Genetic engineering has actually been widely applied, for example, genetic engineering in the production of insulin from yeast and bacteria. This insulin produced is very similar to human insulin and has been recognized for use since 1982, now known as Humulin. Genetic engineering has also been widely used in food. Before that, let’s find out first, what is Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
What is Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
GMOs are genetically modified plants, animals, or microorganisms that have been tested in laboratories with genetic engineering. In other words, GMO is as it is, a Genetically Modified Organism. Modifications like this produce organism with genes that do not exist in nature naturally or by cross-breeding. GMOs to be discussed are GMO plants.
Since time immemorial humans have known how to obtain superior plants by selective breeding. For example, only superior seeds will be bred. Watermelon, for example, thousands of years ago watermelon generally has a bitter or tasteless and rather hard. But the selective breeding done by humans for thousands of years makes the watermelon now has a sweet taste, and tender and sliced meat.
GMOs differ from selective breeding plants. GMOs are created by directly changing plant genes so that we can easily choose desired plant traits. Such as large, sweet taste, without seeds, and so on. GMO plants are now widely produced, especially in western countries.
What are the Bad Impacts of GMO Plants?
One of the most difficult things about GMO cultivation is preventing it from mixing with non-GMO plants. The wind that carries seeds from GMO plants is feared to make GMO plants grow where they shouldn’t. If this continues, it will mix GMO and non-GMO plant genes. This mixing can cause the growth of plants with mixed genes with undesirable traits.
One way to overcome this is by making GMO plant seeds sterile. But this way, of course, makes farmers have to buy new seeds every time they plant.
Are GMOs Safe to Eat?
For many years, whether or not GMO plant food was safe caused controversy. Controversies such as the reasons for consumer health and the environment often become a difference. Even to the point of criticism and rules that prohibit and limit food production from GMOs.
However, after more than 30 years and thousands of scientific studies carried out, actually eating GMO food is not much more dangerous than eating conventional food. This was confirmed by a large study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2016 stating that “there is no concrete evidence of differences in risks to human health between currently available commercially engineered genetically modified plants and conventionally bred plants.”. The study lasted more than 20 years and more than 900 publications were examined as a study material. In addition, the European Union’s official food safety agency has given permission that GMO-produced food is safely marketed.
Conventional plants that deal with pests with pesticides can be easily cleaned by washing. What about plants that are engineered to be poisonous to pests?
Poison is actually just a perspective. Generally, the poisons used in GMOs are indeed dangerous for pests, but not for humans. Another example is chocolate, which is delicious to humans but can end up deadly to dogs.
What Are the Positive Examples of GMO Plants?
Eggplant is one of the important and popular food products in Bangladesh. Eggplant productivity in Bangladesh decreased by 80% as mushrooming pests and larvae attacked the plant species. But then there was the GMO eggplant solution which was introduced in 2013. Since the use of GMOs, the production rate has increased 3 times, the profits have increased rapidly even recorded to increase by 650%. In addition, the use of pesticides – which are harmful to humans – decreases by 80%. This is certainly a turning point for eggplant farmers in Bangladesh.
GMO for the Future
There is still much we can do with GMOs for a better future. Just say it:
- Plants that produce more and varied nutrients.
- Plants that can withstand extreme temperatures or drastically changing environments, such as floods and long droughts.
- Plants that can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen more effectively.
With the technology we have now, it seems that the benefits of GMOs are only limited by our desires and imagination.
Sources and References:
- Are GMOs Good or Bad? Genetic Engineering & Our Food – Kurzgesagt
- Yes, GMOs Are Safe (Another Major Study Confirms) – Forbes
- What Is Genetic Engineering? – yourgenome.org
- What Is a GMO? – The non-GMO Project
- The 5,000-Year Secret History of the Watermelon – National Geographic
- Genetically-Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects – The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine
- Why Chocolate Can Be Poisonous for Your Dog – Hill’s Pet
- GMO Eggplant Crop Expands In Bangladesh – Cornell Chronicle
- Bt Eggplant Improving Lives In Bangladesh – Cornell Chronicle