Genetically engineered foods Essay

This essay has a total of 2035 words and 10 pages.

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 today’s 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 days—plenty 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 or irritants and could
act at the biochemical, cellular, tissue or organ levels to disrupt a range of
physiological functions. An example of a class of genetically engineered foods that are of
particular concern are those that have been modified to produce biological control agents
such as the family of insecticidal Bt enterotoxins. The Bt toxin, which has been used
topically in organic farming, has powerful biological activity. If consumed in larger
amounts it can become a toxin. Plants genetically-manipulated to produce Bt toxin produce
at least 1000 times more Bt toxin per acre than does a heavy application of Bt directly on
plants. There was another case where one company genetically engineered a microorganism to
produce L-tryptophan at high levels killed almost 37 people and made 1500 permanently
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