GM food involves the editing of genes of a crop in such a way that it incorporates beneficial traits from another crop or organism. This could mean changing the way the plant grows, or making it resistant to a particular disease. Food produced using the edited crop is called GM food. This is done using the tools of genetic engineering.
What are the advantages of GM crops?
GM crops are perceived to offer benefits to both producers and consumers. Some of them are listed below…
- Genetic engineering can improve crop protection. Crops with better resistance to pest and diseases can be created. The use of herbicides and pesticides can be reduced or even eliminated.
- Farmers can achieve high yield, and thereby get more income.
- Nutritional content can be improved.
- Shelf life of foods can be extended.
- Food with better taste and texture can be achieved.
- Crops can be engineered to withstand extreme weather
Why is there stiff opposition to GM crops?
- Genetically engineered foods often present unintended side effects. Genetic engineering is a new field, and long-term results are unclear. Very little testing has been done on GM food.
- Some crops have been engineered to create their own toxins against pests. This may harm non-targets such as farm animals that ingest them. The toxins can also cause allergy and affect digestion in humans.
- Further, GM crops are modified to include antibiotics to kill germs and pests. And when we eat them, these antibiotic markers will persist in our body and will render actual antibiotic medications less effective over a period of time, leading to superbug threats. This means illnesses will become more difficult to cure.
- Besides health and environmental concerns, activists point to social and economic issues. They have voiced serious concern about multinational agribusiness companies taking over farming from the hands of small farmers. Dependence on GM seed companies could prove to be a financial burden for farmers.
- Farmers are reluctant because they will have limited rights to retain and reuse seeds.
- Their concern also includes finding a market that would accept GM food.
- People in general are wary of GM crops as they are engineered in a lab and do not occur in Nature.
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