Ever increasing world population has an exhausted effect on agricultural production. Researchers are looking for ways to feed the whole world. This is only possible by increasing production as we cannot increase the land. Thus, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are the effort of scientists producing crops and animals with high production. Genetically modified organisms have had their DNA artificially altered, a process that would not occur naturally. This is done by introducing genes from a completely different species in order to boost them up by producing some novel proteins. First produced GMO was a mouse in 1974 and the first plant tobacco was produced in 1982. Until now, many GMOs have been produced including plants with resistance against insects, weeds, diseases and improved yield, texture, taste, flavour, longer shelf life and enhanced nutritive value. Animals are engineered to resist against diseases, and produce more meat, and dairy and poultry production.
GMOs have many advantages; for instance, insect resistance in plants which was produced by introducing BT toxin (produced by a soil-borne bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis). In 1995, BT potato was approved safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, making it the first human-modified pesticide crop to be approved in the USA. Until now, many BT crops have been produced including cotton, maize etc.
Herbicide-resistant (HT) crops have been genetically modified to resist non-selective herbicides. These crops contain genes that enable them to degrade the active ingredient in a herbicide, rendering it harmless thus farmer can easily control the weed.
Golden rice is Vitamin A enriched rice which is produced through genetic engineering biosynthesized Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious public health problem affecting millions of children and also causes blindness.
Diabetes is a serious health problem and Insulin is important for diabetic patients. Before the production of insulin by genetic engineering, it used to be extracted from dogs and sheep pancreas by slaughtering thousands of animals to produce a little amount of insulin. But now with the help of genetic engineering we can produce more amounts from small creature bacteria by introducing Insulin gene in bacteria.
In poultry, dairy, meat and eggs production, there is an important role of genetic engineering. Now we are producing billions of birds and eggs within a short time and more meat and dairy production. Scientists are trying to produce plants like algae and jatropha to produce biofuel, Plants with glowing properties, Insulin production in milk and fruits and edible vaccines in plants so that diseases can be controlled by natural foods.
Also read: Ethical concerns regarding GMOs in Pakistan
While we talk about disadvantages, GMOs have many negatives. Genetically modified organisms or products are unnatural. Nature always reverts back to its origin but human has to face consequences.
BT crops vary substantially in different parts of the plant and in the course of the growing season and are often insufficient to kill targets. This could lead to greater use of insecticides, and accelerate the evolution of insect, pest resistance to BT toxin. Traces of BT-toxins were found in about 93% of pregnant women blood tests and fetuses showing that BT-toxin is stable and can cause serious health problems. Also, GM crops could prove toxic to an organism in the environment, leading to reduced numbers or extinction of that organism. According to an agency of World Health Organization (WHO), Roundup chemicals may have probable carcinogenic effects which may have risks of cancers.
If we talk about the future of the GMOs, it’s difficult to predict either they might be diminished due to their harmful effects or flourish with more qualities in the future. GMOs are banned in more than 35 countries. Europe is moving towards Organic farming, but they still are working on GMOs which shows GMOs cannot easily be eliminated in future. Recall, genetically modified organisms or products are unnatural, nature always reverts back to its origin but human has to face consequences. By adopting proper bio-safety rules and their regulation we can reduce the harms of GMOs. On the other hand, we can produce only those GMOs or their products which are less harmful and are more useful.