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GMO are genetically modified organisms that are used in agriculture and food industry to produce plant and animal varieties that have better yield and resistance to diseases and environmental change.

This aspect has helped significantly to address the challenges faced by the food and agricultural industries caused by increasing population and demand for food.

The purpose of the study is to understand the future scope of use of GMO in the food industry and how it can address the challenges faced by these industries.

Rationale and Literature Review

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) refers to organisms whose genetic material or genome has been modified artificially through genetic engineering to produce a transgenic organism. This strategy has been extensively used in research to create bacterium, plants and animals with special characteristics that are not typical to them (Grubbs 2014). One important application of GMO has been in the food industry and agriculture to produce plant varieties that are of high yield and resistant to pathogens and pests (Jones 2015; Barrows et al. 2014).

The challenges faced by the agricultural industry in the 21st century have become significantly more daunting compared to the previous centuries (Boserup 2017). The challenge is mainly posed due to factors such as an increase in demand due to rapidly growing population, loss of yield due to infestation and diseases, loss of yield due to environmental factors and limited land resource (Ritzinger et al. 2016). However, it is possible to overcome such obstacles to some extent through the use of GMO varieties (Messing and Brodeur 2018).

Although extensive research have been done on GMO and how it can support the agriculture and food industry, more research still needs to be done on how GMO technology can support the food industry in the future (Milavec et al. 2014).

“What is the future of GMO in the food industry?”

The report will analyze the future direction of GMO and its applications in the food industry (Milavec et al. 2014). Review of literature will be done along with a thematic analysis of secondary data and develop recommendations for future studies.

Reference to the research question: 

New technological innovations in agriculture are now helping to involve a wider range of actors such as the farmers, private organizations, civil societies and the government. This raises a significant question regarding where the GMO technology is headed or what it has to offer to address the current problem of food crisis and loss of agricultural yield (Jones 2015; Grubbs 2014). Based on such concerns, the research question “What is the future of GMO in the food industry?” has been developed.

Relevant literature has been searched to identify relevant academic journals that discuss the future direction of GMO technology mainly from three broad perspectives such as: a) How technological advancements can improve resistance and yield b) Possibility of addressing the issue of food crisis through GMO foods c) Concerns about long term sustainability of using GMO technology in food industry (Milavec et al. 2014).

Research Gap

According to authors, significant advancements have been made in technologies that allow the compositional and processing characteristics of several crops through which the nature/characteristics and composition their produce can be altered (Grubbs 2014). One such example is the case of rapeseed plants where the length as well as the degree of saturation of the fatty acids produced by them can be altered through genetic modification and thus allow the production of fatty acids like laurate (typically found in vegetable oils) to be produced by the oilseed plants (Venus et al. 2017). Similarly, in potatoes, the ratio of sugar and starch can also be modified which can impact its processing quality for producing snacks and thus produce potatoes with lesser sugar content, ideal for making potato based snacks such as fries (Gheysen and Custers 2017).

New technologies have allowed the identification and manipulation of genes responsible for different types of biologically active substances such as natural toxins (like lectin and glycoalkaloids) antinutirents (like trypsin inhibitors) and allergens (such as proteins from certain types of nuts). These technologies have allowed to develop new food products in which the undesirable components can be removed and the desirable components retained (Sax 2016).

One of the biggest problem faced while storing and transporting fresh fruits as the plant tissues have a tendency to become brownish in colour very fast, especially at the surface of the cut or peel, due to which substances such as sulphides are used a preservatives (Ndakidemi et al. 2014). Through genetic modification the gene responsible for the production of this enzyme can be ‘switched off’ in order to prevent spoilage and discoloration and thus improving the shelf life of the produce and thus avoid the use of preservatives in the food (Jones 2015; Barrows et al. 2014).

Another significant and potential use of GMO is in the production of vaccines, bioplastics, drugs, industrial materials (Goffin et al. 2015). Also, cattle and sheep that are genetically modified can produce milks containing certain pharmacological compounds and thus helps in the safe production of different types of drugs in an effective and cost effective manner. Other studies have also shown that by genetically modifying banana, vaccines can be effectively delivered (Gerlach et al. 2015).

Changing the composition of different plant products can be helpful to avoid adverse impact of certain harmful components in the food and also increase the content of the good components that can aid better health. For example, reducing the content of sugar in genetically modified potatoes can help not only to make its processing much easier and efficient, but also reduce the risks of diabetes among the consumers (Grubbs 2014; Barrows et al. 2014).

Research Question

Similarly, content of substances such as allergens, alkaloids and toxicants can also be modified in the GMO that contains produce that are not allergic and have beneficial alkaloids and toxicants. Also, antinutrients in certain GMO plant produce can have a therapeutic value as it can help to inhibit the function of certain enzymes. Making foods that has lesser amount of undesirable components can further help to make the food more healthy, and thus help to improve the health and wellbeing of the population. Authors suggest that such strategies can help to reduce the dependencies on synthetic drugs which can have several side effects (Boserup 2017; Milavec et al. 2014). Drugs produced in various plant and animal products can also help to administer them more easily and with higher efficiency according to some studies (Venus et al. 2017).

These aspects clearly shows that the GMO technologies have a bright and promising future in the food industry and further studies should be done on such aspects and how they can be used to address the current food crisis facing the human population.

