What is a genetically modified food?
Genetically modified refers to when a plant or animal’s genetics have been SPECIFICALLY ALTERED OR CHANGED from their natural state . It is manipulative genetics to provide a “desired state or effect”
Think about when you eat watermelon that is seedless. That has been genetically modified or crossbreed to create a “better” outcome .
Think about corn that has been altered and developed that means farmers can prevent insect attacks on their crops.
Think about a crop of soy beans that have been changed so that their fatty acids that naturally occur, have been changed so that soya bean produces a better frying oil for cooking.
Why should I care about them?
Any foods that have been created using genetic modification is them referred to as a “genetically modified (or GM) food.
In Australia, we have a body which oversees the production and prevalence of genetically modified foods, referred to as the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). This body ensures the development of GM foods does not pose risk to the health and safety of Australia’s people, and the environment.
FSANZ (Food standards of Australia and New Zealand) is the government body responsible for the guidelines of food standards across Australia and New Zealand, ensuring a high quality of food standards across the two nations.
FSANZ are responsible for assessing the use of GM foods to ensure they are safe for consumption and pass the strict guidelines that exist to ensure public health and safety. They are responsible for scientifically assessing GM foods, as they are a somewhat modern production; as society does not have solid and verifiable data available which provides a “GM foods are safe for consumption” stamp. This is why it is important GM foods are heavily regulated.
What detrimental effects can genetically modified foods mean for us or the environment
The modification of genetics is a relatively modern technology, where there is not an immense amount of research that guarantees GM Foods are always safe to consume. According to the Australian Government:
Each new genetic modification is assessed individually for its potential impact on the safety of the food. We compare the GM food with a similar, commonly eaten conventional food from a molecular, toxicological, nutritional and compositional point of view. The aim is to find out if there are any differences between the GM food and its conventional counterpart, which we already know to be safe to eat.
Many large bio technological companies are adamant that using GM crops require less pesticide in their farming practises. More often than not, there have been many circumstances which have had a detrimental effect on society. In a 1999 study by Cornwell university, scientists discovered that the pollen from a genetically modified corn crop settled on milkweed plants which is the Monarch butterfly larvae’s source of food. This ended up wiping out 50% of the monarch butterfly population, as it killed off the larvae. Genetic engineering is a young and misunderstood modern practise, and toxins and pesticides used can have serious ramifications on the environment. Unless society finally understands and controls the issues which arise, allergies, reactions and illnesses are going to continue to be effects of GM foods.
What can I do?
If you are cautious about the widespread use of Genetically modified foods, read up on labels of foods which you purchase. Also, consider buying organic fruits and vegetables. Be warned though, a foodstuff only requires ONE organic ingredient for it to be labelled organic.
Eat at cafes and restaurants which source whole foods, organic produce and encourage sustainable practices. Inform your friends on why you choose not to eat GM foods, so more people are aware that they are not always safe to consume.
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