Genetically Modified Foods and Their Impact on Human Health

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Topic: Diet & Nutrition
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Genetically modified food (GM) has become the subject of discussion in academic, research, media, and scientific circles. It basically means food that has been made either for animals or human beings using the recent technology in biotechnology, genetic engineering, recombinant DNA technology, or basically the gene technology (Thieman & Palladino, 2009).

The main characteristic which has greatly contributed to the popularity of GM foods is the fact that they contain desired characteristics like the required nutrition content. Nonetheless, the safety issue has become a matter of concern, especially due to the fact that various researches that are being conducted are revealing contradicting results.

However, the fact that there is no research that has been conducted to prove that GM foods have adverse effects on human beings complicates the issue even further. Since there are theoretical adverse effects associated with genetically modified food, it has become increasingly difficult for people to make the right food choices.

It is true that there are numerous benefits and risks tied to the consumption of genetically modified foods, but the main question is, should they be eaten. And if they should be, is labeling necessary?

The question of whether genetically modified food should be eaten or not is a difficult one and has led to a lot of controversies. However, before making major conclusions, it is important to consider the benefits of the same. To begin with, as highlighted in the introductory part, these foods are considered to be more nutritious than the foods that are found in the market.

Through the process of genetic engineering, it is possible to add some particular nutrients to foods and make them rich. There are various researches that are being conducted to ensure that nutritional enhancement becomes a reality. In addition, some improvements have been recorded, especially in countries where grain like rice contains vitamin as an added nutrient.

Apart from enriching some food crops, genetic engineering is also used to remove some allergens present in some food. By so doing, the large numbers of people who are not able to benefit from such foods due to allergy are able to consume them without any adverse effects.

Therefore, putting into consideration the innumerable benefits of genetically modified food, failing to eat such foods is actually missing a lot, and giving away too much (Whitman, 2000).

Before dwelling so much on the benefits of genetically modified food, it is important to check out some of the adverse effects of the same. Various studies indicate that there is minimal research concerning the adverse effects of genetically modified food. In relation to health, the effect of genetically modified food is an area that has not been seriously researched.

However, even after putting that into consideration, there are still some of the known risks that are associated with genetically modified food. For instance, a lot of children are seriously affected by some foods, and introducing some nutrients of such foods may lead to the creation of some new allergens. Consumption of such foods is, therefore, taking a serious risk, which can cause various health problems (State Government of Victoria, 2010 ).

Studies of Whitman (2000) indicate that in a study that was conducted to investigate the effects of genetically modified potatoes, results indicated that there is a probability of developing some problems after consuming such foods.

That being the case, it is very important to put such issues into consideration before deciding whether or not to consume genetically modified food. Nevertheless, critics stated that the gene which was introduced into the potatoes was only meant to test the methodology, and they were not to be consumed by animals or human beings. Most scientists maintain that the biggest problem associated with genetically modified food is only an allergy problem.

In view of the fact that every government is concerned with the health of its people, it is important to put into consideration the input of the government in relation to the same problem. Although all governments in the whole world are concerned, the response is dependent on the economic, political, and social factors in each country.

In a country like Japan, the government made it a law to test all the genetically modified food, although initially, it was done on a voluntary basis. Since both types of food are found in the market, the preference of normal food in on the increase while compared to the preference of the genetically modified food.

In a country like Europe, the government requires that genetically modified food be labeled, although information illustrates that the public has lost trust in the regulatory measures of the government. In countries where genetically modified food is banned, smuggling takes place such that the food still finds its way into such countries.

A country like the United States has established three bodies to regulate genetically modified foods and contains many regulatory laws not only concerning the consumption of genetically modified food but also concerning growing such foods. However, due to many rules and laws, the process of regulatory is not actually achieving the already set goals and objectives (WHO, 2010 ).

Having considered all the benefits and risks of genetically modified food, it is evident that the benefits may, by far, outweigh the risks associated with consumption. Apart from that, risks that are associated with the same have not been proved scientifically.

Allergic reactions are also the main cause of the alarm, and since they are improvements in the field of biotechnology, such risks can be prevented if genetically modified food can be tested for allergens and toxicity before they are released into the market. If the appropriate measures can, therefore, be taken, genetically modified food can pose no or minimal risk.

Labeling genetically modified food is also an issue that has raised considerable debate since some maintain that the food should be labeled while other groups think otherwise. According to Whitman (2000), a certain agribusiness company maintains that labeling of genetically modified food should be done on a voluntary basis, depending on the demand of the consumers.

However, groups that are usually for the interests of the consumers maintain that it is important for consumers to know the content of what they eat hence the reason why food should be labeled. Although in the United States, there is a law that states that labeling is important and mandatory, the law does not apply to whole foods but only to food containing some contents of the genetically modified nutrients.

This is due to the fact that the FDA maintains that genetically modified whole foods are almost similar to natural foods. In addition, the agency maintains that if labeling is to be adopted, then all the food laws on labeling ought to be changed.

The importance of labeling any food to save genetically modified food does not require any further emphasis. However, it is important to consider the costs associated with labeling or the reasons that make it be a contentious issue.

Labeling leads to an increase in cost, and the consumers are required to cover the extra cost. Taking into consideration the economic situation in most countries, it is important to consider whether it is really necessary to add an extra cost. Apart from that, manufacturing companies are required to undergo restructuring if labeling can be adopted.

This is due to the fact that the processing of the genetically modified food should be separated from the processing of natural foods. Farmers will also be required to separate genetically modified food and natural food while in the farms and also during storage before they are taken to the factory. All the processes add an extra cost, and more often than not, it is the consumers who take responsibility for the extra cost.

Apart from cost, there are other technicalities that are involved in labeling that complicate the situation even further. For instance, the acceptable limit of contamination is also a contentious issue since some groups are for 1%, while others are for 0%.

In addition, it is not even possible to detect very low levels of contamination due to a lack of resources. Scientists and researchers have not come into a conclusion regarding the level of contamination that can be detected (Whitman, 2000).

If labeling would not involve other complications and issues, then no one would go to the extent of opposing the process. However, the process is not only costly but also there are so many issues that are involved.

For instance, it is important to educate the public on food labels so that they can be able to differentiate genetically modified food from normal food. Labeling should also be done in a clear and simple language that members of the public can understand (Heller, 2006).

It is not easy to resolve contentious issues regarding genetically modified foods. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that though there are potential risks associated with their consumption, the benefit of the same may by far outweigh the risks. In addition, genetically modified food has resulted from the current development in biotechnology, and further development can result even in safer and higher quality foods.

Failure to eat such foods will not only deprive human beings of the benefit they may reap from the same but may also slow the ongoing research. Labeling is important and necessary because consumers should know the content of the food they chose to purchase. However, all stakeholders and more so the consumers should be ready to cover the extra cost.

References

Hellen, K. (2006). Genetically engineered food: methods and detection. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH.

State Government of Victoria. (2010). Genetically modified foods.

Thieman, W. J. & Palladino, M. A. (2009). Introduction to biotechnology. San Fransisco CA: Pearson/Benjamin Cummings.

Whitman, D. B. (2000). Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?

WHO. ( 2010 ). 20 Questions on Genetically Modified (GM) Foods.