Over the past few years, much has been discussed about GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms. Scientists, researchers, farmers and end users, all have varied opinions. Some are advocating for its use while others are in no mood to adopt this technology.
The problem lies in the fact that most of us are having a little idea of the GMOs & the technology behind it. Let’s first have an understanding of GMOs so that you yourself can decide whether it should be promoted or not.
1. What exactly are GMOs
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines GMOs as an organism who’s DNA has been altered in a non-natural way. Similarly, genetically modified foods are foods that have been genetically altered using engineering techniques. The most common technique that is used nowadays is “Recombinant DNA technology”. This technology combines different molecules from different plant species to create a plant with a new set of genes, that is, a hybrid plant.
2. Why GMOs
Scientists genetically engineer GM seeds for many reasons. One of them is producing plants that are more resistant to diseases and pest. With so many crops being lost due to insects & pests, this could be a great help to the farmers especially in underdeveloped & developing countries.
Another important purpose of developing GMOs is to enhance the nutritional value of certain crops. Take an instance of Golden Rice, a type of GMO food that is rich in Vitamin-A. In underdeveloped countries, children are usually diagnosed with a deficiency of Vitamin-A resulting in blindness, weak immune system function and alike. This deficiency could be cured if they’ll include Golden rice in their regular diet. But the controversies related to GMOs are a big obstacle in practically implementing them.
3. Effect of GMOs on environment
GM plants are usually changed to be insect resistant, virus resistant, or herbicide tolerant. With these changes come some potentially problematic environmental challenges.
Firstly, toxicity is a huge issue surrounding chemical pesticides and herbicides, used commonly with GMOs, in addition to the toxicity inherent to these plants. GMOs may be toxic to non-target organisms, bees and butterflies being the most talked-about examples currently.
4. Benefits of GMOs
It has been a matter of debate that whether GMOs are beneficial to mankind or not. According to the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the benefits of genetically modified crops is a better taste, increased nutrients, resistance to disease and pests, and faster output of crops.
Secondly, it could be a great help to farmers who can grow more food on less land with genetically modified crops.
5. Risks of GMOs
There are several controversies related to the GMOs. The most notable GMO risks to humans are the potential development of allergens to GM related crops and toxicity from GM crops. Other negatives that stem from GMOs is that scientists are tampering with nature by mixing genes and no one knows what this is doing to the animals or to the environment.