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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Information about Genetically Modified Food and Organisms

We have all heard of Genetically Modified foods, but most people are not aware of what they mean. I came across a good site (link) that attempts to explain this area in a non-technical manner. Hopefully, by the time you finish this article and the linked one, you would have understood far more.
GM is a special set of technologies that alter the genetic makeup of such living organisms as animals, plants, or bacteria. Biotechnology, a more general term, refers to using living organisms or their components, such as enzymes, to make products that include wine, cheese, beer, and yogurt.

* Crops
o Enhanced taste and quality
o Reduced maturation time
o Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance
o Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides
o New products and growing techniques
* Animals
o Increased resistance, productivity, hardiness, and feed efficiency
o Better yields of meat, eggs, and milk
o Improved animal health and diagnostic methods
* Environment
o "Friendly" bioherbicides and bioinsecticides
o Conservation of soil, water, and energy
o Bioprocessing for forestry products
o Better natural waste management
o More efficient processing
* Society
o Increased food security for growing populations


* Safety
o Potential human health impact: allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects Potential environmental impact: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross-pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity
* Access and Intellectual Property
o Domination of world food production by a few companies
o Increasing dependence on Industralized nations by developing countries
o Biopiracy—foreign exploitation of natural resources
* Ethics
o Violation of natural organisms' intrinsic values
o Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species
o Objections to consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa
o Stress for animal
* Labeling
o Not mandatory in some countries (e.g., United States)
o Mixing GM crops with non-GM confounds labeling attempts
* Society
o New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries

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