Article by Shreya Borthakur (Tezpur University)
There has been a noted increase in GMO food stuffs hitting the market in the last few years but this introduction hasn’t gone down well for everyone. Many consumers still search for the “contains no GMO” label on the food they buy. Well, what are GMOs and why are people so afraid of them?
A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is an organism in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/orrecombination. “Organism” can refer to a plant, animal, or microorganism and GMO food stuff can be from any of these categories. Since the produce is not natural and is a product of human intervention, many people view this kind of modification as “messing with nature” and hence conclude that its not safe to consume. There are a group of activists who call themselves “Anti GMO activists” who use religious beliefs to preach that GMOs are not safe but scientists have debunked all their theories. The allegations they have made till date are anti-scientific and very theological. Other than rampant activists, many common people feel that GMO foods may be less nutritious, a claim that has not been proven. Some argue that GMOs are or might be harmful to the environment. On the contrary, genetic engineering often reduces the amount of pesticides needed to produce a crop — making the plants both safer to eat and reducing the amount of chemicals from pesticides that get released into the environment.
With such allegations running around, awareness about GMOs is very necessary. Farmers have been intentionally changing the genetic makeup of plants for more than 10,000 years. Nearly every vegetable, grain, and fruit that is commercially available today has been altered by humans along the way. The genetic modification is not complex as it sounds. Simple cross breeding done by farmers can result in a GMO too! Once farmers saw that crossbreeding crops produced plants that were more palatable or more disease-resistant (or both), the practice became standard. It is this not-so-new technology that allows plants like corn to be resistant to certain insects and soybeans to be able to survive drought.
In the spring of 2016, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NAS), USA, issued a comprehensive report which answered the question: are GMOs safe? A panel of more than 20 scientists, researchers, agricultural and industry experts reviewed over 20 years of data since GMOs were introduced, including nearly 900 studies and tests and European and North American health data. They concluded – as other previous research concluded – that GMOs are safe to eat.Extensive and continued GMO safety studies are being conducted to ensure GMO foods are safe. In addition to the NAS analysis, there are thousands of studies available confirming the safety of GMOs, as well as hundreds of independent studies that explain why GMOs are safe. Also, most people are not aware of the extensive pre-market testing on the safety of GMOs that must be done before any GE crop is allowed to be commercialized. In reality, GE crops are tested 10-50 times the level of non-GE crops to ensure that GMOs are safe to eat. The testing examines potential hazards and the likelihood of exposure to determine the overall risks for GE crops and derived foods.The researchers found that GMOs have the same nutrition and composition as non-genetically modified crops and have no links to new allergies, cancer, celiac or other diseases. So, are GMOs unhealthy? No more than their non-GMO equivalents.
As long as the food products are FSSAI approved for our country and comes from a trusted source and are in accordance to scientific techniques, GMO containing food is safe to be consumed.So, in the absence of any scientific evidence showing that GMOs negatively impact human beings in any way, I say, give me my GMOs!