Are Genetically Modified Foods Safe for Human Consumption?

The problem of genetically modified foods is relatively new. Consumers and scientists have different opinions as for the actual effects of these foods upon human organisms. Initially the idea was to improve crops and thus scientists had investigated crops and foods in their molecular levels in order to support their beneficial qualities. Farmers could receive higher harvests and this is said to be a good options for the countries, where people are starving at the moment due to lack of food. At the same time, as soon as the first desired results were reached, other scientists concluded that such foods are unhealthy and could not be considered safe for humans. At the moment the discussion of the problem of genetically modified foods is widespread to most countries of the world. On the one hand these kinds of food are created with higher resistance to viruses and pests and could be stored within longer periods of time and on the other hand they are claimed to be harmful fur humans’ state of health. As a result there are a lot of controversies, surrounding the problem of genetically modified foods, which are related to scientific and even ethical concerns. Genetically modified foods should be banned for mass production and consumption until thorough and adequate investigation of all the negative impacts and benefits is done, otherwise there is a high risk for future generations to meet serious health problems.

The notion “genetically modified organisms” is usually used to describe a wide group of animals, plants and bacteria, which were engineered for various applications, including agricultural production and scientific research. The potential and actual hazards, related to these organisms, are defined by the type of the organism, which was modified and its final application. GM products are able to have direct impact upon human health and environment and these are the major reasons of the concern about their application for foods. Although proponents of the benefits of GM foods state that such kinds of food are safe for humans, some researchers underline the need to conduct further research, as they assume that their effects were not studied long enough. At the moment there are really a lot of countries, where people do not have adequate access to food and GM foods are often said to be the best perspective for them. However, if these foods have really bad effects upon human health, cause for example liver or kidney problems, then it is not ethically or scientifically correct to allow the citizens of these poor countries consumer them at any rate. This argument was just an example to show that GM products have both their positive and negative sides and this is the reason, why it is so important to make this correct choice about their production and consumption right now in order not to be too late.

The nature of the potential risks from GM foods is related to the potentially negative effects from the insertions of a novel gene into any organism. “Health effects of primary concern to safety assessors are production of new allergens, increased toxicity, decreased nutrition, and antibiotic resistance.” (Bernstein et al. 2003). Food allergy is currently said to be a serious public health threat, as statistically it affects 2% if adults and 5% in America. “Allergic reactions in humans occur when a normally harmless protein enters the body and stimulates an immune response.” (Bernstein et al. 2003). In case if the novel protein in genetically modified foods was taken from such a source, which could cause allergies for humans or from such a source, which has not been previously consumed in the form of human food, then the risks that it would become the cause of allergies is relatively high. The main problem here is the lack of research, as there is not enough information the real risks and outcomes of the GM products in relation to food allergies. The toxic substances, which are produced by a great number of plants, are situated at such low level that it is difficult to follow their adverse effects upon human health. Some researchers are convinced that under the condition of adding an exotic gene to a plant, there is a risk of its production of toxins at much higher levels, which would be much more dangerous for humans in comparison to their natural toxins. The process of toxins production could also be impacted in case if the natural genes of this plant are altered and impacted. “Although these effects have not been observed in GM plants, they have been observed through conventional breeding methods creating a safety concern for GM plants. For example, potatoes conventionally bred for increased diseased resistance have produced higher levels of glycoalkaloids.” (Maryanski 1997).

Decreased nutritional value is one more theoretical outcomes of genetic modification of plants. In other words in the process of genes modification the nutrient parts of the plants might become indigestible or simply unavailable to human organisms. Scientists researched phytate, which is present in grains and seeds of the plants and makes obstacles for getting minerals by humans. Inserted genes could cause higher production of phytate and thus reduce significantly the mineral value of this type of food. “Another example comes from a study showing that a strain of genetically modified soybean produced lower levels of phytoestrogen compounds, believed to protect against heart disease and cancer, than traditional soybeans.” (Bakshi 2003).

One more important argument for current prohibition of GM foods is related to the fact of antibiotic resistance. Generally there is a tendency for bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics in the process of natural mutations. Antibiotic resistance genes are widely used by biotechnologists for adding new genes to plants. Upon a number of consequent experiments scientists reveal, whether the antibiotic resistance gene was taken up along with the needed gene.

The world population is expected to continue its growth and could reach 12 billion in 50 years. This means that the demand for food would continue to increase. Growing of genetically modified plants would help to make harvests much more efficient, because crops would be resistant to various diseases. A problem of malnutrition in third world countries could also be solved via adding nutritionally enriched rice variety. “Vitamin A deficiency, estimated to affect millions of people around the world prompted the design of ‘Golden rice’ researched by Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer and contained very large quantities of beta-carotene, which the body uses and coverts to Vitamin A, and is required for a number of different metabolic functions including in vision, immune functions and bone metabolism.” (Anilakumar, Bawa 2013).

Overall, the problem of genetically modified foods is utterly complex and acute for the modern world. On the one hand GM foods are created with improved characteristics, appropriate for the human needs and could help to solve the problems of malnutrition and on the other hand GM products offer high risks, related to human health and environment, which demand additional research and consideration, before these products would be allowed for mass production and consumption. At the moment not enough research has been done in order to state that GM products could be considered safe for humans. The confrontation between the opponents and supporters of the GM foods is intensified due to involvement of a variety of ethical, legal and financial aspects.

Works cited:

Allison S, Palma P.M. Commercialization of transgenic plants: potential ecological risks. BioScience. 1997

Anilakumar, K.R., Bawa, A.S. Genetically modified foods: safety, risks and public concerns—a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2013 Dec; 50(6): 1035–1046

Bakshi, A. Potential adverse health effects of genetically modified crops.

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2003 May-Jun;6(3):211-25.

Bernstein, J.A., Bernstein, L., Bucchini, L. Clinical and laboratory investigation of allergy to genetically modified foods. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2003

Maryanski, J.H. Bioengineered foods: will they cause allergic reactions? NY: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)/Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), 1997

Mondal Fuad, Asaduzzaman, Toshiki Asao. Adverse Effects of Allelopathy from Legume Crops and Its Possible Avoidance, 2015

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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