Genetically modified food, also known as genetically engineered food, are the latest contribution of genetic engineering technology. These food items are made by inserting genes of other species into their DNA. Though this kind of genetic modification is used both in plants and animals, it is found more commonly in the former than in the later. There are a variety of reasons for developing such food products. For instance, some eatables are genetically modified to prevent the occurrence of allergies after consumption, while some are developed to improve their shelf life. It is also been said that experts are working on developing food that has the ability to cure certain diseases. Some of the foods that are available in the market include cotton, soybean, canola, potatoes, eggplant, strawberries, corn, tomatoes, lettuce, cantaloupe, carrots, etc. Though developers and manufacturers make sure that there are various advantages of consuming these foods, a fair bit of the population is entirely against them.
One of the major advantages is that they help in controlling the occurrence of certain diseases. There are some foods that cause allergy to people when consumed. By modifying the DNA system of these foods, the properties causing these allergies are eliminated successfully.
It is also said that these foods grow faster than the foods that are grown in the traditional manner. Due to this, productivity increases, providing the population with more food.
At times, genetically engineered food crops can be grown at places with unfavorable climatic conditions too. A normal crop can grow only in specific season or under some favorable climatic conditions. Apart from this, it is claimed that the foods are a boon in places which experience frequent droughts, or where the soil is incompetent for agriculture, due to which it is difficult to grow normal crops.
Lower Production Costs
Though the seeds for such foods are quite expensive, their cost of production is said to be lesser than that of the traditional crops. The main reason for this is that these foods have natural resistance towards pests and insects and so, not many pesticides and insecticides have to be sprayed on them. This reduces the necessity of exposing genetically modified crops to harmful pesticides and insecticides, making these foods free from chemicals and environment friendly as well.
Longer Shelf Life
Genetically engineered foods are said to be high in nutrients, and contain more minerals and vitamins than those found in traditionally grown foods. Other than this, these foods are known to taste better. Another reason for people opting for genetically engineered foods is that they have an increased shelf life and so there is less fear of foods getting rotten quickly.
Side Effects to Health
The biggest threat caused by this food is that they can have harmful effects on the human body. It is believed that consumption of these genetically engineered foods can cause the development of diseases which are immune to antibiotics. Moreover, according to some experts, people who consume such foods have high chances of developing cancer.
Unnatural means of production
Many religious and cultural communities are against such foods because they see it as an unnatural way of producing food. Many people are also not comfortable with the idea of transferring animal genes into plants and vice versa.
Side Effects on the Ecosystem
This cross-pollination method can cause damage to other organisms that thrive in the environment.
Experts are of the opinion that with the increase of such foods, developing countries would start depending more on industrial countries because it is likely that the food production would be controlled by them in the time to come.
Besides, as these foods are new inventions, not much is known about their long-term effects on human beings. As the health effects are unknown, many people prefer to stay away from these food products. Though the advantages of genetically engineered food sound promising, the disadvantages cannot be ruled out completely.