What does a tomato, soybean, and McDonald’s French fry have in common? They are all some of the most commonly genetically modified foods sold on the market today. By using the genetic information from one organism, and inserting or modifying it into another organism, scientists can make food crops stay fresher, grow bigger, and have the crops create their own pesticides. Nevertheless, the technology to modify genes has surpassed its practicality. Genetically modified foods need to be removed from everyday agriculture because of the threat they pose to human health, the environment, and the impact on global economy.
Genetically modified (GM) foods could produce new toxic substances, and/or allergens. A gene from the Brazil nut was inserted into the DNA of a soybean plant to increase the nutritional value of the soybean. However, this particular gene in the GM soybean also produced an allergen (a substance that causes allergic reactions in people). Fortunately, the plant was not put into production (McHughen 119). Another example is of a GM tomato called “FLAVR SAVR”. The tomato is larger, tastier, and stays fresher longer than commercial tomatoes on the market. Combining conventional tomato genes with the genes of an arctic trout produces the “FLAVR SAVR”. Nevertheless, questions such as “Will people with sea food allergies be able to consume the tomato?” and “Will the trout genes in the tomato enable new bacteria growth, and thereby make the tomato hazardous to eat?” have still not been answered. This causes the “FLAVR SAVR” to be a potential hazard to human health (McHughen 14, 112). Since technology is new with regards to genetics, there is no real way of knowing whether genetically modified foods would take a negative impact on the body. An incident that occurred in 1989 concerning the nutritional supplement L- Tryptophan is one way of testing the long-term effects of a GM food (Background on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy L-tryptophan and the eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The manufacturer had apparently altered its manufacturing process to speed up production, and had not realized the toxic side effects. However, it caused a potentially fatal illness called Eosinophilia Myolgia Syndrome in which 37 people died and 1500 more were permanently disabled (Background on L-tryptophan and 5-hydroxy L-tryptophan and the eosinophilia myalgia syndrome, U.S. Food and Drug Administration). Therefore, it was taken off the market shortly after the reports of widespread illness among consumers of the supplement. Another two examples of diseases that have been created by GM crops are glufosinate (Hart 21), which causes birth defects in mammals, and glyphosate (Hart 88), which is now linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Therefore, it is evident that the general public is the guinea pig for GM food, and today’s drugs may not be able to combat the diseases that may arise from eating the food.
Superbugs are created when genes transfer from one species to another, and if an antibiotic-resistant or pesticide-resistant gene were to transfer from an organism into a disease creating bacteria, then an antibiotic-resistant or pesticide-resistant bug would be created (Miller 83). This applies to bacteria and viruses that are symbiotically related. Gene modification is indirectly making life resistant to diseases, and these bacteria and viruses will adapt to the new form of life and create new disorders. Furthermore, GM crops may make the “normal” biological pest spray obsolete. This is because pests will soon develop resistance to the spray because of the widespread planting of GM crops. Nevertheless, superbug pesticides have not yet been manufactured, nor have superbug antibiotics been created (Miller 92). Consequently, the health risks for humans through superbug infections or by eating GM food is very serious, and the consequences that may come about have the potential to be life threatening.
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