Genetically Modified Food: Do We Really Need It?

One may have often read in magazines, or newspaper supplements about the advantages of Genetically Modified Food and how they are a boon for your health. Apart from being more nutritious than natural food, they are also devised to be resistant to the pests and weeds, however as it is said that “all that glitters is not gold”, one must see and examine the truth behind the GM food, and whether is it actually as tempting an option as it seems.

Environmental activists religious organizations public interest groups, professional associations and other scientists and government officials have all raised serious concerns , and have criticized agribusiness for pursuing profit without concern for potential hazards and the government unable to exercise adequate regulatory oversight.

A study conducted last year showed that Bt Corn led to increase in the mortality rate of the Monarch butterfly caterpillars, and it is not possible to design a Bt toxin that would only kill crop damaging pests and be harmless to other insects. Another serious concern is that just as some of the mosquitoes have developed resistance tot the now banned pesticide DDT, insects might become resistance to Bt and other crops that have been designed to produce their own pesticides. Also another concern is that crop plants engineered for herbicide tolerance and weed s will cross breed resulting into the transfer of herbicide resistant genes from the crops to the weeds.

Apart form the environmental hazards pointed out above there are also some potential human health risks pertaining to GM Foods. Many children in the US and Europe have developed life threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. It is feared that introducing a gene into a plant may create a new allergen or cause allergic reaction to susceptible individuals. A recent study in which a batch of rats was fed GM Potatoes and another batch was fed unmodified potatoes, it was found that there were appreciable differences between the intestines of the rats which were fed GM Potatoes and those rats that were fed unmodified potatoes. Also since 2004 in India cotton workers have developed allergic reactions to only Bt Cotton and not to other conventional varieties.

There are several economic concerns also, as bringing GM foods to the market is a lengthy and costly process and that agro biotech companies also wish to get profits on their investments. Many new GM foods have been patented and this would again lead to increase in the price of GM Foods to such an extent that small farmers and third world countries would be unable to afford the seeds of such GM Food crops. Also patent enforcement is a serious concern as seen in the defense taken by the farmers in a lawsuit filed against them by Mosanto, they could easily take the defense that their crops were cross pollinated. The only method to combat this problem is to introduce suicide gene into GM Plants, so that these plants would be viable only for one growing season and would produce sterile seeds that do not germinate, this would make farmers buy new seeds every season, however again this would prove disastrous for the farmers of the third world countries who will not be able to afford to buy the seeds every growing season.

Thus though GM Food might have many potential benefits but they are not natural and this opens the door for many unknown disadvantages and that one can never be sure of these products as they have been known to pose sever health risks such as allergies, immune system function, infertility etc.

There is enough food in the whole world but the hunger crisis is caused by the unequal distribution of food, so rather than offering people food that may carry any degree of risk we should work towards rectifying the problems in distribution of food in order to overcome the hunger crisis.

Akriti Chaubey

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