Assess The Impact Of Genetically Modified Foods — страница 2

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pollution the substance will half a half-life but the problem with GM crops is that they are self-replicating. As with all crops they are designed to reproduce and will do so, unless modified not to. Arguably the most worrying aspect of GM products is their unpredictability, as briefly mentioned before. In 1989 consumption of the supplement L-tryptophan, derived from GM bacteria, killed 37 and rendered 1 500 permanently disabled. The scientists of the company, possibly to cover their own mistakes, blamed the GM process for producing traces of a potent new toxin. Health-risk assessment of GM foods compares known components (i.e. nutrients, toxins and allergens) between GM and non-GM products. However no tests with human volunteers are required by law for either toxicity or

allergic reactions. GM soya included a gene from brazil nuts, producing a nut allergy and was consequently removed. The gene was removed because the developers knew to look for the nut allergy but what of factors unknown and not even looked for? It seems that testing of GM foods is fundamental in the argument over their safety. Comparisons to the BSE scare are unrealistic as, unlike in the case of BSE, the assumption with GM foods is that they will be harmful. Whichever direction food testing goes in GM products will be tested far more thoroughly than normal foods. Unbeknown to most there are various toxic foods that are regularly consumed: kidney beans are poisonous if undercooked, dozens of people die each year from cyanide in peach seeds and manioc, the staple diet of

millions, has to be grated, squeezed and cooked to destroy the cyanide within it. So all food, even non-GM is not without danger. Scientists have not tested conventional food for toxicity. It is difficult to know where to start, but methods are being developed. Kuiper?s institute is now working on a screening test to detect differences in the pattern of messenger RNA molecules produced by normal and transgenic tomatoes. This should provide a fast way to see large changes in gene expression. They will also make comparisons by looking at their nuclear magnetic resonance spectra. Between 1986 and 1997 around 25 000 transgenic crop field trials were conducted on more than 60 crops in 45 different countries involving 10 different traits. No adverse effects on food safety or the

environment have been found. The problem with GM foods is that they could be both incredibly useful and potentially dangerous. The process of genetic modification seems irrelevant; it is not as unnatural as most think, and sometimes even occurs in nature. The danger is in the unpredictable new substances formed through the process, and their effect on humans and the environment. Just because there have been no effects on the environment so far does not automatically make GM foods safe, nor does it mean that the very same proteins will not become dangerous through the process of biodegrading. The potential for GM foods is too great to ignore but rigorous testing must continue and until we are absolutely positive of their harmlessness they should be kept in isolation. The problem

of widespread contamination is one that should be seriously looked at. In theory, GM foods are lifesaving, in practise they could be enormously destructive. 1. Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia 2. The Sunday Independent 3. New Scientist, 17 April 1999 4. http://www.futuradesign.co.uk/gm/index.html 5. BBC News Online 6. http://www.ncbe.reading.ac.uk/NCBE/GMFOOD/menu.html 7. Prospect, December 1999 8. This Week, 6 March 1999 9. Encarta Online Concise