By: Casey Jordan | From: TrueRants Network
This article is the first in a three part series that will discuss some of what is happening in the food industry as it pertains to GMO’s and Genetically Engineering our food. A genetically modified organism or a “GMO” is a living organism that has been artificially altered and modified in a laboratory through genetic engineering or “GE” This science combines DNA from plants, animals, bacteria, and viruses that does not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. These organisms are also referred to as “transgenic” organisms.
It was at an Ivy League school in 1973 when a grad student, Herbert Boyer, found a way to restructure molecules in a DNA strand. In a laboratory at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Boyer, successfully transferred an antibiotic resistant gene from one strand of bacteria to another which caused the new strand to become resistant to antibiotics.
The science moved quickly after that and within the next year a genetically modified mouse was created by inserting modified DNA strands into a mouse embryo. After this development scientists and government officials, along with media and news agencies, began to voice concern over the potential harm of this technology to human life and the Eco-system.
Due to the increasing concern a conference was created to discuss matters and develop policies to regulate this new scientific advancement. The Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA took place in February 1975 organized by Paul Berg, a leading researcher in the field at the time. The conference included biologists, lawyers, government officials, doctors, and other concerned parties. The conference resulted in the decision to continue research on Genetically Engineering DNA despite some backlash at the idea.
It was 7 years later when the Food and Drug Administration approved a drug for human use consisting of genetically modified E.coli and swine pancreas glands. This product became known as the drug Humulin and manufactured by drug companies to be used in diabetic patients. This drug was the first of its kind to treat type 1 or juvenile diabetes. Since then many other drugs have come on the market which use genetically engineered formulas to treat many different diseases and conditions. However, drugs are not the only product that this type of genetic manipulation affects.
In 1994 the first GMO hits the produce section of the super market. Calgene, a company later acquired by Monstano, introduced the Flavr Savr tomato which was designed genetically to have a longer shelf life. The product was unsuccessful and was pulled from the shelves only 3 years after launch. A similar product manufactured by a UK company Zeneca, produced a tomato paste using similar techniques as Flavr Savr and also met a similar demise. Although these products failed to catch on, in recent years, the market has been flooded with even more GMO produce.
Unfortunately, the process of producing modified organisms has only grown into the 21st century. Monsanto, a leader in GMO and GE technology, released a pesticide producing crop that prevented insects from interacting with the crop. Later, the company released glyphosate-resistant (RoundUp) crops claiming they would make it easier for farmers to control unwanted weeds in fields. In other words, weed killer sprayed on eatable crops will not affect the growth but may leave absorbable amounts of chemicals behind. At this time, the majority of farmers use genetically modified seeds on their lands. This might sound like a great idea, but the ramifications of modifying crops are yet to be understood.
Controversies have risen regarding genetically engineered technology, with the majority being related to GMO foods. With the rapid increased public awareness of GMO’s consumers wanted labeling requirements for GE foods. 64 countries today have listened to their consumers and have mandatory labeling laws for GMO foods. The United States still has failed to provide laws on labeling GMO’s although there are many advocacy groups lobbying to enact one. These groups believe that labeling GMO foods is important for monitoring unforeseen problems associated with the technology, and giving the consumer the choice to consume GMO’s. Well as you know there are always two sides, other individuals opposing labeling claim that a GMO labeling law would drastically decrease the consumer demand for GE crops, causing a very large increase in food prices. Scientists claim the GE foods are no more dangerous than eating traditionally “organic” crops. However, there are studies that also are beginning to show a health risk associated with this type of food manipulation.
By 2050 the United Nations claims that we will need to produce 70% more food than is currently produced. With new technology emerging there are countess potential uses of GE technology. But we also have to question if this is destroying the soil? If it really is necessary in order to feed a growing populace? With genetic engineering occurring in our foods for under 30 years, do we really know what potential side effects or life treating health conditions could come?