Genetic modification is a special set of gene technology that alters the genetic machinery of such living organisms as animals, plants, or microorganisms. Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology and the resulting organism is said to be ‘Genetically modified (GM)’, ‘Genetically engineered’, or ‘Transgenic’. The principal transgenic crops grown commercially in the field are herbicide and insecticide-resistant soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola. Like all new technologies, they also pose some risks, both known and unknown. Controversies and public concerns surrounding GM foods and crops commonly focus on human and environmental safety, labeling and consumer choice, intellectual property rights, ethics, food security, poverty reduction, and environmental conservation.
What is GM Foods?
Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. Currently, available GM foods stem mostly from plants, but in the future foods derived from GM microorganisms or GM, animals are likely to be introduced on the market. Most existing genetically modified crops have been developed to improve yield through the introduction of resistance to plant diseases or increased tolerance of herbicides. GM foods can also allow for reductions in food prices through improved yields and reliability.
How are GMOs made?
“GMO” (genetically modified organism) has become the common term consumers and popular media use to describe foods that have been created through genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is a process that involves:
- Identifying the genetic information—or “gene”—that gives an organism (plant, animal, or microorganism) a desired trait
- Copying that information from the organism that has the trait
- Inserting that information into the DNA of another organism
- Then growing the new organism.
Qualifications of GMO in Foods
Testing on GMOs in food and feed is routinely done using molecular techniques like DNA microarrays or qPCR. These tests are based on screening genetic elements like p35S, tNos, pat, or bar or event-specific markers for the official GMOs like Mon810, Bt11, or GT73. The array-based method combines multiplex PCR and array technology to screen samples for different potential GMOs combining different approaches viz. screening elements, plant-specific markers, and event-specific markers. The qPCR is used to detect specific GMO events by the usage of specific primers for screening elements or event-specific markers. Controls are necessary to avoid false positive or false-negative results.
Consumer Attitude towards GM Foods
Consumer acceptance is conditioned by the risk that they perceive from introducing food into their consumption habits processed through technology that they hardly understand. In a study conducted in Spain, the main conclusion was that the introduction of GM food into agro-food markets should be accompanied by adequate policies to guarantee consumer safety. These actions would allow a decrease in consumer-perceived risk by taking special care of the information provided, concretely relating to health. For, the most influential factor in consumer-perceived risk from these foods is concern about health
GM foods have the potential to solve many of the world’s hunger and malnutrition problems and to help protect and preserve the environment by increasing yield and reducing reliance upon synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Challenges ahead lie in many areas viz. safety testing, regulation, policies, and food labeling. Many people feel that genetic engineering is the inevitable wave of the future and that we cannot afford to ignore a technology that has such enormous potential benefits.