What are transgenic foods? What are positives effects and what are adverse effects for human beings?
Food and Feed are generally derived from plants and animals which have been grown and bred by humans for several thousand years. Over time, these plants and animals have undergone substantial genetic changes as those with the most desirable characteristics were chosen for breeding the next generation.
The desirable characteristics were developed by selecting from naturally occurring variations in the genetic make-up of those individuals and breeding to combine or enhance these characteristics. In recent times, it has become possible to modify the genetic material of living cells and organisms using modern gene transfer technologies. Genes which cause expression of desirable traits (eg modified starch production and disease resistance in potato) were selected from organisms, such as bacteria, and transferred into plants, to alter their genetic material (DNA) in order to produce these desirable characteristics. For example microrganisms have been genetically modified to produce new pharmaceutical products, plants to produce pest and disease resistance and animals (eg fish) to grow more rapidly. All organisms modified in such way are called genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The food and feed which contains or consist of such GMOs, or are produced from GMOs, are called genetically modified (GM) food or feed. Organisms to which foreign inheritable genes have been introduced by genetic methods are called transgenic organisms.
The use of GMOs in food can offer benefits in agricultural practices, food quality, nutrition and health. Today the use genetic modification has already shown that an increased biological resistance to specific pests and diseases, including those caused by viruses, can reduce the need for chemical pesticides and decreasing the risk of crop failure. In China the use of GM insect resistant cotton has dramatically reduced the incidence of pesticide poisoning amongst farmer workers. In the future it will also be possible to enhance the nutritive value of crops by improving desirable functional characteristics, such as reduced allergenicity or toxicity as well as altered protein or fat content and increased phytochemical or nutrient content. This technology may help fighting malnutrition problems - such as deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, iodine, and zinc.
Introducing a genetically modified food product in the European market is strictly regulated and is dependant upon an extensive food safety evaluation. Genetically modified plants are firmly checked for their safety and only plants that are regarded as save are admitted. GMOs have been widely cultivated since 1997, and now over 60 million hectare are grown worldwide. No adverse effects on human health have been scientifically recorded in commercialised GM foods, though there have been unconfirmed reports from various sources, some of which have been scientifically investigated and found not to be associated with GMOs. In July 2003 the expert committee of the British Science Review´s panel presented an evaluation of 600 scientific proved studies concerning GMOs. The result: all previous GMO products are regarded as safe.
Regulation (EC) 1829/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2003 on genetically modified food and feed.
"Current GM foods can bring benefits but safety assessments must continue"
WHO: 20 questions