Benefits and Concerns of Using Genetically Modified (GM) Foods


Plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but in more recent time the use of genetic engineering has become more popular. Genetic engineering involves the process of selecting a single gene for a single characteristic and transferring that stretch of DNA from one organism to another. Also, it involves the process of cutting, copying and pasting of DNA within one organism. GM foods have many benefits and concerns; some concerns relate to the environment and health while some are ethical concerns.

Benefits

- improves food flavor
- improve food texture
- improved nutritional value of food
- increases shelf life of food
- improves food productivity (reduces maturation time of crops, increase crop yields) so more food can be grown
- could incorporate anti-cancer substances and reduce exposure to less healthy fats
- make plants more resistant to disease, herbicides, and insect attack
- provide more food and be more tolerant to heavy metals
- decreases the cost of food.

Concerns

- outcome of alterations uncertain as not enough is known about how genes operate
- inserted gene may become unstable
- may cause disease as antibiotic-resistant genes could be passed to harmful micro-organisms
- genetically engineered genes may escape to contaminate normal crops with unknown effects
- gut bacteria can take up genes and GM plasmids and this opens up the possibility of the spread of antibiotic resistance.
- It may lead to development of allergies.