The term genetically modified foods is most commonly used to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants are modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits can be undertaken through traditional breeding but conventional plant breeding methods are time consuming and are not effective always. Genetic engineering, on the other hand can create plants to the desired traits very rapidly and with accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for draught tolerance and insert that gene in to a different plant. Thus the new genetically modified plant gains draught tolerance. Not only genes can be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organism also can be used. Though this kind of genetic modification is used both in plants and animals, it is found more commonly in the former than in the later. There are many advantages as well as disadvantages also in genetically modified foods.
Genetically modified foods grow faster than the foods that are grown in traditional manner for which the productivity is more. As usual normal crops grow only in the season and climatic condition favorable for it but genetically modified foods can be cultivated in unfavorable climatic condition. The seeds of the genetically modified foods are expensive than the seeds of traditional crops but the cost of production of such food is lesser than that of the traditional crops.
Genetically modified foods are more nutrients and contain more vitamins and minerals than the traditionally cultivated food. It is also believed that the genetically modified food has a better taste. People like genetically modified foods because they do not get rotten quickly than the traditional foods.
The most advantage of this genetically modified food is they help in controlling many diseases. There are some foods that cause allergy when consumed. By modifying DNA system of these foods, the properties that cause allergy are eliminated successfully.
Modern day’s farmers prefer to cultivate genetically modified food because they get more crops, can grow the crops in any climatic conditions and do not use tons of pesticides annually as consumers do not wish to eat food that has been treated with pesticides due to health hazards. These crops do not rot quickly for which the farmers get more profit.
Genetic modified crops are more resistant to pests and diseases, reducing losses and lessening the dependence on pesticides. For example, a gene that gives resistance to a fungal infection in a wild plant can be inserted into a food plant that lacks this protection. The crop is then less susceptible to fungal infection.
There are many viruses and bacteria which plant diseases. Scientists or the plant biologists are working to create plants which can resist to these diseases. Unexpected cold can destroy sensitive seedlings. An anti freeze gene induced into plants can help the plant to tolerate unexpected cold. By this the production of the crop will not be destroyed.
The biggest disadvantage of genetically modified food is that they can harm the human body. According to many experts, people consuming such genetically modified foods have more chances of developing cancer. The consumption of these foods also causes the development of many diseases which are immune to antibiotics. These foods are the inventions of this modern world, and much is not known about their long term effect on human beings. Though the disadvantages of these foods are not known, lot of people prefers to stay away from these foods.
Herbicide-resistant and pesticide-resistant crops could give rise to super-weeds and super-pests that could require powerful chemicals to destroy them.
Many genetically modified companies do not level their products as being GM foods. Not leveling the product is unfair as the consumer should have the right to know what they are buying and to decide whether they want to buy GM food or not. Some people also have moral and religious objections in taking genetically modified food.
The planting of herbicides-resistant crops might encourage farmers to use weed killers more frequently. As a result the excess use could be carried away by rain fall to pollute ponds, rivers and other water ways. These chemicals may poison fish, wild animals, plants and even drinking water also.
The advantages of GM foods are very tempting but the disadvantages cannot be ruled out.