Genetically Modified Foods

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Genetically modified food and agricultural biotechnology have generated a lot of interest and controversy worldwide. Some like the technology's benefits while others raise questions about environmental and food safety issues. Crop varieties developed by genetic engineering were first introduced for commercial production in 1996. Today, these crops are planted on more than 167 million acres worldwide. U.S. farmers are by far the largest producers of genetically modified (GM) crops (6)(8).

Genetically Modified Crops are foods that have had a gene extracted from a living thing, which has been placed into a different food by a scientist. This technology can be used to produce new varieties of plants or animals more quickly than conventional breeding methods. Also to introduce traits not possible through traditional techniques. There are two main types of GM crops that are in commercial use around the world. These are either crops that have been developed to be resistant to certain crop pests, or crops that have been developed to be resistant to a particular herbicide (weed killer)(5).

Genetically Modified Crops are made for many different purposes, the main purpose being to create a food able to survive being sprayed with harmful chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. Other purposes are to make food stay fresher for longer, to kill pests, to produce more of the crop and to experiment with taste and quality. The most common foods are maize, cotton, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, canola, soybean and sugar beet(6).

Gene Technology is one of the types of modern Biotechnology. It is the use of living things to make or change products, such as the foods we eat (Melcer2). The first genetically modified crops to be sold in the USA were tomatoes, which were modified so they wouldn't go soft so quickly, then soy beans and oilseed rape, which gives margarine and oils. They were modified to survive certain herbicides and weed-killers, then maize and cotton were modified to carry a poison that kills pests and protects crops against damage. Potatoes were also some of the earliest vegetables to be modified (7).

Genetic modification is an issue which arises every day, although people are not always aware of it. At the moment there is a lot of debate whether GM foods are good or bad. GM Crops are affecting society in many of the foods that we buy (5).

Some of the disadvantages of Genetic modification are that most food manufacturers are unable or unwilling to provide information on whether or not their products contain GM ingredients.
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