GM Foods – do I need to worry?

What are GM foods?

GM have been developed over the last decade or so.  The first GM food was the tomato but now the main GM foods are corn, soya and cotton. They differ from the original varieties in that they have been genetically engineered to incorporate a gene that gives the new variety a quality that is seen as favourable. This quality might be herbicide resistance, higher nutrient content, drought resistance, resistance to decay, resistance to pests, viruses or bacteria etc

What are the advantages of GM foods?

Where crops are engineered to be resistant to herbicides, this means that farmers do not have use more expensive ‘selective’ weed killers, that is ones that do not kill the crops. This also means that all the weeds can be removed with a single application, reducing spraying and operating costs.  

Where crops are engineered to be drought resistant, they may be able to grow in drought affected countries such as Kenya, where in some areas yields have doubled using such seeds.

Where crops are engineered to keep longer, this may lead to less food wastage and if they have a higher nutrient content that’s even better.

What are the disadvantages of GM foods?

The greatest concern would seem to be that GM foods might cause allergies.  This is because the imported gene is expressed as a new protein and this may not naturally be found in the human diet. Research at the University of York in 1999 showed that allergic reactions to soy had increased 50% over the previous year. Some scientists  have gone as far as to say GM foods may increase cancer rates.  

Then there are concerns over wildlife.  There may be up to 50% more birds, bees and butterflies on organic farms.  Let’s face it, if the bees go, we will not be long after them.

Another worry is that herbicide resistant genes may escape into the wild causing the growth of ‘superweeds’ that weed killers cannot destroy.

Antibiotic resistance is already becoming a problem which leads to the rise of ‘superbugs’. If we consume GM foods which are resistant to bacteria this may add to the problem by giving us a low dose ‘antibiotic’ that bacteria can develop resistance to.  

So what do you think?  In my opinion research should be channeled into improving farming methods and technologies to increase crop yields to feed the growing world population. I also think that we, as the consumers have the right to know if we are eating GM food.   In the EU all foods containing GM ingredients must be labelled as such but in the US no such laws exist.  
I would love to hear your comments.

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