This is a second post from my educational series ‘Let’s end war on GMO’. You can read the first one, where I explain the science behind GMO concerns here.
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone for high engagement of my pervious post on wordpress.com and social media. I am thrilled that many of you found my article helpful and informative. I am feeling extremely inspired to continue our scientific journey, especially when I see that the aim of this blog – to educate and motivate is heading in the right direction.
Today, we will talk about the examples of GM foods and the reasons for their production. You will find out that scientists create GMOs in order to address world’s hunger issues, reduce the amount of harmful substances in our foods and help agriculture to improve rapidly.
- Golden rice.
2012 WHO report showed that 250 million children up to the age of 5 are affected by vitamin A deficiency (VAD). The cases are clinically severe in developing countries like Southeast Asia and Africa, where VAD leads to suppressed immune system, blindness, skeletal deformations and other health complications. Providing the poorest with vit. A could prevent 1/3 of all preschool children’s deaths which equals to about 2.7 million kids being saved from dying unnecessarily each year. Scientists from Switzerland and Germany developed genetically modified rice, which contains gene encoding for β-Carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) which gets broken down into the desired vitamin A. They achieved it by adding to the ordinary Asian rice a β-Carotene producing gene from a daffodil. The crop is visibly more yellow in comparison to its traditional version. Golden rice is probably going to be implemented first in the Philippines and Bangladesh by 2019, because both countries have large impoverished populations and relatively advanced regulations for developing GM crops. The implementation of Golden rice is not an easy task, because of the bad press and anti-GMO movements such as Greenpeace. In 2013 American researchers admitted that they violated ethical rules by feeding Golden rice to children in Chinese schools without their parents’ approval. The group ended their research immediately. In June 2016, 107 Nobel Prize laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to stop campaigning against Golden Rice. To read more, click here and here.
- Multivitamin white corn.
Since micronutrient deficiency is estimated to affect up to 50% of world’s population, another example of biofortified GM foods is white corn. It has been enhanced with macronutrients like β-Carotene, folate and ascorbate. It was achieved by adding to South African elite white corn 4 new genes from maize and two species of bacteria. This time researchers aimed to improve three vitamin deficiencies in countries with cereal-rich diets. For genetic details click here.
For more information on market potential of biofortified crops click here.
- Folate-enriched tomatoes.
There are many genetic modifications of tomatoes, some increasing their nutritional value and other extending their shelf life. One of the most interesting examples of GM tomatoes are the folate-enriched ones. Folate deficiency is another global health problem. It is an essential micronutrient for women of child-bearing age because of its role in embryonic nervous system formation. Neural tube forms within the first month from conception, thus in order to prevent foetal defects suitable levels of folate need to be maintained from the early days of pregnancy. Researchers from the University of Florida over-expressed a gene which caused a 25-fold increase of folate within a ripe tomato. For more details click here.
- Virus-resistant Papaya
Papaya ringspot virus was discovered in Hawaii in 1992. It spread rapidly worldwide significantly decreasing papaya’s production. The bioengineered version of the fruit overexpressed the virus-resistant gene from wild relative of papaya (Vasconellea) and was commercialised in 1998. The Hawaiian industry was saved, the resistant papaya is successfully produced and sold until now. It is by far the most successful example of GM food development to date. More: click,click.
- Innate potato.
It is a group of potato types sold from 2014 with enhanced properties. The name ‘innate’ comes from the fact that scientists did not add genes to them from other species but changed the expression levels of their own ones. They do not bruise or brown easily and they produce less asparagine – an amino acid which turns into acrylamide when potatoes are fried. Acrylamide is a carcinogen, so the less of it in our foods the better. Unfortunately, the major consumer of potatoes – McDonald’s, under a public pressure of anti-GMO movement ruled out using Innate. Find out more here, here and here.
Lastly – GM milk
Now, I will show you GMO approach to handle the enormous consumers demand for milk. It is a very controversial example and one where there is no straightforward answer whether GM milk is better than a natural one. Milk industry is – in general – a very sensitive topic and the one when the consumer demand for milk overtakes the wellbeing of an animal. It is nevertheless, not worse than ordinary milk production, thus if you oppose GM milk, you should also consider opposing drinking milk at all. GM milk is safe for humans, whilst available in the US, it is banned in Europe, Canada and Australia. Dairy cows are injected with a bovine growth hormone, which enhances lactation. GM milk is produced from cows injected with artificial version of the same hormone. The studies comparing the health risks of cows overproducing milk were mostly inconclusive, with indication that the impact of artificial hormone very much depends on the individual cow’s state. Some cows seemed to be healthier on GM treatment and some were more prone to infections. The studies comparing the quality of milk indicate no difference between both types. The studies on milk consumption show no significant differences of impact on humans between both of the cow milks. To conclude, if you drink milk anyway, to your health it does not matter whether you drink GM one or organic. The only difference is that significantly less cows are needed to produce your weekly milk supply when you purchase GM milk. More info: click,click, click.
I hope that through this post you have gained some more insight into the development of GM foods. Next week, I am going to finish the GMO educational series by showing you interesting GMO uses outside the food industry.
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