The Reality About Genetically Modified Food ; GMOs Foods Are The Source Of Our Dietary Needs Since Ten Thousand Years - Agrovista Profits Latest Agriculture News and Updates


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Friday, March 9, 2018

The Reality About Genetically Modified Food ; GMOs Foods Are The Source Of Our Dietary Needs Since Ten Thousand Years

Raipur, Shailesh K. Saxena

In the ten thousands year history of the human effort to grow food, people have artificially modified all that was growing wildly to adapt them to their needs. Therefore, there is nothing natural about agriculture. If there is one human activity that is environmentally most devastating, that is agriculture. But, can we live without agriculture? Now, the efforts are underway to undertake climate-smart agriculture, but that requires and demands greater and not lesser intervention from science and technology.
The available evidence indicates that GMO food is not harmful to human health. However, the health effects of spraying GMO crops with the herbicide glyphosate is still a matter of debate. Nonetheless, there is no good evidence that genetic modification itself causes foods to become unhealthy or toxic.

 The reports made from several regulatoryscientific and health organizations have concluded that the GMO crops are safe. such crops do not appear to pose health risks, based on chemical analyses of the foods and on animal feeding studies 

What are genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM foods? 

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.

There are three major challenges we are facing that motivate our resort to the new technology for help.

 Can we Sustainable Feed a world population  ; 

The report, from the Global Harvest Initiative, states that with a world population expected to be at least 9 billion people in 2050, the demand for food, feed, fibre and fuel will likely outpace food production if the current rate of output remains the same. Concerns around food security have grown in recent years, with food price spikes focusing attention on rising food demand and how this will be met. Institutions such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) have published projections of an increase in global food demand out to 2050. The FAO projections indicate that world food demand may increase by 70 % by 2050, with much of the projected increase in global food demand expected to come from rising consumer incomes in regions such as Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Currently, the rate of increase in crop-yield is less than 1.7% whereas the annual increase in yield needs to be 2.4% to meet the demands of population growth, improved nutritional standards and decreasing arability. This is a daunting task, which seems only achievable by means of optimization of crop genetics coupled with quantitative improvements in the management of the agricultural system. 

 Decrease in the arable land;

 FAO predicted that the finite amount of arable land available for food production per person will decrease from the current 0.242 ha to 0.18 ha by 2050. This problem confounds those of population growth and malnutrition. Yet our ability to bring additional acreage under cultivation seems limited.

 Limitations of conventional and modern breeding ; 

Conventional breeding relies on sexual crossing of one parental line with another parental line, in hopes of expressing some desired property (e.g. disease resistance) . To select for the desired trait and to dilute irrelevant or undesired traits, breeders choose the best progeny and back-cross it to one of its parents (plant or animal). The process usually takes several years (depending on generational time, e.g. 10–15 years for wheat) before actual expression of the desired trait that can be assessed, and further expanded by conventional breeding to commercially useful numbers. Besides the inherently long generation times, the following facts limit the development of conventional breeding: Prerequisite to breeding strategies is the existence of genetic variation that is, the existence of an available gene-pool manifesting the desired traits, and sexual compatibility of organisms with those traits. In fact, nowadays genetic variety has dwindled (probably as a result of past efforts at optimization), thus we operate in a restricted space for improvement. Modern methodologies can increase this space by utilizing chemicals or radiation to introduce new mutational variation. However, these are blunt instruments that result in improved traits only by random chance and sparse luck. Indeed, the non-selectivity of these methods probably extend the breeding timeline .Taking these facts into account, the emergence of biological technologies and the development of GM foods promise to reduce dramatically production timelines to new strains, and to provide us with optional strategies to achieve sustainable global food security.

Benefits of GMO Food ;

Agronomic Benefits ;

A report from Graham Brookes and Peter Barfoot (17) arrived similar conclusions: for the period 1996–2013 they estimate that biotechnology was responsible for the additional global production of 138 million tons of soybeans, 274 million tons of corn, 21.7 million tons of cotton lint, and 8 million tons of canola. If those biotechnologies had not been available, to maintain equivalent production levels would have required an increment of 11% of the arable land in the US, or 32% of the cereal area in the EU.

GM technology has had a significant positive impact on farm income derived from a combination of enhanced productivity and efficiency gains . In 2015, the direct global farm income benefit from GM crops was $15.4 billion. This is equivalent to having added 5.2% to the value of global production of the four main crops of soybeans, maize, canola and cotton. Since 1996, farm incomes have increased by $167.8 billion.

