The Benefits and Risks to Genetically Modified Corn

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Introduction. Genetic engineering or genetic modification of corn refers to using molecular techniques or other similar techniques of biotechnology to add slight quantities of chromosomal material to the atomic structure and composition of corn, to protect it against infestation by pests, harm caused by herbicides or to increase its quality 4. In general, genetically modified corn is wired to resist herbicides and to produce its own insecticide. The trait in corn which tolerates herbicides is produced using tissue culture selection and a chemical called mutagen ethyl methanesulfonate 1. The trait in genetically modified corn that produces insecticide has a certain protein that is poisonous to some insect pests called Bt Toxin, hence the reason why genetically modified corn is also called Bt corn 3. How does it work? The transformation of normal corn into Bt corn involves extraction of the required gene from the donor organism, Bacillus thuringiensis,1 which is a bacteria that occurs naturally in soils. The genetic material is extracted from this bacterium to manufacture a certain form of proteins (Bt delta endotoxin) which has the ability to kill harmful larvae of the Lepidoptera species 5 such as the famous European Corn borer and the Southwestern corn borer. However, this gene is not implanted on its own. A combination of the gene and other genetic material such as a promoter sequence that partly determines how the new trait will come out or be articulated in the corn is also implanted 5. Such traits may include articulation of the protein in particular parts of the corn or at specific time periods. Examples of such promoters include herbicide and antibiotic tolerance promoters which are frequently used in identifying which cor... ... middle of paper ... ... digestive systems. Conclusion Many debates are still being held by environmental agencies, food and drug control institutions and other scientific research organizations and specialists on the viability of using genetically modified foods in general. The general opinion is that the safety standards should be considered before a genetic modification is made. This is by comparing the risks of such a modification to the opportunity cost of maintaining the unmodified version. Several measures should be taken to ensure that certain effects of genetically modified foods are under control, for instance the creation of super weeds through cross pollination between Bt corn and crop weeds can be averted by using control regions where farmers plant unmodified corn in fields next to the Bt corn or planting of sterile male Bt corn to prevent the spread of pollen to crop weeds.
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