In the study, relevant literature was analyzed to find out the opportunities of using GMO to produce healthier foods as well as food that contain active biological ingredients that can act as medicines and help to increase the health and wellbeing of the consumers (Milavec et al. 2014). The study however has some limitations such as:

Time- Due to a restricted amount of time in which the research had to be conducted, a detailed analysis of all the relevant literature was not feasible due to which a brief review of academic journals in the last 5 years was done.

Impact on human health- Another important limitation of GMO studies is the lack of strong evidence on how GMO can impact the health of humans and also that of the ecosystem. This is an important consideration since it can affect the long term usage of GMO to address the food crisis problem.

Secondary Research- The findings have included the secondary research data on which thematic review was done. Since no primary data have been used, it was also another limitation of the study as it depended on the interpretations of other authors.

In order to progress further in the study of GMO and its viability for the future population needs, certain important aspects also needs to be comprehensively studied and analyzed such as:

Descriptive and Analytical Perspectives

Impact of GMO on human health- It is important to understand how GMO can be interfering with the normal biological processes in a cell and how it can affect the health and wellbeing of the consumers. According to some authors, usage of antibiotic resistant genes in certain plants can induce antibiotic resistance among the human gut flora, which then can then promote antibiotic resistance to clinically useful antibiotics. This can in turn increase the risks of different types of bacterial diseases among the consumers (humans and farm animals) (Gheysen and Custers 2017).

Impact of GMO on the ecosystem- Some authors have proposed that genetically modified organisms can act as invasive species, and can out compete the indigenous plant or animal populations due to its higher resistance and survivability and thus can cause a reduction in biodiversity. This can have detrimental impact on the ecosystem and thus can also affect the health and wellbeing of humans due to its effect on the food web. It is vital therefore that such aspects be thoroughly studied to understand the extent to which the GMO can be used and also how to prevent the impact of GMO on the environment and ecosystems (Sax 2016).

Conclusion

From the discussion above it can be understood that GMO can help in the development of plant and animal species that can specifically produce certain substances such as drugs, vaccines, alkaloids and toxins that are beneficial to the consumers and also reduce the content of substances that can have detrimental health impact. This makes GMO an effective vehicle for the delivery of medications and help to improve the health and wellbeing of people. However, concerns do exist on how the GMO can adversely affect the environment by reducing biodiversity and how certain genes (such as antibiotic resistant markers) can induce adverse changes in the gene of the consumers which can negative affect their health. Its is vital therefore that further studies be done on these aspects to understand whether GMO can have long term viability and use in order to address the problems of food crisis.

References:

Barrows, G., Sexton, S. and Zilberman, D., 2014. Agricultural biotechnology: the promise and prospects of genetically modified crops. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(1), pp.99-120.

Boserup, E., 2017. The conditions of agricultural growth: The economics of agrarian change under population pressure. Routledge.

Gheysen, G. and Custers, R., 2017. Why organic farming should embrace co-existence with cisgenic late blight–resistant potato. Sustainability, 9(2), p.172.

Grubbs, M.E., 2014. genetically modified organisms. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 73(7), p.24.

Jones, H.D., 2015. Regulatory uncertainty over genome editing. Nat. Plants, 1(14011), pp.10-1038.

Messing, R. and Brodeur, J., 2018. Current challenges to the implementation of classical biological control. BioControl, 63(1), pp.1-9.

Milavec, M., Dobnik, D., Yang, L., Zhang, D., Gruden, K. and Žel, J., 2014. GMO quantification: valuable experience and insights for the future. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 406(26), pp.6485-6497.

Milavec, M., Dobnik, D., Yang, L., Zhang, D., Gruden, K. and Žel, J., 2014. GMO quantification: valuable experience and insights for the future. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 406(26), pp.6485-6497.

Ndakidemi, C.F., Mneney, E. and Ndakidemi, P.A., 2014. Effects of ascorbic acid in controlling lethal browning in in vitro culture of Brahylaena huillensis using nodal segments. American Journal of Plant Sciences, 5(01), p.187.

Ritzinger, A., Di Cristoforo, R., Nolan, D. and Kenwright, J., 2016. Future challenges of changing agricultural equipment (No. AP-R521-16).

Sax, J.K., 2016. The GMO/GE Debate. Tex. A&M L. Rev., 4, p.345.

Venus, T.J., Drabik, D. and Wesseler, J., 2017. The interaction among the regulation of new plant breeding techniques, GMO labeling, and coexistence and segregation costs: the case of rapeseed in the EU.

Goffin, P., Slock, T., Smessaert, V., De Rop, P. and Dehottay, P., 2015. A versatile, non genetically modified organism (GMO)?based strategy for controlling low?producer mutants in Bordetella pertussis cultures using antigenic modulation. Biotechnology journal, 10(8), pp.1269-1280.

Gerlach, H., Gerlach, A., Schrödl, W., Haufe, S., Schottdorf, B., Shehata, A.A. and Krüger, M., 2015. Oral Application of Charcoal and Humic Acids Influence Selected Gastrointestinal Microbiota, Enzymes, Electrolytes, and Substrates in the Blood of Dairy Cows Challenged with Glyphosate in GMO Feeds. Journal of Environmental & Analytical Toxicology, 5(2), p.1.

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