Food Science: Genetically Engineered (Or Modified) Foods

Humanity is constantly moving forward in scientific and technological spheres, the quality of life changes, the new innovations are presented in various environments. This process of development has it positive and negative outcomes, as any significant change could result in shifting of the existing natural balance. No wonder that most of the inventions and new technologies cause numerous controversies. Genetically modified foods (GM foods) belong to the modern controversial technologies. People are always concerned about the products, which they use for cooking, because food has direct and strong impact upon their state of health. Genetically modified foods are defined as “foods produced from organisms that have had changes introduced into their DNA using the methods of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering techniques allow for the introduction of new traits as well as greater control over traits than previous methods such as selective breeding and mutation breeding.” (GM Science Review First Report, 2013, p. 2). Starting from the year 1994 genetically modified foods are present in commercial sale. For the first time delayed-ripening tomatoes were presented by Calgene. Later genetically modified crops were developed and they were highly resistant towards herbicides and pathogens, revealing evident better nutrient profiles. Thus there is a controversy, whether it is reasonable to produce genetically modified foods for any commercial or other reasons, ignoring their potential negative impacts upon human organisms, or this kind of innovation should be banned and not developed further.

Genetically modified foods are produced, using the organisms, which had their DNA artificially changed with the help of the methods of genetic engineering. This method is different from traditionally accepted cross breeding. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration state that the term “genetic engineering” is the more precise term than “genetic modification”. In reality the human-directed genetic manipulations have a very long history. In 10.500 BC people started to domesticate plants and animals for using them for food provisions. This was the start of the process of selective breeding, in other words, humans were interested in defining and intensifying exactly of those traits of the natural organisms, which were advantageous for them, at the same time creating the next generations of these organisms with prevalence of these features already. When in 1900s DNA was discovered, it brought new perspectives in the field of genetic engineering and soon scientists found the ways to change the DNA and genes in order to impact food. In 1983 the first antibiotic-resistance tobacco plant appeared. “Genetically modified microbial enzymes were the first application of genetically modified organisms in food production and were approved in 1988 by the US Food and Drug Administration.” (FDA Approves 1st Genetically Engineered Product for Food, 1990, p. 3). Later chymosin was used in other countries as well. “Cheese had typically been made using the enzyme complex rennet that had been extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists modified bacteria to produce chymosin, which was also able to clot milk, resulting in cheese curds.” (Campbell-Platt, 2011, p. 12). The year 2000 was famous for creation of so-called golden rice.  This event gave a launch to planting of commercialized biotech crops in many countries and their provisions of regulatory approvals for importing of transgenic crops. “The US was the leading country in the production of GM foods in 2011, with twenty-five GM crops having received regulatory approval. In 2015, 92% of corn, 94% of soybeans, and 94% of cotton produced in the US were genetically modified strains.” (Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., 2015).

The process of genetic engineering is rather sophisticated. The organisms are generated and tested in the laboratory conditions in order to define the needed qualities. Often one or more genes are added to genome of the organism. In some cases the genes are removed or the number of copies of a gene is changed.  As soon as scientists are able to produce the desired strains, the producer has to receive the regulatory approval for field-testing or field release. Further mass cultivation of these plants or animals is done in specially organized environments. If the field tests prove to be successful, then the products are cultivated and sold to farmers for mass use.

On the surface production of genetically modified or engineered plants and animals seems to be beneficial for humans, as it helps to utilize the natural resources with greater attention and maximal efficiency, it allows further development of this field of science, it is commercially advantageous. Still there are more and more concerned about the possible impact of the foods with changed DNA upon humans and their state of health. The scientists came to the consensus that the foods, received from GM crops, do not present greater risks for human heath, than usual food, consumed by them. This is only under the condition that each GM food is tested on a case-by-case basis. Still most of people do not share this position of scientists and are not that convinced of the safety of GM foods. The problem is that even if scientists are able to provide proofs of safety of GM foods, they all would be only short –term, because they simply did not have time to adequately access long-term health risks. “The advocacy group European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), disputes the claim that “science” supports the safety of current GM foods, proposing that each GM food must be judged on case-by-case basis.” (Hilbeck; et al., 2015, p. 18).

Legal status of GM foods is different in different countries, as they are allowed or prohibited by the law. Such countries as Canada, Lebanon, Egypt, America apply substantial equivalence in order to define, whether there is a need to conduct further testing, in other countries, including China, Brazil GMO cultivation is authorized upon a case-by-case basis. According to the U.S. FDA GMOs are generally considered to be safe and there is no need to make additional testing of the GMO product, if it is substantially equal to the non-modified products. In cases if new products were defined, there is a need to conduct additional testing in order to respond to the concerns about it toxicity, allerginicity and possibility of gene transfer to humans.

The disputes about these controversies involve various categories of people, for example consumers, government regulators, scientists, farmers, political activists, etc. The major aspects of controversy is the safety of GM products for human health and environment and whether it is possible to secure that their testing is adequate and correct. “The objectivity of scientific research and publications has been challenged. Farming-related disputes include the use and impact of pesticides, seed production and use, side effects on non-GMO crops/farms, and potential control of the GM food supply by seed companies.” (Hilbeck; et al., 2015, p. 22). The conflicts started along with invention of GM foods and till the moment they could be traced in media, regional and national governments and various national and international organizations.

Overall, humanity is moving forward in scientific progress, more and more innovations are introduced in various life spheres, all of them are created for the sake of making life easier and better, still they have their impacts upon the existing natural balance and correspondingly might have adverse effects and outcomes. GM foods cause numerous controversies today and the debate does not seem to be moving to its logical end. Thus there is a need to continue testing and researching of this sphere and gain new information, which could either respond to the public concerns or make the scientists abandon interfering within genes of plants and animals.


Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. (2015). Economic Research Service. USDA.

Campbell-Platt, G. (2011). Food Science and Technology. Ames, IA: John Wiley & Sons.

FDA Approves 1st Genetically Engineered Product for Food. Los Angeles Times. 24 March 1990.

GM Science Review First Report (2013). Wayback Machine., Prepared by the UK GM Science Review panel (July 2003)

Hilbeck; et al. (2015). “No scientific consensus on GMO safety” (PDF). Environmental Sciences Europe

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

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

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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