Statistics indicate that approximately 85 percent of soybean and almost 50 percent of corn grown in the United States originates from genetically modified seed. Roughly 75 percent of processed foods sold in the US contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Some scientists have rung alarm bells. Their apprehensions lie in the long-term effects of genetic modification that today are not known. There is justification for their fears as tests carried out on mice fed with genetically modified food have had adverse reactions.
Genetic modification is the ability to remove the genetic code of one organism and introduce it into the permanent code of another. The purpose is to endow the host plant with certain characteristics it earlier lacked. For example, genes have been introduced to corn to make it resistant to rootworm a common pest. Similarly soyabean has been treated with a gene that is able to resist weedicide, which has substantially reduced the cost of production.
On the face of it such modification seems a step in the right direction.
But in the past decade a number of tests have been conducted that point towards serious potential risks. Such risks would affect human beings, domestic and farm animals, fish and wildlife and the environment. The possible risks in humans could lead to cancer, a resistance to antibiotics, exposure to high levels of toxins and possible allergies. The environmental danger could pose a threat to plant and animal species by way of unrestrained biological pollution which could lead to mutation and extinction in certain species. Other life forms unexposed to genetic modification may be endangered with potentially hazardous, now unknown, genetic material.
Opponents of genetic engineering feel that governments the world over have abdicated their responsibility in exercising adequate control.
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