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All assessed GM foods are as safe as their traditional counterparts. Some GM crops contain genes such as antibiotic resistance genes to identify cells into which the desired gene has been successfully introduced. There have been numerous scientific reviews and experimental studies of this issue and they have come to the following conclusions:.

Nevertheless, in response to public concerns, scientists have been advised to avoid using antibiotic resistance genes in GM plants. Alternative marker strategies are being used in developing the next generation of GM plants See PK Absolute safety is unattainable for any food as people react differently to natural ingredients of food. Substantial equivalence SE is an alternative approach used for the safety assessment of genetically modified foods where traditional toxicological testing and risk assessment to whole foods could not be applied.

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It is based on the idea that existing products used as foods or food sources can serve as basis for comparison. The safety assessment is therefore based on a comparison of the modified food to its traditional non GM counterpart in terms of molecular, compositional, toxicological and nutritional data. SE has been used in the safety assessment of GM crops available today. Mon for example has been compared rigorously as to the levels of major nutritional components protein, fat, ash, carbohydrates, calories and moisture with the non transgenic counterpart Mon Results showed that the amino acid composition, fatty acids, inorganic composition calcium and phosphorous , carbohydrate components starch, sugars and phytic acid, crude fiber , and tocopherol content of Mon are within the range of Mon Foods derived from GM plants are safe.

Major issues and safety concerns on the biosafety of foods derived from GM plants have been addressed. Protein products of the inserted genes in the commercially available GM plants have passed the rigorous tests and showed that they are non toxic, non-allergenic, and the nutritional content is comparable to their non GM counterpart. GM plants that are being developed also undergo similar testing before they are released commercially.

Pocket K No.


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Economics, as well as different perceptions of risks, explain some of the gulf between activist GM opponents and farmers. The first generation of GM foods-notably, soybeans, corn, and cotton-have delivered benefits mainly to innovators and producers. For example, Monsanto created "Roundup Ready" soybeans that can withstand application of the powerful herbicide glyphosphate trade name: Roundup. The herbicide helps the soybeans flourish by keeping down weeds, and reduces the costs of spraying of less effective herbicides. Economic studies show that about half of the surplus gained from this innovation flows back to Monsanto, which sells both the seeds and the Roundup.

One quarter goes to farmers, and the remainder to consumers. It is hardly surprising that Monsanto and farmers have embraced the technology while consumers-who have seen fewer benefits-remain indifferent or skeptical. Why take the risk with no apparent benefit? The next generations of products are likely to be different. Development of GM foods that contain vital vaccines and nutrients is already far advanced.

An example is "golden rice"-a strain of genetically modified rice enriched through biotechnology with beta-carotene containing vitamin A. Perhaps one billion people consume insufficient amounts of the A vitamins, especially those who survive on rice-dominant diets. The novel orange-tinged rice could help solve the problem of Vitamin-A deficiency, and the associated problems of childhood disease and blindness, if it could be widely adopted by poor families.

Many other products are in the development pipeline. Sweet potatoes are a staple in East African diets because they store easily and can provide food security in times of drought. The potential for other innovations is immense and the timing fortuitous. Just when experts have been fretting that the "green revolution" research and diffusion programs that have lifted crop yields worldwide since the s are running out of steam, genetic engineering potentially opens a new frontier.

How can societies achieve the promise of genetic engineering of foods while managing any risks? Several attributes of GM technologies make this important question especially difficult to answer. First, delivering GM technologies to market has required extremely costly investments. Hostility to the first generation of GM foods has made the leading firms skittish about pumping even greater resources into subsequent generations where the greater potential benefits to society are matched by larger commercial risks.

Second, firms in a handful of advanced industrialized countries account, so far, for nearly all innovation of GM foods.

Those countries have long had regulations in place relating to potential hazards during the development and testing of new products. Those regulations date to the acrimonious debate in the s over recombinant DNA. Fundamentally the same technologies, with many of the same risks, are involved in development and testing of GM foods. Although critics maintain that even these regulatory regimes are inadequate, corresponding oversight in many developing countries is totally absent. As the biotech industry spreads worldwide, the stark differences in regulatory approach will become increasingly troublesome.

Brazil, China, and India, for example, all have public and private efforts underway to promote world-class biotechnology industries.

The Benefits of Genetically Modified Crops—and the Costs of Inefficient Regulation

But these new entrants do not face the same regulatory constraints, making the risks to them and the world potentially larger. A recent example concerns a new virus bioengineered in an Australian lab devoted to infertility research in mice, which destroys immune response in the same mice. The virus, produced by accident, could portend similar viruses with impacts on human immune response.

