Genetically modified foods are foods that are produced from organisms whose DNA has been altered. Modifying an organism’s genetic material may involve introducing new genes from other organisms. Scientists use biotechnology to transfer desirable characteristics or genes from one organism to another.
The modified plants become resistant to harsh weather conditions, insects, diseases, herbicides and salt in the soil.
Genetically modified crops produce higher yields at lower costs because farmers spend less on weed and pest control. Biotechnology also aims at improving the nutritional quality of foods. Production of genetically modified foods has effects on the environment and their consumption has effects on human health.
The Effects of Genetically Modified Foods on Human Health
Despite the benefits of genetically modified foods to farmers, many health practitioners have campaigned against the consumption of these foods. Studies conducted to find out the safety of consuming genetically modified foods indicate that they could cause allergic reactions in the human body. Other research findings indicate that the herbicides used to produce genetically modified foods are toxic and may interfere with the production of hormones in the body. Some studies conducted on animals indicated complications in gastrointestinal systems.
Jeffrey Smith conducted a study in 2003 in which he fed rats on genetically modified potatoes. He found out that the rats suffered from poor immunity, underdeveloped livers, and smaller testicles and brains.
The rats displayed structural changes in the white blood cells, which affected their immune systems. Further consumption of genetically modified potatoes led to intestinal and pancreas damage. Such research findings have been stirring reactions to genetically modified foods as doctors warn against their consumptions. Unfortunately, very few studies indicate the safety of consuming these foods. Instead, scientists continue to introduce more genetically modified crops and improve biotechnology.
Environmental Impacts of GM Foods
The production of genetically modified foods is associated with the development of tolerant weeds and insects. Genetically modified crops are either pesticide producing or herbicide tolerant. Pesticide producing crops release toxins that kill specific insects but fail to eliminate non-target species of insects. Some of these toxins are beneficial to growth of some insects that attack other non-modified crops.
As a result, farmers have to find alternative herbicides to control such insects.
This increases the negative impacts on herbicides on the environment and ecosystems. The toxins released by genetically modified crops affect the soil ecosystem and aquatic life. Some genetic modified crops and seeds are harmful to beneficial organisms in the soil.
Cross-pollination between genetically modified crops and conventional crops affects the development of conventional crops in the field.