Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) refer to plants, microbes or animals that have had their genetic make-up altered through the introduction of a select gene from another unrelated species. For crops this is usually for the purpose of conferring a desired characteristic such as increased yield, insect tolerance or drought resistance among others.
Genetic engineering refers to the science involved in the selection of desired genes responsible for specific traits from a species and transferring them into the genes of another organism, thus modifying the second species’ genetic makeup.
Humans have been improving the quality of domesticated crops for thousands of years. But this has mostly been through conventional breeding, where important traits are encouraged, selected and passed down from one generation to the next.
These foods have been engineered with the motive of helping those in need like countries hit by disaster or hunger . But are GMO’s okay to consume?
There are three main concerns about what could go wrong with GMOs. These are unintended harmful effects, food safety, environmental safety and social attitudes, including fears that GMOs are a case of “man playing God”.
There is also the concern of unintended harmful effects of GMOs on the environment. In anticipation of these risks, scientists working in the field of GMO have created a raft of regulations. These regulations aim to evaluate whether GMOs are just as safe to humans and the environment as their conventional counterparts before they can be accepted for commercialization.