Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

What is GMOs and its purpose?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genes have been modified through addition of a gene that enables the genetically engineered crops express the specific desirable trait. The main aim of genetic engineering of organisms is to improve the nutritional qualities of an organism (Bratspies, n.d.).

For instance, several crops have been engineered to make them resistant to herbicides, become tolerant to extreme environments such as droughts, or add the nutritional value of an organism. The general goal or objective is to make the yield of the plant or animal increase; and to make the products desirable to producers as well as the consumers (World Health Organization, 2013).

How Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created?

 The key steps in creating GMOs include the identification of key steps, specific trait isolation, insertion of the isolated trait into the organism, and organism propagation. Research continues to identify new methods to manipulate the organism’s genes; the most common method that has been used is using bacterial phage’s to insert new genome into the host genome where it is expressed. This has been done successfully for example, in maize using Baccillus thuringiensis. The current genetic engineering methods involve editing of the genome directly (Perry, n.d.)

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Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) foods in the supermarket

The USA is the leader of producing GMOs, which accounts for at least 66% of the GMOs globally. According to Centre for Food Safety, approximately70% of the foods reaches the supermarkets. These include soybean, corn, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, aspartame, dairy products, papaya, and squash. Approximately, 70% of products made from these substances are GMOs derivatives.

Importantly, the livestock reared for their by-products such as cattle, sheep, poultry and swine have not been genetically engineered, nor are they going to be any time soon. However, GMOs play a huge role in the animal feeds as well as during the processing of these animals by products. The animals that have been genetically engineered for pharmaceutical by products (insulin in sheep) are not approved to be used as food (World Health Organization, 2013).

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Safety issues for Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) food

The issue of GMOs safety is highly controversial. Some people perceive GMOs as health threats whereas some food regulatory bodies (U.S. Department of Agriculture) deem GMOs food as safe. There are few studies that have highlighted potential risks of GMOs to human health, farmers, and the environment as a whole. This includes allergic response to some proteins in GMOs food.

Other risks that have been reported by other research include risks of outcrossing for plants (environmental issue), modification of major organs, infertility, immunological response and faulty regulation of insulin. However, most of these studies have been inconclusive- an area in research that needs more exploration (Centre for Food Safety, 2015).

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  Altogether, it is vital to note that there are national and international authorities established whose role is to solely assess the GMOs food rigorously before they are approved for commercialization.  These agencies focuses on the safety of GM foods by conducting toxicity tests to identify a) immediate, b) allergenicity, c) stability of the modified genome and the gene inserted, d) nutritional changes and effects associated with the modification, and e) any other unprecedented effects. The GMOs food in our supermarket shelf has met the standard criteria of the tests; thus, are less likely to cause harm (World Health Organization, 2013).

 Additionally, the benefits of GMOs outweigh the risks. The benefits includes increased savings through reduction of costs involved during planting and harvesting of the food; reduced cost of production results to low retail of the product. The benefits of nutrition improvement are evidenced in crops such as the golden rice which contains the iron and beta-carotene and insulin producing potatoes. These plants species have not been approved yet, but the research is still underway to increase the productivity as well as the efficiencies of the crop. If biotechnology is embraced, one can only imagine the potential health improvements that will be attained (Centre for Food Safety, 2015).  

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Regulation of Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

In the USA, GMOs laws involve three regulatory agencies including, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)).  The USDA responsibility is to ensure that the GMOs pose no threats to the health of the plants and the animals.  Therefore, the GMOs researchers and developers are expected to apply for permit to address these potential risks. The EPA has a major role in the regulation of GMOs, especially those that have pesticide genomes (Centre for Food Safety, 2015).

The agencies set regulations such as the acceptable levels of the pesticide. The developers are expected to describe the short term and long term pesticide consequences on the livestock, human, and the environment. In human health, FDA carries the largest role as it is mandated to regulate the safety of the GMOs consumed by the people. FDA ensures that the GMOs foods are not toxic or allergenic (Centre for Food Safety, 2015).

The main issue that needs to be regulated includes the labelling of the GMOs food or products derived from these food products.  This will ensure that only safe GMOs is allowed to be commercialized, and must be clearly labelled to ensure that consumers ethical right of autonomy is sustained (World Health Organization, 2013).

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References

Bratspies, R. The Illusion of Care: Regulation, Uncertainty, and Genetically Modified Food Crops. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.353320

Centre for Food Safety. (2015). About genetically engineered foods. Retrieved from http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/311/ge-foods/about-ge-foods#

Perry, M. Genetically Modified Organisms: Why We Need a Transparent System of Regulation. SSRN Electronic Journal. http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1533657

World Health Organization. (2013). Frequently asked questions on genetically modified food. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/

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