Transgenic Foods Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages and disadvantages of transgenic foods
These are food organisms whose genetic information or genome is artificially changed for human consumption.
All living things have their genome organized in a set of genes, pieces of DNA with the instructions for the functioning of the cell. By means of biotechnology, genes from other beings can be introduced into plants and animals, which is called a (transgene).
This transgene allows the modified cell to perform new functions. For example, the purple or purple colored tomato is due to the introduction of the gene to generate the pigment anthocyanin from the plant Antirrihinum majus.
Like most technologies, transgenic foods have benefits and risks that must be taken into account for the greatest benefit of people.
|for the economy||Accelerated product growth
Defense against diseases
· Fight pests in agriculture
|Investment financed by large companies
· Complications to regulate and legalize its use
|for the environment||Reduced environmental impact of agriculture
Accuracy in the expected characteristics
Loss of biodiversity
Negative effects on wildlife
|To health||Fight nutritional deficiencies
Decrease of toxins
|Potential negative effects on human health
· Ethical implications
Advantages of transgenic foods
The advantages are effective for the genetically modified organisms that contribute in the different areas of human activity. Among the advantages we find the following.
1. Accelerated product growth
Entering the world of the physiology of organisms, one can discover the genes that are involved in the method of growth. This can be used to produce larger or faster growing animals or plants.
For example, transgenic salmon take half the time of wild salmon to reach adult size. This gives you a marketing advantage in less time.
2. Increased production
The productivity of agricultural crops is lowered by the presence of weeds, which compete for water and nutrients. One strategy to remove competing weeds is to change plants of agricultural interest, such as corn and soybeans, so that they are resistant to herbicides.
3. Defense against agricultural diseases
In different parts of the world, crops are attacked by viruses, fungi or bacteria that ruin them, generating great economic losses. Through bioengineering techniques, foods capable of resisting the attack of these agents can be built.
For example, papaya is affected by a virus that destroys the plant. A papaya resistant to this virus was developed, which made it possible to recover the cultivation of this fruit in many places.
4. Combat nutritional deficiencies
In different human communities there are nutritional deficiencies that generate diseases. It is usually due to the difficulty in accessing certain types of food. Supplementation is an expensive measure and is not available to everyone.
For example, in certain areas of Asia there is a vitamin A deficiency that causes vision problems and infant mortality. To combat this problem, a rice was created that could produce a precursor to vitamin A. This is known as golden rice.
5. Fight pests in agriculture
Bacillus thuringensis bacteria produce an insecticide that is commonly used to protect crops. It has been possible to insert the gene of this bacterium in some plants, in such a way that the plant can produce the insecticide itself.
6. Precision in the desired characteristics
Since the creation of agriculture, human beings have chosen the best plants and animals for their consumption. By means of artificial selection and hybridization, the production of different species was favored, but this is time consuming and fails. For example, the corn we know today took millennia and originated from a plant (Teosinte) that had just a few grains.
With biotechnology, the desired effect can be specified, for example, producing a pig with more muscles or a cow with greater milk production. This phase is faster than artificial selection or hybridization, in fact it is easier to control.
7. Reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment
The use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics are practices of the agricultural industry that disrupt the environment. With the creation of organisms resistant to pests and with higher growth, the use of toxins and substances that can alter the balance of ecosystems decreases.
8. Reduction of toxins harmful to humans
Corn that is affected by insects and is more likely to be infected by mycotoxin-producing fungi. These mycotoxins cause liver damage, are carcinogenic, and pregnant women who eat corn contaminated with mycotoxins are at increased risk of having babies with problems.
With the introduction of the gene of the bacteria Bacillus thuringensis in the corn, the levels of mycotoxin in the ears are lowered.
9. Preservation of biodiversity
With the method of more productive transgenic crops, the need to intervene in virgin sites will be reduced. Likewise, the wild fauna and flora are protected from the impact of the transformation of the forest for agricultural use.
With the reduction in the use of synthetic pesticides with a non-specific effect, the diversity of insects that do not affect crops is preserved.
Disadvantages of transgenic foods
Transgenic foods have different risks and problems if their use is not properly regulated.
1. Biological competition with the original species
One of the risks presented by the use of genetically modified organisms is that they have better development with respect to the native species, founding a competition for available resources. This can lead to the decline and potential disappearance of the original species.
2. Large investment financed by large companies
The genetic engineering phases are expensive and the big biotech companies control the market for transgenic foods. In fact, the excess of regulations reduces the economic interest to develop these organizations by public foundations. This promotes the establishment of oligopolies that can manage the market.
3. Potential negative effects on human health
Opponents of GM foods argue that genetically modifying foods can lead to allergies or other health problems. In this regard, to ensure that such an organism is safe for human consumption, various tests and analyzes are carried out before it is marketed.
Controlled studies done on GM foods show that they are no more likely to cause disease than normal foods. For example, cassava, if not prepared properly, can cause death.
4. Loss of biodiversity
One of the most worrying risks is the disappearance of native species due to the superiority of transgenic foods. This has been resolved by generating genetically varied organisms incapable of reproducing.
5. Complications to regulate and legalize the marketing of transgenic foods
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is an agreement between several countries that establishes the rules for the import and export of living organisms with variations in their genome.
But each country is responsible for founding the laws for the use of transgenic foods. For example, transgenic salmon is commercialized in Canada, while the neighboring country, the US, has fallen behind in its formation.
6. Ethical implications
Genetic management of any kind has always aroused nervousness about what is right or necessary. Ensuring food for humans could be a reason to generate more and better transgenic foods.
7. Negative effects on wildlife
The use of different herbicides on herbicide-resistant crops not only kills weeds, they can also upset wildlife, such as beneficial pollinating insects.