You hear more and more about transgenic foods and their popularization in a large part of the food chain (both human and livestock). However, despite this, they still represent a type of food that many people do not quite identify correctly when it comes to answering simple questions such as what are they or how are they manufactured?
To a large extent, the problem arises because their appearance and taste do not differ too much from natural foods and, consequently, if the label does not say so, it is difficult to find differences between them. If you want to know a little more about the advantages and disadvantages of transgenic foods , what they really are and what effects they have on the health of those who consume them, keep reading AgroCorrn and we will tell you about it.
- What are transgenic foods
- How to know if a food is transgenic
- Advantages of transgenic foods
- Disadvantages of GM foods
What are transgenic foods
What is “transgenic”? What does it mean for a food to be? Well, before these doubts and before going into issues of advantages and disadvantages, we want to clarify that transgenic foods, also called genetically modified foods, are foods whose DNA has been modified in its first stage to favor some characteristics or others during growth. This is done by combining DNA from two different species, one will be the food that will be modified, and the other will be the one that will “donate” the genes that are going to be transferred to the first, which will be called transgenes.
The process by which it is carried out is carried out in the laboratory through genetic engineering. If we take the tomato as an example of transgenic food , the summarized process would be as follows:
- The nucleus of a tomato cell would be extracted, from which the chromosomes inside the nucleus (which are the way in which DNA is organized) would be extracted and, finally, the DNA of the original tomato would be obtained.
- In addition, this same process would be carried out with a plant that would be the donor of the transgenic DNA (for example, a cactus, which withstands droughts very well).
- Then the genes of the cactus that make it support the absence of rain well would be selected, they would be cut and isolated (we would already have the transgenes).
- Next, the DNA of the original tomato would be cut and, in that hole, the transgenes of the cactus would be inserted that make it well resistant to droughts. All the parts would be joined and the result would be a tomato that resists the lack of water very well.
- Finally, that transgenic tomato DNA would be introduced into an original tomato seed from which the original DNA had previously been removed and, by planting that seed, the result would be a transgenic tomato plant that is highly resistant to lack of water.
This technique has specific uses, the objective of creating genetically modified foods is to make foods that present more advantages than the original ones, such as, in the case of tomatoes, a variety resistant to drought. But, at least in theory, the applications are much more varied, from creating foods resistant to droughts or pests , to creating foods that grow much faster , with a greater presence of nutrients or, even, with nutrients that did not exist in their original version. .
How to know if a food is transgenic
The only way to know with complete certainty is through the information provided by the producer, that is, the label should be read . But it should be borne in mind that, due to the dubious fame of transgenic foods, producers do not add this information of their own free will, but do so through the legislation that the relevant authorities have created specifically for these cases. In other words, if the law is demanding and ensures the freedom of choice of consumers, transgenic foods must inform that they are so on the label. While, in the case of more lax laws that restrict consumers’ freedom of choice, it may appear “disguised” with euphemisms or simply not appear anywhere on the label.
In the case of the European Union, foods that contain more than 0.9% transgenics must indicate this on the label. This should appear using expressions such as “genetically modified”, “modified food” or simply by adding the adjective “modified” after one of the ingredients that appear on the label.
In this other AgroCorrn article we tell you more about what are transgenic foods with a list of examples .
Advantages of transgenic foods
GMO foods raise doubts and, in fact, there is an intense debate among their detractors and defenders. The main advantages of transgenic foods are several:
Increase food production
One of the benefits of transgenic foods is that they are more efficient in terms of production . If we think of one hectare of cultivation, we will realize that it is a limited production space. However, by making use of transgenic foods, production can be increased without the need to expand the growing area, which will not only bring benefits to the farmer by having a larger harvest from a quantitative perspective, but will also reduce the need to allocate more soil to agricultural activity.
Possibility of solving hunger in the world
Furthermore, by increasing production and having more resistant food, the problems of famine and starvation could be solved in some areas where malnutrition is a true social emergency, for example some areas of Africa.
If you want to help by doing your bit to solve this problem, one of the best ways is to start by not wasting food. In AgroCorrn, we show you information about food waste: causes, consequences and how to avoid it .
Can be modified to improve health
On the other hand, in theory at least, GM foods could be designed in such a way as to increase their nutrients. In this way, it would be foods that would favor the health of consumers , for example, making a vegetable have a greater quantity and quality of vitamins, or making, for example, foods of animal origin and that are unhealthy due to their high content in saturated fats (for example pork) to produce healthy fats such as omega-3s “naturally”.
Disadvantages of GM foods
However, given the attractive benefits of transgenic foods, we must also talk about the disadvantages. Thus, among the disadvantages of transgenic foods we find the following:
Possible long-term negative health effects
The main disadvantage of the use of these foods is the true and complete ignorance of their long-term effects . The problem with these foods is that, in the same way that a series of characteristics are modified by making use of transgenes, it is possible that other elements that had been counted in the beginning are also modified. In fact, there is increasing awareness of the great power that some genes have.
This means that, in the same way that changing a gene in a tomato can make it more resistant to droughts, it can also make it lose part of its concentration of nutrients, produce specific enzymes that promote fluid accumulation, etc.
Possible relationship with the development of diseases
This does not mean that transgenic foods should always carry this type of “collateral damage”, but the reality is that, we do not know to what extent the modification of specific genes affects only certain characteristics of the food in question. Moreover, currently, more and more voices from the scientific environment affirm that there is a relationship between the consumption of transgenic foods and the development of allergies, intolerances and autoimmune diseases in the case of human beings, which would confirm that the secondary effects of the consumption of transgenic foods constitute a field that is still beyond our control.
On the other hand, beyond the inconveniences related to health, there is another great problem that the use of genetically modified foods presents, and that is its relationship with natural foods. The problem arises when they reproduce without control by the farmer, since they invade the rest of the ecosystems and, being more resistant, end up eliminating the original species.
Some genetically modified food manufacturing companies have tried to solve this problem by sterilizing their products. However, the reality today is that it is not clear how these transgenic foods interact with the original food species, since not all transgenic foods are sterile, and once the “genetic contamination ”Between species there is no going back possible.
If you want to read more articles similar to Advantages and disadvantages of GM foods , we recommend that you enter our category of GM foods .
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