Understanding why GMOs are dangerous for health is of particular importance and interest to scientists and the public. Genetically modified food is derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – plants, animals, or microorganisms. Genetically modified organisms acquire some new properties due to the transfer into the genome of individual genes theoretically from any organism or the genome of related species. GMOs increase yields, create resistance of crops to diseases, and produce insecticides against pests. But mutations of viruses that cause genetic changes in plants bring diseases to animals and people. There are both harm and benefit to GMO products.
Introducing transgenic structures into the human or animal food chain can lead to unpredictable effects on their health. Other DNA fragments carrying undesirable traits, such as genes encoding toxins or antibiotic resistance, can be integrated into GMOs and target genes. Consequently, a person may develop resistance, greatly affecting his health. The dispute over the practicality of using genetically modified organisms in the agricultural and food sector has remained strong for the past twenty years (Cui & Shoemaker, 2018). On the other hand, the experience of using GM crops in different countries suggests that there still needs to be objective data confirming the advantages of GM crops over traditional crops. In addition, numerous facts about the negative impact of GMOs on the environment, human health, and socio-economic development of regions are already known (Cui & Shoemaker, 2018). For example, GMO products significantly reduce human immunity.
Scientists are careful in assessing the safety of GMOs. It has been proven that in changing an organism’s genotype, its toxicity or allergenicity may increase. For example, a genetically modified bacterium was created in the USA in the late 80s to produce a food additive, tryptophan. But along with the usual tryptophan, for some reason not fully understood, it began to produce ethylene bis-tryptophan. As a result of its use, 5 thousand people got sick, 37 died, and a half thousand became disabled (Fernbach et al., 2019). The vast majority of plants contain toxic substances, but their content and creation are at a low level. That is, they do not cause any unpleasant consequences for human health (Fernbach et al., 2019). In that case, there is a high probability that toxins will begin to be produced at a higher level, and the same plant will already be dangerous to humans.
Genetic organisms tend to influence the work of the genetic apparatus of intestinal microorganisms and cause their mutation. It is the mutation, according to scientists, that causes the development of cancer cells. Transgenes can also harm the reproductive properties of the body. The European Food Safety Authority has recognized the harmless consumption of meat and milk from genetically modified animals. Japanese geneticists introduced the spinach gene into the pig’s genome – as a result, the meat became less fatty. A medical preparation made from the milk of transgenic goats has been developed, intended for those with the antithrombin gene, which is responsible for preventing blood clots, is disrupted. Transgenic animals have also been obtained: pigs, cows, and goats (Li et al., 2019). Using GM technologies will make it possible to breed animals with predetermined qualities, increase agricultural productivity and solve the hunger problem in developing countries.
One of the main values of GM food is its use for medical purposes. On this basis, scientists investigate how serious diseases develop, for example, tumors. Moreover, scientists around the world are trying to solve issues related to the aging of the body to study the functioning of the human nervous system. GMOs are widely used for pharmaceutical purposes when creating medicines. Work is underway to create genetically modified plants that produce components of vaccines against dangerous infections. A drug against thrombosis based on protein from the milk of transgenic goats has been successfully tested and approved for use. A new branch of medicine is rapidly developing — gene therapy. An equally important branch of the use of GMOs in agriculture (Romeis et al., 2019). Genetic engineering has made it possible to create completely new plants that can withstand the climate unfavorable for their growth, do not become prey to pests, and do not deteriorate for a long period.
In conclusion, no one can give a detailed assessment of whether genetically modified foods are useful. However, they have their own mutually exclusive advantages and disadvantages. GMO products can cause an allergic reaction and decrease immunity, but many studies prove their safety and benefits for medical purposes. On the other hand, it is the progress of science and a huge contribution to the future, which was created with good intentions to improve and improve the quality of life in general.
Cui, K., & Shoemaker, S. P. (2018). Public perception of genetically-modified (GM) food: A nationwide Chinese consumer study. Science of Food, 2(1), 1-8.
Fernbach, P. M., Light, N., Scott, S. E., Inbar, Y., & Rozin, P. (2019). Extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least but think they know the most. Nature Human Behaviour, 3(3), 251-256.
Li, D., Li, X., Zhou, W. L., Huang, Y., Liang, X., Jiang, L., Yang X., Sun J., Li Z & Wang, W. (2019). Genetically engineered T cells for cancer immunotherapy. Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy, 4(1), 1-17.
Romeis, J., Naranjo, S. E., Meissle, M., & Shelton, A. M. (2019). Genetically engineered crops help support conservation biological control. Biological Control, 130, 136-154.