Describe about genetically modified organism, purpose of genetic engineering, creation of GMOs, GMO food in supermarket, safety of GMO food and regulations for GMO
Genetically modified organism
Genetically modified organisms are organisms like plants, animals or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered to create new trait with desired characteristics and which does not occur naturally by mating. Recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering is used to improve breeding time and transfer traits from distantly related plants. It selects target genes and transfers it from one organism to other. It is also called transgenic organism for transfer of genes (Barrows et al., 2014).
Purpose of genetic engineering
The main purpose of genetic engineering is to increase crop yield or to improve nutrient value in food. The producers or consumers will get benefit from it. It gives producers the chance to get desired variety at low cost and efficiently market their product. They get benefit in term of durability and more nutritional value. Genetically modified seed developers produce innovative products so that it is accepted by producers. Another purpose of GMO is to protect crops through the introduction of insects or herbicide resistant varieties. For example herbicide resistance is achieved through the introduction of genes from a bacteria that is resistant to herbicides ("Q&A: genetically modified food", 2016).
Creation of GMOs
Recombinant DNA technology employs different methods to desirable traits of plants or animals. In the case of plants, genes that express the desired trait is selected in the laboratory and physically transferred to a new plant to enhance the trait in the new plant. Such plants are known as transgenic plants. Often the technique is used to produce herbicide-resistant plants. Insulin is also prepared by this process (How to Make a GMO - Science in the News. (2015). The steps for genetically modified crops are as follows:
Identification of trait of interest: Scientist discovers new trait after critical thinking to identify the desirable variety of characteristics. For example for searching a trait of the crop that will survive in the specific environment, a scientist would search for an organism that survives well in those environments. They could go for screening a list of plants; they produce a nutrient of interest.
Isolation of desired genetic trait: Scientist comparatively analyzes different varieties to decode which part of an organism's genetic composition contains trait of interest. The genome of organism with the trait in same species is compared to genome without the trait to identify genes present in the former
Introducing the desired trait into new genome: Desired genome is inserted into new organism to alter their genetic composition. For example in biotechnological research, bacteria’s are genetically engineered to produce the desired protein. Specific enzymes are used to cut and paste a DNA into the plasmid. Bacteria are then given heat or electric shock so that it accepts the genetically engineered plasmid.
Multiplying genetically modified organism: After successful insertion of a genetic trait into an organism's genome, the organism replicate with the newly engineered genome. A scientist should ensure that scientist should propagate only when they are sure that genome was modified correctly (Prado et al., 2014).
GMO food in supermarket
The food in the supermarket that is genetically engineered is rice, soybean, sugar beets, additives and preservative like aspartame, cotton, corn, dairy products, tomatoes, oils, etc. Crops like cotton have been genetically modified to resist pests. Rice is modified to produced flood resistant varieties or with the desired level of nutritional content. Some crops like sugar beets, corns, etc. are engineered to produce weed resistant varieties so that they grow faster. Soy is modified in countries to get a high level of oleic acid. Cows are also given recombinant growth hormone to increase the quantity of milk produced ("Top 20 Foods and Products that have been Genetically Modified", 2016).
Safety of GMO food
There is great debate regarding whether GMOs are safe for human consumption or not. Supporters of GMO feel that all transgenic crops and foods are properly assessed for its safety, and all national regulatory authorities adequately monitor all such products for increased risk to human health. Many people feel that they consume such foods without any adverse side-effects. But still, there is safety concern related to transgenic products regarding the possibility of allergens, toxins or other harmful compounds present in such food. The long-term effect of transgenic food is also not clear. It is difficult for a scientist to detect the long-term effect of such foods because of genetic variability in foods. Antibiotic resistance food may be harmful as the genes may enter the cells of the body through food products. It may affect the gastrointestinal tract due to the development of disease resistant variety strain that can have adverse health consequences. Allergic reactions may occur by consuming this food due to allergenicity, gene transfer and outcrossing. Outcrossing refers to the migration of genes from GM to traditional crops. It may have an indirect effect on food safety and food security (Hilbeck et al., 2015).
Regulations for GMO
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for regulating the genetically engineered food for human and animal consumption. The regulations may vary according to a different country. The USA is the largest grower of genetically modified crops. The U.S regulatory policy is governed under Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology. Before the release of genetically modified organism, food is assessed under Plant Protection Act by US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is also determined by FDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Strauss & Sax, 2016). Food Agency reviews the safety of GM food by laws such as Toxic Substance Control Act, Plant Protection Act, National Environmental Protection Act, Public Health Service Act, Public Health service Act, etc. The FDA policy gives responsibility to the producer to assure the safety of foods. FDA imposes U.S food safety law that prohibits the production of unsafe food. All genetically modified crops need to meet the legal requirement for foods. This ensures that food producers meet all obligations to supply safe food to the market. All producers have to consult FDA before marketing their products. EPA regulates pesticide in GM food to ensure that they are safe for consumers as well as the environment (Consumer Info About Food from Genetically Engineered Plants, 2016).
Barrows, G., Sexton, S., & Zilberman, D. (2014). Agricultural biotechnology: the promise and prospects of genetically modified crops. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(1), 99-119.
Consumer Info About Food from Genetically Engineered Plants. (2016). Fda.gov. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from https://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodScienceResearch/GEPlants/ucm461805.htm
Hilbeck, A., Binimelis, R., Defarge, N., Steinbrecher, R., Székács, A., Wickson, F., ... & Novotny, E. (2015). No scientific consensus on GMO safety. Environmental Sciences Europe, 27(1), 1.
How to Make a GMO - Science in the News. (2015). Science in the News. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/how-to-make-a-gmo/
Prado, J. R., Segers, G., Voelker, T., Carson, D., Dobert, R., Phillips, J., ... & Reynolds, T. (2014). Genetically engineered crops: from idea to product.Annual review of plant biology, 65, 769-790.
Q&A: genetically modified food. (2016). World Health Organization. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/
Strauss, S. H., & Sax, J. K. (2016). Ending event-based regulation of GMO crops. Nature biotechnology, 34(5), 474-477.
Top 20 Foods and Products that have been Genetically Modified. (2016).Seattleorganicrestaurants.com. Retrieved 30 June 2016, from https://seattleorganicrestaurants.com/vegan-whole-foods/top-20-genetically-modified-foods/