Genetically modified crops – Pros and Cons

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GMO crops
GMO crops

Working with Crops!

Introduction to Genetically modified crops

A genetically modified organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using biotechnology. GMOs are created by introducing a new gene into an organism’s genome or removing one from it. The term GMO was coined in 1962 to describe organisms undergoing recombinant DNA technology. In contrast with other engineered microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria, which have no cells outside their genomes, most GMOs contain genes derived from another species.

What are the types of modifications?

Transgenic

Transgenic plants have genes inserted from another plant, and the inserted gene Can be from the same or another Kingdom.

Cisgenic

Here the genes are incorporated from the same species or the related ones.

Subgeneric

The plants are genetically modified using Gene knockout or knockdown to alter the genetic makeup.

Multiple trait generation

Several traits are included in a new crop to create variation.

What are the Reasons for developing GM crops?

To increase the yield.

Plants are genetically modified to fulfill the needs of the increasing population worldwide. The crops generally provide a higher yield than the other ones.

To increase the shelf life.

The crop’s shelf life is increased due to genetic modifications.

Stress Resistant

Plants have been modified to withstand the non-biological stress and tackle drought, Soil salinity, climatic Conditions, etc.

To Repel Insects

Crops like Tobacco, Corn, Rice, and some other crops have been given the gene of insecticidal proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis. These Bt crops have reduced the total volume of insect attacks considerably.

To resist viral infections.

Papaya, Potatoes, and Squash, as they are infected with viral diseases such as Cucumber mosaic virus, Leaf curl virus, Etc. are incorporated with viral resistant genes to tackle the disease.

Production of Drugs

In 2012, the FDA approved the first plant-produced pharmaceutical, a treatment for Gaucher’s Disease Tobacco plants have been modified to produce therapeutic antibodies.

GMO crops
Quality control food safety inspector working with vegetables in a laboratory

What are the Disadvantages of GMO Crops?

Production of toxins

GM crops can produce pesticides or herbicides, which would be harmful for human consumption. The use of pesticide-producing plants has been linked with cancerous tumors in animals. It was found out that rats fed with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn developed more tumors than those not given this type of food. The same thing happened with Bt toxin-producing maize.

Reduced nutritional value

GM crops can reduce their nutritional values by containing fewer vitamins or minerals than nonmodified plants. The reduction in nutrients occurs because the plant has been altered through genetic engineering techniques, and the reduced nutrient content makes them unsuitable for human consumption.

Disruption of biodiversity

The same thing applies to pesticides. If they become too abundant, pests would likely evolve ways to resist or avoid them. In other words, if we continue using pesticides without any changes, we risk losing effectiveness over time.

Release of toxins to soil

It was recently discovered that GMOs could release toxic substances into the environment through pollen drift or other means. This substance in our water supply would pose serious health risks for us. The problem arises because GMO seeds contain herbicide-resistant traits, making them less susceptible to pesticides. When they fall off the plants onto the ground, they contaminate the surrounding areas.

Social and Ethical Concerns

GMOs have long-term effects at present. In addition to health and environmental issues, the production of GM crops has become the center of social and ethical debates.

Conclusion: The future of GMOs

Despite what we know about the dangers of GMO foods, people still believe that the potential benefits of using them outweigh any possible harm. For instance, if farmers could produce more nutritious fruits and vegetables without using toxic chemicals, why wouldn’t they?

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