Many also feel that ill-designed and poorly contained GM crops could escape from field trials, breeding with nearby wild relatives to create "super weeds. So far, nearly all international discussions of the risks of genetic engineering has focused on ways to restrict trade in GM foods, but trade restrictions have little direct leverage on the methods by which GM foods are developed.

More intrusive international legal rules could ensure that all countries implement similarly strict controls on product development, but evidence from other areas of international law suggests that such regimes work poorly if at all, not unlike analogous arms control regimes we will invite experts on these regimes to participate.

Third, most investment has focused on products for the advanced industrialized countries where the markets are most promising. Yet the reason most often brandished for why GM food technologies must be advanced is the potential for "feeding the world. There are many possible spillovers from the products generated for markets in advanced industrialized countries-both "golden rice" and the Kenyan sweet potatoes, for example, are partially built on genes developed and owned by industrial firms. The reality, however, is that funding of public research institutes for improving staple crops in the developing world is nearly stagnant, and only a small fraction of the public resources are being devoted to seizing the benefits of genetic engineering.

Moreover, the controversy over GM foods in advanced industrialized nations has led some donor countries to threaten cutbacks if the institutes that they fund promote genetic engineering. Even if there were effective investment plans, novel GM foods typically rely, in part, on proprietary techniques and genes that could be too costly to license for the poorest beneficiaries.

KEY INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

And public research institutes increasingly rely on partnerships with private firms, which bring badly needed resources but raise questions about how the benefits of research may be shared. So far, particular GM foods have advanced only through a patchwork of uneasy fixes-donations of technology e. But is this ad hoc approach sustainable and effective?

Fourth, regulation and development of this new technology are complicated by the rules of the World Trade Organization. European governments defend their restrictions on testing and imports of GM foods by pointing to potential risks of these products-the "precautionary principle. The WTO is also important because it imposes discipline on how countries protect intellectual property.

Some observers have argued that multinational corporations that have invented or purchased the techniques of genetic engineering should be forced to transfer the ideas and methods to developing countries most in need. Yet the WTO's agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights TRIPs requires the opposite-it obliges every member of the WTO, including developing countries, to implement patent, copyright and other intellectual property laws that could make it harder to diffuse new technologies for public purposes. Even boosters of GM food technology now publicly worry that intellectual property protections in the US and other advanced industrialized countries have gone so far that they impede the free sharing of novel ideas, which has been a mainstay of effective scientific research.

Fifth, the political forces that will affect the future of this technology are truly global, making it hard for any single nation, even the U.

WHO | Frequently asked questions on genetically modified foods

The concentration of biotech talent and a favorable regulatory environment explain why a substantial share of the research, so far, has taken place in the U. But the potential markets for GM foods are global, and U. Moreover, the foes of this technology are also organized globally. Essentially all the major European and American consumer organizations participate in interlocking alliances that share information and strategies.

Many of the leading environmental groups that have been active on this issue-such as Greenpeace-are multinational operations that guide their local affiliates with a central strategy and act with a global purpose. Whereas in the early s the consumer movement against beef hormones took more than a decade to spread across Europe-and never really took hold in the United States-only a few short years were needed for the foes of GM foods to rally mass public support in Europe and to spread their message to nearly all other industrialized nations as well as the major countries of the developing world.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Transgenic Crops and Recombinant DNA Technology

Perhaps the Internet, more active media, and generally greater awareness of food safety fanned, notably, by the "mad cow" scares are increasing the public appetite for information about food quality and safety. Thus the technology of GM foods has arrived at an important crossroads. It holds huge potential for consumers and producers; but the enormous controversy over the first generation of GM products has called into question whether the full potential for the second-generation GM products will ever be realized.


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The technologies of genetic modification may create risks, but the means of managing these risks to date-such as trade restrictions-exert little leverage. There is a truly significant potential to use this technology for public good-to better nourish the growing world population to shrink the area of land needed for food production and to reduce the use of harmful pesticides. Yet, consumer acceptance, regulation of risks, public investment, consistency with international trade rules, and ownership of intellectual property all pose major hurdles to the realization of these gains. These are important issues for US foreign policy.

US firms are the leading innovators of the technology. US consumers stand to benefit from safer and cheaper products and to be harmed by any risks. The quality of the environment in the US-where GM crops are already grown-stands to gain or lose depending how the technology unfolds. Fortune Business Insights. GM seeds help to multiply crop yield and aid in cultivation of robust crop variations.

Also, the global market is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 5. Among crop types, corn and soybean are expected to cover the largest share in the global market. The introduction of genetically modified technology in agriculture sector is a primary factor driving growth of these two segments.