Genetically Modified Foods

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Interview with Zeina Ghossooub El Asswad

GMOs have raised many concerns throughout the past few years, including ethical concerns that humans are playing the role of the creator by manipulating gene sequences. Genetically modified foods are a new technology as such, not enough research has been done in order to draw a clear line about their safety. According to experts GMOs have many benefits, but on the other hand they may have many risks.  Since GMOs are widely used, for now experts just hope that they will not have a detrimental effect on humanity. 

World Environment Magazine: What Are Genetically Modified Foods (GMO)?

Zeina Ghossoub El Asswad : Genetically Modified Organisms have been modified by altering their genetic material in a way that does not occur naturally. GMO is a method of breeding that offers the opportunity to develop a wide variety of new crop cultivars. Cloning and DNA sequencing of specific genes is done in a way that allows for complete plants to be regenerated via cell and tissue culture. This way the increasing demand for food supply can be achieved.
WE: What are the types of GMOs?

Z.G.A: There are different types of GMOs. The types include: herbicide tolerant, insect resistance, disease resistance, increased shelf life, altered nutritional value, better looking, and others. Each type has its own characteristics and works by producing an enzyme, producing a barrier, or altering the target enzyme.

WE: What are the Advantages of GMOs?

Z.G.A: There are many benefits to GMOs and these include: foods with higher nutrient value and a more palatable taste, faster growing plants, plants that are resistant to disease and drought and therefore require less resources and pesticides, increased supply of food with reduced cost and longer shelf life, foods that can be used as vaccines or other medications, and more foods with better traits for example potatoes that absorb less fat when fried.

WE: What are the Disadvantages of GMOs?

Z.G.A: The problem lies in whether or not these foods may be harmful to humans and the environment. Not enough research has been done to predict the future consequences of GMO, and there are some consequences we cannot predict altogether. GMO’s may have genetic changes that could be harmful. Original organisms may become extinct if the genetic material of the GMOs is dominant over their own. This would result in a change in our natural environment and ecosystem. Another problem would be that the genetically modified plants may be less resistant to some pests and more susceptible to others. At this point, we do not know enough about them to be able to predict. GMOs have the possibility of causing allergic reactions by transferring the protein allergen that has been introduced from another food. Scientists can test to see if the structure of the known allergen is similar to that of the genetically modified one.

WE: What do the legal authorities say?

Z.G.A: The FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, requires proof of safety from developers of foods and food products that contain allergens. The FDA has the authority to ensure the safety of all domestic and imported foods for man or other animals in the United States market. It ensures that all the products that have been put in the market place are safe for the consumer to use, this includes all the bioengineered foods and the substances added to them. The substances that have been added to bioengineered food up till now have been described as safe and very similar in function to the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in the natural organisms. Therefore they are presumed to be safe.