The Future of Genetically Modified Crops

Genetically modified crops allow larger quantities of certain foods to be made at a quicker rate compared to naturally grown seeds and crops. Reasons for this vary but include plant-produced insecticides and herbicide and the ability to grow in a broader range of climates. A review published in the African Journal of Agricultural Research written by Kamil Ekici et al. (2011) discusses the potential health effects along with an explanation on the labeling requirements and methods for detecting GMOs. GM crops have been around for no more than 20 years and weren’t approved in the United States until 1992. Since then the United States has become on the top producing and consuming nations of GMOs, despite the fact little regulation of GM crops is implemented in the United States, unlike European countries which have strict statutes in place. Although they have helped to speedily feed more cattle with soybean and maize GMOs along with other crops, there have been many studies on the adverse health effects of GMOs, such as links to antibiotic resistance, presence of toxins, fungi or metals, along with the possibility of increased cancer risk and new allergens (Bakshi et al. 2003). In this article Ekici and colleagues from the Department of Food Hygiene and Technology at Veterinary College and University of Yuzuncu Yil, both in Van, Turkey, construct a certain perspective of genetically modified crops by investigating health effects, socio-cultural beliefs for and against GMOs along with labeling requirements and stating strategies to detect GMOs. –Rachel Warburton

Ekici et al., 2011;Gizzarelli et al., 2006; Warner, 2002; Heckmann et al., 2006; Dean and Shepherd, 2007 Hurst et al. 1999

Along with the adverse health risks already stated in the first paragraph, many countries find the idea of GMOs as going against socio-cultural and ethical issues across national and international lines. Other countries, such as Turkey, already regulate the labeling, tariffs and prices for retail GMOs (Emiroglu 2002). These regulations place general obligations on tracing all of the ingredients in all stages of food production. In Europe labeling is required if there are health or ethical concerns and the EU law also mandates labeling when the product is not equivalent to the existing foods (Dean and Shepherd 2007).

As for detection of GMOs, the most prominent way to conclude whether the product contains a GMO is by performing a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). PCR enables the detection of specific strands of DNA by making millions of copies of a target genetic sequence. If the sequence is specific to a certain GMO the positive PCR test tells you that the GMO is present. Other methods include nucleotide-based amplifications, protein-based and enzymatic techniques.

According to Ekici et al. most government agencies find GM crops beneficial to the consumer, while it is still up in the air whether the consumer feels the same. The European Union has more reservations about GMOs and thus has more requirements for the processing and creation thereof.

Overall there are a few contrasting ideas of GMOs and what will become of them in the future. Proponents of them see them as the “technology of the future” by promising to “solve the problem of world hunger”. Other supporters believe the genetic modification could lead to new and bettered products with sought-after attributes such as seedless fruit. The main arguments against GMOs are those stated earlier—health risks, socio-cultural beliefs, and environmental problems mostly. As articulated by Ekici et al., consumer confidence declines when a product is labeled with the inclusion of GM products and therefore food companies tend to be weary to use GM products. Nonetheless as the world continues to grow exponentially the need for food at a quicker rate will increase as well and therefore the use of GM crops will also increase.

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