Genetically modified food has more enemies than supporters in recent times.
What is a genetically modified organism? – is an organism whose genome has been changed by genetic engineering methods to obtain new physiological traits or to change existing ones. Plant modifications rely on the introduction or removal of specific genes from them and are designed to increase resistance to viral, bacterial and fungal infections, increase resistance to herbicides and pests, improve nutritional value, extend durability, increase tolerance to weather conditions, or remove anti-nutritional substances . The intention is right, but the true environmental effects of GM crops can be observable even in 30 or more years.
GMO food is generally available in supermarkets, and consumers do not usually think about what they buy. The products we buy every day, such as cold meats, cookies, vegetarian products or yoghurts, may contain genetically modified ingredients. Awareness of the fact that genetically modified food can harm is still very low. Maybe because there is a continuous dispute between supporters and opponents of GMOs, which no one is able to resolve, and governmental organizations do not send unambiguous messages about the impact of GMOs on the human body. The most commonly modified plants in the world are corn, soybean, tomatoes, potatoes, cotton and rape. Contrary to popular opinions, wheat grown in our country is not a GMO plant only with a hybrid breeding cross. Another incorrect interpretation is, for example, a fairly common food additive – modified starch, which some associate with the raw material of GMOs. Indeed, the name modified starch does not refer to GMO food. In Poland, no GMO crops are grown, but it is exported. According to estimates, 90% of imported soya, maize and rapeseed are genetically modified plants.
DNA of potentially harmful GMOs
Genetically modified foods A critical review of their promise and problems by Chen Zhang, Robert Wohlhueter and Han Zhang shows that genetically modified plant organisms can be harmful to the body. To make matters worse, this impact is not always detectable or evaluated. The authors of the study report that the three main risks associated with the impact of GMOs on health are its toxicity, allergenic properties and genetic risks, including, for example, the penetration of altered DNA into the DNA of organisms feeding on transgenic food. The effects of toxic effects of GMO foods are in their opinion difficult to distinguish from the effects of allergenic effects.
The allergenic properties of GMO food result from the fact that genes from plants for which the consumer is allergic are transferred to food genes that the consumer is not allergic to. For example – with a gene from Brazil nuts was transferred to soy. As a consequence, it turned out that soy products started to cause allergies more often than before. The toxicity of GMO foods may in turn result from the fact that the changed genes may cause an unexpected effect consisting in the activation of previously unknown plant protection mechanisms, eg the production of toxic substances for humans, arising eg in the process of digestion.
GMO food is widely available
Genetically modified food is available in stores around the world. These are products containing e.g.
– soy protein from modified soya
– corn glucose-fructose syrup from modified maize
– meat from animals fed with GMO feed.
The mRNA molecules present in rice in the opinion of Chinese scientists can penetrate into human cells and regulate gene expression (see Zhang L. Hou D., Chen X. Exogenous plant MIR 168a, specifically mammalian targets LDLRAP1by microRNA, Cell Research 2011). Similar risks are associated with the above-mentioned genetically modified products. The harmful effect of genes of transgenic organisms on the human body may also consist in changing the composition of the intestinal flora. As indicated in the article Genetically modified food – a great unknown by G. Cichosz and SK Wiąckowski, plasmids can take genes from transgenic plants, and the amount of genetic material of intestinal microflora is up to 50 times greater than the amount of human DNA.
Some scientists are going a step further – the network can already be seen with the opinion that DNA penetrating the food of GMOs into the body leads to serious inflammation that underlies diseases such as colitis, cancer and colorectal adenoma. DNA from GMO foods affecting the bacterial flora weakens the natural protective barrier.
Researchers and their concerns
The scientists’ discovery did not affect the policy or activity of GMO seed and food corporations, which has been on the market for two decades. GMO food is still produced and promoted. Independent research centers warn of the unknown consequences of the penetration of foreign genes into the human body and recommend that you choose products that do not contain GMOs.
What distinguishes GMO plants?
GMO plants differ from ordinary plants in that they have better survival abilities. For example, they can tolerate glyphosate, which is a component of herbicides. Although it accumulates in parts of the plant, it does not cause its growth disturbance. Maize and cotton subjected to genetic modification can produce the Bt toxin themselves. GMO plants contain substances that are not inert to the body and may promote the emergence or intensification of gluten intolerance. Bt toxin destroys insects by penetrating through the digestive tract and creating losses in it. Unfortunately, it also harms human cells. Glyphosate accumulated by GMO plants leads to disturbances of mineral absorption causing their binding in the gut. Glyphosate works not only herbicidal but also bactericidal. It can therefore lead to disturbances of the intestinal bacterial flora.
The fact that consumers are threatened by scientists with the negative impact of genetically modified food on health has been said for a long time. The origins of GMO food date back to 1973, and the first field trials took place in 1986. Currently, it is easily available. Slowly, scientists combine some unfavorable trends with its growing consumption, but this is too little to convince die-hard supporters to stop its production. With GMOs it can be like with pesticides. Although at the beginning they did not talk about their harmful effects on health, now we no longer have the slightest doubt about it. Yes or no, carefully read the labels. Under EU law, any product containing at least 0.9% of genetically modified ingredients should contain such information on the packaging. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the labeling of dairy and meat products originating from animals fed with GMO feeds, because according to official research approved by the European Union – modified DNA does not pass to the animal body, thus the product of animal origin is not GMO – therefore it is excluded from the obligation markings. On the other hand, our Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development develops regulations enabling the labeling of products produced without the use of genetically modified organisms as GMO-free.
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