Genetically modified organisms: How safe are GMO-produced goods?

GMO treatment on a corn.

(Photo: illuminating9_11/Flickr/CC BY-ND)

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are organisms that are DNA-altered in order to include an additional gene, or genes, from another organism to give that altered organism a desired characteristic. Some of the many different modified plants include genetically altered corn, soybeans, tomatoes, rice, potatoes and wheat, to name a few. Not surprisingly, GMOs are present in many products available on supermarket shelves and produce bins today, and many people do not even realize they are eating GMOs every day.

Creation of GMOs

GMOs are typically generated using recombinant DNA technology. Recombinant DNA technology is a process that allows scientists to combine genetic materials artificially from one or more organisms. Scientists must first isolate the gene they would like to add to the plant. They then create a circular piece of DNA that contains this gene, along with other DNA sequences necessary to express the gene. Once this DNA, known as a plasmid, is created, it is inserted into the plant.

The most common way to engineer a plant is to use Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a bacterium that causes crown gall disease in plants. Some of its DNA, as well as the engineered DNA, is inserted into the plant genome. The individual plants will then be screened to determine which ones have been genetically modified. Scientists will selectively breed the modified plants. While the process may not sound too difficult, it often takes seven to 15 years to create a new market-ready GMO. To help finance some of these extensive scientific tests, these experienced scientists may at times require some special form of credit, such as a no hassle payday installment loan or just some cash until payday.

Pros and cons of GMOs

GMOs have been created for many reasons: improve nutrition, drought resistance, pest resistance, improve flavor, increase shelf-life, etc. Some supporters have even argued that GMOs can help fight world hunger and nutrition deficiencies, prevent erosion and protect the environment from the use of harmful chemicals. Those opposed to GMOs, however, are concerned about the health effects these products may have on the consumers who eat them. They question whether these plants are producing allergens and transferring unwanted genetic material across species.

Another concern critics have is the “genetic pollution” of the environment, as some of these GM plants can cross to pollinate with others. In fact, pollen from genetically modified plants has been discovered many miles away from GM fields. They are concerned about the effects of genetic pollution on natural plant species and bio diversity. They are also concerned that these plants might speed up the evolutionary process, creating super weeds and super bugs that may have negative impacts on both the GMOs and naturally occurring plants.

Implication of GMO and fishing

Recently, the U.S. FDA has been asked to approve a genetically modified salmon. This may be a viable response to the dwindling global fish supply. However, it is not clear what the effect will be on the ecosystem and current fish populations.


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