it and FDA approved the flavr savr tomato for marketing in USA. This tomato was developed to ripe delay after picking from the plant. After that several countries approved the recombinant chymosin to replace rennet for cheese making (James, Clive, 1996).
Genetic modification is thought as a comparatively new knowledge employing numerous methods to change an organism's hereditary make-up in order to create ideal and still better individualities. This latest technology makes apply genes on gathering knowledge how to change the characteristics to bring about modification or change of definite characteristics. The genes in all organisms have the mapping that define how all of us look like also how all of us behave and all the ensuing characteristics of all living animals and plants. As every living plants or animal have their own characteristics and these characteristics are passing generation to generation. All information is coded in the genetic map. If the individual characteristic is found it is possible to change now by genetic engineering. Such as a gene is responsible for blue color of a specific flower and it the genetic coding is change of that gene and replace blue with green then the green flower will bloom. This process is done by several stages. The scientists try to find out the gene firstly and isolate it and this gene contains the genetic code for that specific characteristic which has to change and the scientists want to shift it to another host plant. For this reason it is called the gene mapping (Methods of Genetic Modification, 2007).
When they are able to isolate the gene which one is desired then they copy the gene by PCR mechanism which means polymerase chain reaction. By this method the scientists get multiple numbers of DNA replicas from a very small part of DNA. Then these small parts will introduced to the host plant. Three separate options can be used to transfer the isolated gene to the host plant. The scientist can use gene cannon; this is a system to push the part of the gene into another gene. Another technique is bacteria and third technique is using the material which is called protoplast. When the new gene is introduced the scientists are now able to produce a new plant. Then they can create new characteristics from the new grown plant. If the inserted new gene is developed in to the host plant with the desired characteristics then the gene transforming is successful. This success is totally depending on the host plant and the new plant is grown by the host plant. If the new grown plant is able to regenerate the inserted characteristics through the inserted gene and also how quickly the new plant develop the perfect characteristics holds the genetic code of the gene inserted in the host plant.
Advantages of GM crops of UK farmers
Crops are genetically modified to pull out the best result such as high growing rate, high production rate, extra protein and calories etc. So when a crop is modified genetically it gives extra food from little amount of land. So it gives extra opportunities to the UK farmers. These GM foods are produced hugely in China and USA and they get self sufficient in their food supply. Experts say that Europe will face food shortage and they will have to import foods from the other countries and in that situation GM crops can give them new hope. Beside that the cattle will get extra food. It is also said that the GM food may spread the gene to the cattle food too. In that case they will also be healthy and produce extra meat and milk. Chancellor George Osborne also believes that this genetically modified food will provide the opportunities for the farmers of UK. As a district council member I must say that our area is perfect for this. We have tourism and agriculture. There is opportunity to attract more tourists here by cultivating GMO orchids or flowers as well as we can grow more food which we can export to other European countries.
Brussels already approved two genetically modified crops for people and these two crops are already using widely in China and USA. European countries still hold the position against the genetically modified food but the experts say that they will face trouble and shortage of food in future if they reject the GM crops continuously. Farmers of UK are still confused, Neale McQuistin, Scottish farmer says that he is not confident yet about the genetically modified crops cultivation in UK (Neale McQuistin, 2013). According to him there is no problem with the science of GM and its safety. But there is a fear about it and if this fear remain then GM techniques will be bad for British business. Otherwise UK can lead in this field and can cover the most part of the market. I have to be concern about the region as district council member. If GMO crops helps us to get more food and earn more money then why should not we take this advantage as the scientists ensure that there is no problem with that and we have huge lands which are using for cultivation.
Advantages of using GM
Increase crop yields to feed the world population
Increase the tolerance of crops to adverse growing conditions, e.g. drought
Improve the nutrient composition of crops, e.g. increasing the protein content of rice
Resistance to pests and reducing the use of pesticides, i.e. conservation
Improve the sensory properties of food, for example, Flavour, consistency
Improve the manufacture, in order to reduce loss of food and minimize the costs during transport and storage
Elimination of allergenic properties in some foods
Disadvantages of using GM
Unintended modification of similar species in the neighboring fields, due to cross pollination
Disturbing the balance of ecosystems, e.g. some animals may lose their habitat when farmland is expanded
An opportunity to create extremely insensitive pests when DNA is altered
The initial genetic structure of both animals and plants will be disturbed
Vegetarians might due to religious, health or other reasons misgivings plants containing genes from animals
There is still no scientific and medical Evidence showing that GM food is dangerous for human consumption.
Ethical Objections to GM Crops
Though the GM technology is giving confidence to avoid the food shortage issue but there are some ethical objections against the genetically modified crops. The ethical objection can be divided in to two fields:
The extrinsic objections are mainly the fear of risk. People think that GMO is risky against the benefit provided by it. People think it is unsafe and fear about this frankenfood. The GMO foods are grows rapidly and sometimes the rate is two time faster than the normal one. So people can't take it easily. Beside this people also think that GMO food or crops is not safe for the environment. Suppose the super weed canola gene flows into weedy relatives but they can kill the larvae of the monarch butterfly. Some people also think that the use of GMO crops is the injustice to the farmers. The poor farmers can't buy the seed of GMO crops in high price so this crop may make rich to richer and poor get poorer.
The intrinsic objection is that the GM process is totally wrong, no matter how benefit it gives to us. This theory goes with religious thinking. People normally think that all are created by God and only he can change the things. The power of creation is only belongs to him. No other has the right of creation. So the people think that research on genetic modification is a play with God and for this reason they don't support the GMO techniques. Most of the people can't take the change easily so they also can't take the change in cultivation too. And for this reason they can't imagine to cross the boundaries of species. The religious people can't think re production without sex. So they can't think positively about cloning or genetically modification. They also think that this genetically modification can imbalance the nature and destroy the beauty of nature.
There are objections about the GM crops but there are counter answer against these objections too. The fear about safety about the GM crops is not valid because this make us self dependant in food. We can grow more food in the same land and we can impose protein and calories in to it. The thinking about injustice is also invalid. People with few or many lands can buy the seeds with comparatively same price with before. People also say that it is not possible to play with God and they are against any kind of technical or scientific advancement but they also have to think that high tech medicine and genetically improved foods help people to get food or to be free from diseases. Agriculture system improves a lot in 19th century and now we can produce 3 to 4 times of crops and these arguments leads the scientist to create genetically modified crops which may help to overcome the increasing food shortage problem.
The district council thinks that there is no problem with GMO crops because there are some ethical issues only but not any harmful or scientific problem. So we can aware people about the positive sides of GMO crops and motivate them to cultivate GMO crops beyond religious thinking. If the district should ban the GM cultivation we may lose a big opportunity. We have prospect so we should take advantage of that.