Foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cause have caused concern among various groups and populations around the world. Most of the scientific community says there is no evidence that GMOs pose a threat to human health or the environment, but the campaigns against transgenics continue to proliferate.
1.- What are genetically modified foods?
- They are foods produced from organisms in which the DNA has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally, using biotechnology techniques. Selected individual genes can be transferred from one organism into another, including between non-related species.
2.- What is the aim of producing GM foods?
- To benefit the consumer or the producer, through lower prices, higher nutritional value, or the food crop's tolerance of extreme climate, insects, disease, and resistance to pesticides.
3.- Why are they sometimes referred to as "Franken Foods"?
- Because the genetic modifications produce living organisms that are not feasible through natural reproductive means. For example, a new transgenic maize variety that is resistant to pests might be created using implants of a bacterium gene. There is concern that foods produced through this technique might pose a danger to human health and the environment.
4.- Is it scientifically proven that GMOs pose a threat?
- It has not yet been proven. The diversity of GMOs and the lack of conclusive studies mean it cannot yet be determined how safe, or unsafe, they are.
5.- What impacts could they have on human health?
- There is concern that GMOs could prove toxic or trigger allergic reactions, that the "foreign" genes could be transferred to the body's cells or to gastrointestinal tract bacteria, particularly genes that are resistant to antibiotics.
6.- What effects could GMOs have on the environment?
- There is concern that non-targeted organisms would be affected by the introduced genes. For example, harming insects that are not considered pests. There is also fear of the loss of biodiversity (contamination by GMOs) and an increased use of certain chemicals in agriculture that accompany specific GM crops.
7.- How extensive are GM crops today? Which countries are the leading producers?
- Some 58.7 million hectares were planted with transgenic seeds in 2002, 6.1 million hectares more than in 2001, and 57 million more than in 1996. The United States is the world's leading producer of GM crops. Other major producers are Australia, Argentina, Canada and China.
8.- Which are the most popular GM crops?
- Soy, maize, cotton and canola are the most popular to date, and are used in processed foods like cereals, cooking oils and soups, among hundreds of other products.
9.- Is there much opposition to GMOs?
- Yes, there are many local and global campaigns against GMOs and in favor of organic foods. Activists defend the right of small farmers to have access to agricultural resources and condemn the monopolization of the world's seed markets by a handful of transnational corporations.
(Sources: http://isaaa.org, http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/biotech/Q&As.html,