Negative Effects of Genetically Modified Food/Crops
Genetically modified organisms refer to organisms whose genetic components have been changed to produce an unnatural occurrence. Genetic engineering refers to the technology employed in the alteration of the genetic elements, which also facilitates the transfer of genes between related and non-related species. This technology is applied in the production of Genetically Modified (GM) crops/foods in order to meet the desired objectives of the industry operators. The 1980 US Supreme Court pronouncement on the legal patentability of biological life in the Diamond vs. Chakrabartyn case opened the gateway to genetic engineering (Lex Orbis). There are some perceived benefits of the GM foods industry, both to the producer and consumer, especially in regard to increased food productivity and nutrition. Conversely, there have been reported cases on potential risks to human health and the environment due to GM foods/crops. The harmful effects of GM foods production and consumption cannot be overlooked, due to their impact on human health, the environment and socio-economic operation of a society. The introduction and widespread use of Genetically Modified (GM) foods has been met with uncertainties in regard to public acceptability due to the confirmed and potential harmful effects of this technology. GM foods are disputable for various reasons, one of them being the adverse effects of these foods to human health. There are concerns over deaths, near-deaths and diseases such as cancer and bacterial infections arising out of GM foods. Human beings need food for survival but it is incongruous to consume potentially harmful food for one’s existence just for survival. Studies indicate that there have been recorded deaths attributable to Genetic Engineering in foods. In 1989, a genetic modification of the food supplement known as L-tryptophan produced a devastating disease known as the Eosinophilia Myalgia syndrome (EMS). There were about 37 people who died from the ailment, as well as around 1500 who were physically impaired. The GM food supplement was manufactured by a Japan’s chemical company known as Showa Denko, which offered a $2 billion settlement to the victims, but investigations into the product were not carried out. In addition, initial GM tested products such as Flavr Savr have been reported as harmful to animals, evidenced by the premature deaths of the animals used in these lab tests. Further, in 1996, a company known as Pioneer Hi-Bred, the largest seed company in the US, produced soybeans with the added protein methionine, through splicing Brazil nut DNA into the conventional soybeans (Cummins, Lilliston and Lappe 36). Researchers from the University of Nebraska reported that the use of the GM soybeans may result in fatal allergies to individuals allergic to Brazilian nuts. Fortunately, the company withdrew the product from the market before any fatalities occurred. Allergenic reactions to GM foods are another area of concern to the consumer public. There has been an increasing rate of food-allergenic individuals in the nation, especially among children, which was confirmed by the Center for Disease Control. The increased alteration of diets contributes to the rising rate of food sensitivity, since GM foods are not comparable to regular foods (Nestle). Other indications of the allergenic quality of GM foods include the following: A study on GM potatoes with cod genes indicated they were allergenic; two independent studies indicated that GM Bt corn produced allergenic effects, even on the farmers who used genetically engineered Bt sprays to produce such corn; in 1999, York Laboratory researchers discovered a connection between the rise in allergic reactions to soy and the consumption of GM soy. The potential risks of GM foods extend to disease causality and bacterial infections. Scientists have established a connection between...