Thursday, August 29, 2013

What are GMOs?

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You may not know it, but chances are, you are consuming GMOs everyday. Plenty of food items from meat to grains to oil, are believed to be genetically-modified, or have genetically-modified components.

GMOs, or genetically-modified organisms, are organisms whose DNA has been manipulated in a laboratory. Certain genes may be added, removed, or mutated so that the organism exhibits desirable traits. GMOs do not include, however, organisms that are traditionally made to show particular characteristics by means of selective breeding in animals or cross-pollination in plants. Various organisms, including plants, mammals, insects, fish, and bacteria, have been genetically-modified by scientists. Some researchers are even performing human gene therapy to treat some genetic disorders.

History of GMOs

Genetic engineering started in 1972, when American biochemists attempted to modify bacteria by introducing a strand of DNA in a cut bacteria plasmid.

In 1991, a company called DNA Plant Technology sought and received permission from the United States Department of Agriculture to field test an organism called fish tomato. Fish tomato is a tomato into which scientists inserted a gene from a fish called the winter flounder to prevent the fruit from freezing. The result is an organism that combines genes from two different species.

In the 2000s, orgamisms such as the GloFish and the blue rose were introduced to the market. The GloFish is a fluorescent fish that was sold as a pet. Meanwhile, the blue rose, which exhibited a hue that is not found in natural roses, was shown off in an exhibit by a Japanese company.

Other examples of GMOs that have been produced include the Amflora potato, Bt brinjal, and of course, Golden Rice. The latter has undergone two years of field testing in the country. It was created to improve the nutrition of people with vitamin A deficiency, many of whom can be found in the Philippines.

Future of GMOs

More countries, especially developing ones in Asia, are expected to plant GM crops before 2015. In Indonesia, a drought-tolerant sugarcane is scheduled for release soon, while China is up for GM maize. Africa will also likely find itself in the list of areas producing GM crops. A drought-tolerant maize will make its way into such continent in 2017. In Brazil, an insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant stacked soybean will also be planted this year.

Despite the controversy surrounding GMOs, it is expected that genetic modification will continue in the years to come. As more studies are made, researchers will likely discover better ways of altering genes, and find viable solutions to address the concerns of protesters.

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