A genetically modified organism (GMO) is a type of organism in whose case the genetic material is altered by the use of genetic engineering methods. The proper meaning of a genetically modified organism and what makes up genetic engineering could vary, the usual being an organism modified in such a manner that is not perceived naturally by natural recombination and/or mating. Different numerous types of organisms have been modified genetically, whether animals or plants or microorganisms. The transfer of genes has been done within the same species, cross species (making transgenic organisms) and even cross kingdoms. Introduction of new genes, or enhancement of endogenous genes, altered or knocked out, is possible.
Genetically modified farming can be classified into two major modules, genetic modification in animals and genetic modification in crops.
Genetically modified animals are those animals which are genetically altered for different tasks and purposes such as drugs production, yields enhancement, increasing disease resistance, etc. Most of the genetically modified animals are, yet, at the stage of research and development with the prospect of introduction to the market quite minor. Animals that are being used for these purposes include chickens, goats, pigs, sheep, dogs, fish, rats, mice, etc.
The question that arises here is, why genetically engineer animals? According to the study of genomes of domestic animals by the scientists, detailed information about genes and the aspects that are controlled by them has been gathered. We are now capable of perfectly introducing different genes into the genome of another animal by picking genes that control advantageous traits, so the formed genetically modified animal will possess those enhanced traits.
Genetically modified crops (biotech crops) are genetically altered plants using genetic engineering techniques) which are used in agriculture. The purpose behind this research is to analyze the affect in practice by introducing a new trait into the plant which the plant did not possess naturally. Examples of new genetically engineered modifications in food crops involve resistance to pests, diseases, environmental imbalances, reduction of wastage, resistance to chemical treatments, or improvement of the nutrient profile of the crop. Examples of genetic enhancement in non-food crops involve pharmaceutical agents production, biofuels, industrial goods, and for bioremediation.
The country of Pakistan is a great example of a thriving agricultural supplier that transports crops to different countries, for example, our neighboring country Afghanistan, the Middle East, multiple Central Asian Republics, etc., as well as meet the requirements of its own citizens. However, over a period of the past few years, our country Pakistan is facing some highly challenging problems, such as drought, increased salinity content, waterlogging, and incompetent watering canal system, climate changes, etc. All of these challenges have raised doubts about the food security of Pakistan and such different places in the world. Pakistan’s population is about one hundred and eighty million now and expected to increase till two hundred and forty million by 2035. Therefore, to solve these problems, one way that is being used worldwide is the genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Now that the concept of genetic modification has been cleared, its advantages and disadvantages are yet to be discussed. Genetic modification has now become the center of focus for different sectors, especially agricultural, industrial and economical departments. Such a case is of food engineering where GMOs are the future. The most crucial advantage of genetically modified foods is that the yields of crops turn out to be more constant and generative, giving way to a higher amount of food production for the people. According to scientific research and analysis, the world currently generates about 20% more food calories than what is deemed as a healthy amount for the human body.
GMOs have multiple advantages, but they also have a few disadvantages. Studies conclude that genetic alteration to foods combine proteins that the human body is not accustomed to digesting. This could enhance the chances of allergic reactions to occur. Since the year 1999, the rate of food related allergic reactions in children has risen from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent.
Advantages of GMOs
Losses of yields of crops because of pests can be vast, resulting in great financial loss for farmers and a blow to the agricultural sector. Farmers usually use multiple tons of chemical pesticides annually, but the consumers avoid eating food treated with harmful chemicals such as pesticides because of the potential danger to health and agricultural wastes from treated yields could poison the water supply and cause environmental harm. Opting for genetically modified foods can help in eliminating the requirement of pesticides during farming and thus reducing the overall cost of selling crops.
One more advantage that genetic modification technology has been found to have is that the crops can easily be engineered and altered to withstand extreme weather and such imbalances, which ensures good quality and adequate yields even under severe weather conditions.
Decrease in Global Warming:
Areas previously deemed unsuitable for farming can easily be used for farming now with genetic modification techniques, therefore, increase in farming can lead to positive environmental results such as increase of oxygen in the environment, decrease in the percentage of carbon dioxide and, in thus, a great reduction in global warming.
Disadvantages of GMOs
According to the research conducted by the Brown University, recent genetically modified foods could present allergy risks to consumers. The analysis states that genetic modification usually adds/mixes proteins that were not compatible with the original animal/plant, which may result in new allergic reactions in our body.
It increases the cost of cultivation and more inclined towards marketization of farming that work on immoral profits.
Danger to health and environment:
The transgenic crops endanger not only farmers but also the trade and environment as well. It is biologically altered. Hence, biotech foods may pose a human health risk.
Everything in this world conquered by technology and science has its advantages as well as drawbacks and GMO is no exception. Keeping the disadvantages in mind, genetic modification should not be overdone but as it does have a high positive impact as well, completely eradicating the concept of genetic modification will be impractical.