Genetically modified organism are often referred to as GMO's. GMO's are foods that undergo a genetic "modification." Recombinant DNA technology, which is the process of combining genes from different organisms or the rearrangement of an organism's genes that are already present, is used to alter the foods from their natural state.
The first genetically modified organism to be developed on a large scale was the Flavr Savr tomato in 1987. This tomato worked by inhibiting the breakdown of the fruit's cell walls over time. This allowed for increased shelf life even after long shipping and storage times. Since the flavr tomato, thousands of a applications by different companies have been submitted to allow for the testing of GMO products and over 90% of them have been approved.
The most common genetically modified crops are soybeans, squash, tomatoes, corn, and cotton. Other crops that may be genetically modified are potatoes and rice as well as fish, bananas, cows, and fruit trees.
GMO foods can be broken down into 3 classes. The 3 classes are first generation, second generation, and third generation crops. Third generation crops are crops that produce pharmaceuticals and improve bio-based fuels.
Second generation crops include crops with enhanced nutrient content of animal feed. Finally, first generation crops include crops that have enhanced genes such as good insect resistance, a good adaptability to poor weather conditions, and herbicide tolerance.
Benefits of genetically modified organisms include insect and herbicide resistance, increased shelf life of different foods, delayed ripening, increased food production, virus-resistant crops, limited costs of food production, and enhanced nutrient content of different foods. Some foods are being genetically modified to provide immunizations to different diseases.
In 2006, more than 250 million acres of GMO crops were planted by more than 10 million farmers in greater than 20 countries. The leaders in GMO production are the U.S. followed by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, and South Africa.
The main negative health effect of GMO foods is the allergic reactions caused by switching the genes around from different foods. This in turn creates foreign substances to the body which causes the body to instinctively fight off. Also, when genes from one food is moved to another food, anyone who was allergic to the first food is now allergic to the other food as well. For example, if you are lactose intolerant and specific gene in milk is then implemented in an apple, although you were never allergic to apples, because of the inserted milk gene, you are now allergic to both milk and apples.
It is currently estimated that about 70% of all food products sold in retail stores in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients. The most common products in the U.S. are corn, soybeans, and cotton. Salmon have also been genetically modified allowing these fish to grow twice the size of normal salmon, grow ten times faster, and intake 25% less food!
There have been many studies conducted on genetically modified organisms that have shown many negative health effects of GMOs. One study published in Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology conducted on rats showed that rats given GMO food were 2-3 times more likely to die than the controls and rapidly as well. These rats developed high levels of cancer, had large cancerous tumors but the study was unable to identify the direct mechanism that caused the rats to die from the genetically modified food. Another study conducted on hamsters published in the Days of Defense Against Environmental Hazards in Russia showed a link between infertility and GMO food consumption. The hamsters were given genetically modified soybeans causing the hamsters to slow sexual maturity and gradually become infertile.
If you do not want to consume GMO foods in your diet because of potential dangers associated with them, some tips to avoid consuming them include shopping at your local farmer's market, eating organic food, avoiding corn and soybean products, buying "all natural" or organic meat, growing your own produce, and avoiding aspertame, cottonseed oil, and canola oil,
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