Genetically Engineered Foods Introduction The use of genetically engineering in agriculture and food production has an impact, not only on the environment and biodiversity, but also on human health. Therefore, thorough biosafety assessment requires, not only an evaluation of environmental impacts of genetically engineered organisms, but also an assessment of the risks that genetically engineered food pose for the health of consumers. Let us take deeper look at some of the aspects related to genetically engineered foods. What is Genetic Engineering? Genetic engineering is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change the DNA of living organisms. DNA is the blueprint for the individuality of an organism. The organism relies upon the information stored in tits DNA for the management of every biochemical process.
The life, growth and unique features of the organism depend on its DNA. The segments of DNA, which have been associated with specific features or functions of an organism, are called genes. Molecular biologists have discovered many enzymes, which change the structure of DNA in living organisms. Some of these enzymes can cut and join strands of DNA. Using such enzymes, scientists learned to cut specific genes from DNA and to build customized DNA using these genes. They also learned about vectors, strands of DNA like viruses, which can infect a cell and insert themselves into its DNA.
Scientists started to build vectors, which incorporated genes of their choosing and used vectors to insert these genes into the DNA of living organisms. Genetic engineers believe that they can improve the foods we eat by doing this. At first glance, this might look exciting to some people. Deeper consideration reveals some advantages and serious dangers. What are the advantages of Genetically Engineered Food? Genetic engineering gives todays researchers considerable advantages in plant breeding programs.
Predictability Scientist can identify the specific gene for a given trait, make a copy of that gene for insertion into a plant, and be certain that only the new gene is added to the plant. This eliminates the backcrossing, traditional plant breeders must do to eliminate extraneous undesired genes that are frequently introduced when using cross-hybridization. Significant acceleration of the development timetable. New technique takes about 5 years to remove the undesirable traits compared to 12 years of process with the traditional techniques. Plant breeders do not use recombinant DNA techniques exclusively.
Instead they use a combination of new and traditional methods to provide a plant with quality, yield, weather and pest resistance and other desirable traits. Improved quality with more choices for the customers. Genetically engineered food especially fruits and vegetables allow to have plenty of time for shipping and sale and it helps to keep the them stay ripe without getting rotten. Some of the fruits and vegetables need warm climates to grow, so most off-season store them must travel a long way after they are picked. One example is the Flavr Savr tomatoes.
To survive their journey intact, tomatoes are picked while they are green, which is a food which is a good way to avoid bruising, but which results in a tomato that is often described as having the consistency and mouth-feel of a tennis ball. In the case of Flavr Savr tomatoes, the company solved the rotting problem by inserting a reversed copy- an antisense gene of the gene that encodes the enzyme that results in tomato spoilage. This suppresses the enzyme that results in rotting, allowing the tomato to stay ripe, but not rot, up to 10 daysplenty of time for shipping and sale. Refrigeration is not necessary. What are the dangers of Genetically Engineered Food? Is it safe to eat? There has been no adequate testing to ensure that extracting genes that perform an apparently useful function as part of that plant or animal is going to have the same effects if inserted into a totally unrelated species. To consumers, most genetically engineered foods are essentially foods with added substances, usually proteins.
This is because genes are translated into proteins by cells. Therefore, when a genetic engineer adds, say, a bacterial gene to a tomato, he or she is essentially adding a bacterial protein to that tomato. In most cases these added proteins would likely prove safe for human consumption. Nevertheless, just as with conventional food additives, substances added to foods via genetic engineering may in some instances prove hazardous. Unfortunately, food allergies are poorly understood, and in many cases scientists will not be able to test potential allergenicity of genetically engineered foods. Even if there was some testing, the long term affects to humans, animals, and the environment from these modified genes escaping and mixing with unmodified ones are unknown.
Health Hazards There are several differences between the normal breeding process and the artificial genetic manipulation process. One key difference is the use of highly infectious viruses for artificial genetic manipulation as a promoter to witch on the introduced gene. Some of the viruses used are highly infectious. Genetic manipulation can increase the risk that the plant will develop toxic or allergy-causing compounds. Another possibility is that regulate exposure to foreign DNA and RNA material inserted into these artificial foods could cause allergic reactions or autoimmune disease.
Allergens A number of molecular mechanisms have also been identified through which the genetic manipulation of food producing organisms could generate new allergens or increase the allergenicity of proteins normally present in food producing organisms. Because allergen-carrying transgenic foods will in most cases maintain the appearance of their natural, non-allergenic counterparts, they pose a serious hazard to the consumer. Consumer will not be able to avoid these allergenic foods, because they will not be able to distinguish them from the corresponding natural foods. The labeling of all genetically engineered foods would, of course, solve this problem and would also make it possible for health authorities to trace allergen problem that arise. Toxins & Poisons In addition to allergenicity, recombinant proteins could manifest a variety of other biological activities, and in the case of recombinant enzymes, could catalyze the production of other compounds with biologic activities not normally present in a particular food.
For instance such substances could act as toxins o …