Genetically Modified Organisms and Food

“A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.  Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods, and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food.  The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, ‘living modified organism’ defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, “any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology”).”

There was an incident recently in the Philippines that caught my attention.  Farm workers destroyed a test rice field that was growing yellow rice.  The rice was yellow because it was modified with genetic material from corn, so that the rice would have additional nutrients.  One of the key nutrients was vitamin A.

Many people around the work are deficient in vitamin A and as a consequent suffer from preventable blindness and other vision problems.  The hope was that the yellow rice would be able to be grown successfully and could then be put into the food supply around the world.

The thing that troubled me the most is farmers have been cross breeding plants for thousands of years.  Farmers have breed many new fruits and vegetables which are in our food supply today.  Further, nature itself has developed new species over time as a result of cross pollination, this is without any human intervention.

Often times people are afraid of the consequences of change.  The farm workers may have been fearful that the new rice would put them out of work, or that it would result in food that no one wanted to eat.  Regardless of the fear they had, they should not have destroyed the test field.

I am not 100% sure where I stand on other genetically modified organisms, but for plants and more specifically fruits and vegetables, I am ok with it and would gladly eat it.  Using advances in technology to move faster than simply cross breeding plants, I think is a good thing for the world.


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