Bioengineered Food, Genetically modified foods: Harmful or Helpful?
Genetic changes in foods are natural processes that are happening over several thousand years. Traditionally, plants and animals with desirable characteristics were chosen as food and undergo breeding for future generation. Thus, genetic modification, in this sense, occurs naturally and forms the fundamental basis of evolution and breeding.
In modern form of genetic modifications techniques the particular characteristics of a living organism is indentified and getting transfer between organisms. The new technology makes it possible to copy a particular gene from a microbe and insert that copy into the cell of other organism to give the desired characteristic. For example, one company has modified a type of rice to contain beta-carotene that can help to reduce the incidence of blindness caused by vitamin-A deficiency.
The resulting plants or animals that have had their genetic material changed in some way are referred to as 'genetically modified' or 'GM' organisms. The 'GM foods' are the foods that are made of GM plants or animals or contain GM ingredients.
The term GM foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to bring about desired traits.
In the 1970s, scientists identified a method by which they could extract a specific gene from a DNA strand and insert this gene into a different organism where it would continue to make the same protein that it did in its original organism. This is the same technology that is getting applied to bacteria, plants and animals. For example, by recognizing and indenting the gene responsible for pest resistance in a plant and by copying and inserting to other plant's DNA will produce pest-resistant plants.
Benefits and Risks:
GM foods offer a variety of potential benefits and risks. The world population has topped 6 billion people and is predicted to be double in half a century. Providing an adequate food supply for this population is going to be the most important challenge in years to come. GM foods promise to meet this need by production of plants that are less vulnerable to drought, frost, insects, and viruses and by enabling plants to compete more effectively against weeds for soil nutrients. In a few cases, it has also improved the quality and nutrition of foods by altering their composition.
Although GM foods have offered a variety of benefits, it has also raised concerns about its possible risks to the environment and people. The most concerns regarding GM foods fall into three categories: environmental risks, human health risks, and economic concerns. For example, there is a fear that common plant pests could become resistant to the introduced pesticides in GM crops that were supposed to combat them. Further, some fear that crops modified to be tolerant to herbicides could foster the evolution of "super weeds." Finally, there is a fear among some that food allergen or toxin may unknowingly be created or enhanced by scientists.
As biotechnology was being developed everyone including scientists, regulators, and policymaker were in agreement that GM plants should be carefully evaluated before widespread use. Governments around the world have different approach to establish a regulatory process to monitor the effects of and approve new verities of GM plants.
The Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology that was published in 1986 was among the first regulation for GM plants and foods in United States. This framework outlined the regulatory approach for reviewing GM plants, including laws, regulations, definitions and labeling. The three major agencies responsible for this framework are including: United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug administration (FDA). In summary the EPA evaluates GM plants for environmental safety, the USDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to grow, and the FDA evaluates whether the plant is safe to eat.
The EPA function is to be a safeguard for the environment and the health of humans. EPA will regulate all genetic modification in plants that is in regard to protecting plants from insects, bacteria and viruses. The sale, distribution, and use of all plant's protectants including pesticides are under EPA regulation. The USDA is responsible for safety of GM plants such as drought-tolerant or disease-tolerant crops that are uses for animal feeds or human consumption.
The safety of the food and drug supply is primarily under the authority of the FDA. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act establish the standard for food safety as food being in a pure condition. For first time in 1992 FDA established its basic policy regarding review of GM foods in its Policy on Foods Derived from New Plant Verities. According to this policy all companies producing GM foods should notify the FDA before marketing the new product on voluntary bases. The FDA's 1992 policy was supplemented with the current Guidance on Consultation Procedures in 1997. This supplement provided clarifying procedures regarding the initial and final consultations. A rule proposed in the Federal Register in January 2001 by the FDA provided further information on these procedures and, more importantly, it would require pre-market notification by all companies.