Substantial gains have also arisen in the cotton sector through a combination of higher yields and lower costs. In 2015, cotton farm income levels in the GM adopting countries increased by $3.38 billion and since 1996, the sector has benefited from an additional $52 billion. The 2015 income gains are equivalent to adding 14% to the value of the cotton crop in these countries, or 9.9% to the $34 billion value of total global cotton production. This is a substantial increase in value added terms for two new cotton seed technologies. Significant increases to farm incomes have also resulted in the soybean and canola sectors. The GM HT technology in soybeans has boosted farm incomes by $3.82 billion in 2015, and since 1996 has delivered $50 billion of extra farm income. The third year of adoption of ‘Intacta’ soybeans (combining HT and IR traits) in South America also provided $1.23 billion of additional farm income and over the three years since 2013 has delivered $2.4 billion of additional farm income. In the canola sector (largely North American) an additional $5.48 billion has been generated .

In 2016, the 21st year of commercialization of biotech crops, 185.1 million hectares of biotech crops were planted by ~18 million farmers in 26 countries. From the initial planting of 1.7 million hectares in 1996 when the first biotech crop was commercialized, the 185.1 million hectares planted in 2016 indicates ~110-fold increase. Thus, biotech crops are considered as the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture. ( As per ISAAA Data )

Reduction in Herbicide uses

The volume of herbicides used in GM maize crops also decreased by 226.3 million kg (1996-2015), an 8.4% reduction, whilst the overall environmental impact associated with herbicide use on these crops decreased by a significantly larger 12.7%. This highlights the switch in herbicides used with most GM herbicide tolerant (HT) crops to active ingredients with a more environmentally benign profile than the ones generally used on conventional crops.

Modification of chemical composition of food

Researchers from USDA (Boston and Houston), Chinese institutions in Hunan, Beijing, and Hangzhou, and NIH (Bethesda), have determined that the β-carotene in Golden Rice is as effective as pure β-carotene in oil and better than that in spinach at providing vitamin A to children. A bowl of 100 to 150 g cooked Golden Rice (50 g dry weight) can provide 60% of the Chinese Recommended Nutrient Intake of vitamin A for 6-8-year-old children. The paper, with data based on a registered clinal trial, has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And there is the good reason to conduct these studies in China, considering the low vitamin A status of a great proportion of Chinese children (see Nutrition and Health Status Report)

Some genetic modification is specifically targeted to enrich certain nutrients or substances having high therapeutic and pro-health value, including vitamins A, C, E, unsaturated fatty acids, alimentary cellulose and probiotics [22]. The aforementioned “Golden Rice” is a significant example. It ameliorates malnutrition in an effective and economic way. Similarly, using this biotechnology, researchers can also alter the amino acid composition of proteins as well as the content of carbohydrates.

Improvement in food processing

The GM technology can also be employed to facilitate food processing. A notable achievement is “Flavr Savr” tomatoes. They were produced by the California company, Calgene, in 1992. The genetic alteration consists of the introduction of an antisense gene, which suppresses the enzyme polygalacturonase; the consequence is to slow down the ripening of tomatoes and thus allow longer shelf life for the fruits. The composition in potato bulbs has also been altered by gene editing. For instance, using a cyclodextrin glycosyltransferases gene from bacteria, potatoes exhibit greater stability of brightness factors and, thus, a more attractive appearance

Products for therapeutic purposes 

It is well known that in creating genetically modified (GM) seeds and plants, antibiotic resistance genes are commonly used as marker genes for the selection of transformed plant cells. In parallel, concern has been addressed about whether horizontal genes transfer (HGT) of these genes from the plant material to environmental microorganisms can take place, thereby – in the next step – compromising the therapeutic value of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine. 
Genetic engineering techniques enable the expression of viral or bacterial antigens in the edible portion of plant cells . In theory, thus, transgenic foods could serve as oral vaccines, capable of stimulating the immune system, via mucosal immunity, to produce antibodies. A variety of crops (e.g. rice, maize, soybean and potatoes) are under study as potential bearers of edible vaccines against different infections, including Escherichia coli toxins, rabies virus, Helicobacter pylori bacteria, and type B viral hepatitis  


Modern genetic engineering is similar to techniques that have served humanity well for thousands of years and that the risks of unintended consequences are similar whether the variety is derived from the processes of GE or conventional gene alteration, it should come as no surprise that the GE crops currently on the market are as safe to eat and safe for the environment as organic or conventional foods. That is the conclusion reached by diverse agricultural and food experts. There is broad consensus on this point among highly regarded science-based organizations in the United States and abroad, including the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the World Health Organization, and European Commission Joint Research Centre. In the twenty three years since GE crops were first grown commercially, not a single instance of adverse health or environmental effects has been documented.