Genes…the fundamental element present in each and every living organism; they form the framework of who and what we are. These genes unite everyone yet differentiate us and keep us unique.
Using science and technology called genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology these genes can be precisely altered or added to give a unique characteristic that is not possible by traditional breeding techniques. This can even be done across species. The new organism is referred to as “Genetically Modified Organism”.
GMO is currently being used in plants where the genome is altered and new genes are added. The new GM plant maintains the original characteristic but now has a new trait as determined by the added Gene.
An example of this is BT-Cotton. The lepidopteran insect is a big problem in cotton farming, often leading to massive and in some cases total crop failure. BT-cotton is a GM version of cotton that is resistant to the insect and led to decreased use of pesticide and improved product yield.
Sir Richard Roberts, who received the Noble prize in Medicine in 1993, is a leading advocate for GMO. He strongly feels GMO may be the answer for global food scarcity. But GM plants are not without their share of controversy.
Safety concerns for GM plants have been related primarily to allergenicity, gene transfer and outcrossing. These issues are highly debated and a group of scientists including multiple Noble Prize winners has backed the safety of GM plants. According to Sir Richards, these concerns are baseless and propaganda work.
For now, GM plants are being used across the world including South East Asia. Codex-Alimentarius has set forth principles and guidelines for international trade of GM food BT cotton (the only GM crop in India) which has led to dramatic improvement in cotton output. GM technology is also being used in medicine to create lifesaving drugs and vaccinations.
The world population has tripled in the last 40 years but the land under agriculture is reducing and there is a growing concern regarding food security. In such a situation, GM plants do seem to be a blessing. However, the related safety concerns warrant caution when adopting GM technology on a global scale.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.