Even minor tampering with nature is apt to bring serious consequences, as did the introduction of a single chemical (DDT). Genetic engineering is tampering on a monumental scale, and nature will surely exact a heavy toll for this trespass.
Dr. Eva Novotny
Shocking, isn’t it? Experts say 60% to 70% of processed foods on U.S. grocery shelves have genetically modified ingredients. The most common genetically modified foods are soybeans, maize, cotton, and rapeseed oil. That means many breakfast cereals, snack foods, and foods made with cottonseed and canola oils could likely have genetically modified ingredients. These ingredients appear frequently in animal feed as well.
What is more shocking is that a new USDA-funded survey shows that researchers from the Food Policy Institute at Rutgers’ Cook College found that only 52% of Americans realized that genetically modified foods are sold in grocery stores and only 26% believed that they have ever eaten genetically modified foods.
What is genetically modified (GM) food?
Genetically modified food uses modern biotechnology or ‘gene technology’, which is also called as Genetic engineering, which allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one plant species to the other and then used to grow GM plants and food crops.
Genes from animals and other plants are literally shot into the cells of plants to create “super crops” that are larger, more resistant to bugs, and have longer shelf lives. One example may be to take genes from a fruit fly and inject them into a tomato, attempting to make the tomatoes repel the flies. And guess what, now we’re eating the genes of that fruit fly. And you didn’t even know it…
Why are GM crops grown?
The fundamental aim of GM foods is to increase crop production and conquer world hunger. GM foods are developed and marketed with a belief that these foods are cheaper to grow, have better nutritional value, are more insect resistant and more resistant to plant diseases caused by bacteria, fungi and viruses. There is a belief that GM foods will result in lesser quantities of herbicides used.
Insect resistance is overcome by incorporating the gene for toxin production from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) into the food plant. This toxin is currently used as an insecticide in agriculture and is safe for human consumption. GM crops that permanently produce this toxin have been shown to require lower quantities of insecticides in specific situations, e.g. where pest pressure is high.
Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses, which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses.
Why are GM foods potentially dangerous?
The Possible Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food
Health experts, Green peace and several consumer health activists are worried that GM foods will have:
- Direct health effects on the body
- Tendencies to provoke allergic reaction
- Specific components may have toxic properties
- The stability of the inserted gene is questionable
- Nutritional effects associated with genetic modification are not known
- If it will cause any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion
- It may create Antibiotic resistance
- A Bit Different to the way Nature Works
- It may lead to the “creation of “super” weeds and other environmental risks
- Long Term Effects of GM foods are Unknown
- GM foods have not been adequately tested
GM foods can potentially threaten our very existence as a race. We have all got to get together to force our respective governments to take a more holistic approach to this problem and look at it from the safety, food security, social and ethical aspects. A coordinated international initiative should be evolved so that GM foods are more systematically re-evaluated for potential human hazard.
Dr. Rajesh Vishwanathan, MBBS, became disillusioned with the impersonal and aggressive allopathic system and trained and qualified in Yoga, meditation, Naturopathy and Homeopathy. He dreams of Integrating Allopathic medicine with the Alternative systems of healing.