Whenever Genetically Modified (GM) products are mentioned, the first doubt always falls on its safety issue. The confidence level on consuming GM food can be based on a few evaluations on the facts GM still poses on the scientific research and industry manufacturing technique and process, which each of them have the good and bad side of connotation in consideration.
The invention of GM food, other than creating its commercial value, is believed to bring better life to mankind. When we look at the pros side of the GM food, we may consider the consumption value of the food. In our case of GM fruits, some questions to ask may be: Is it promoting our health? Does it comprise some minerals that the fruit originally lack of? Does it smell or taste nicer? Does the taste change? Will it be good if we can have a single fruit that comprises all the vitamins and minerals we needed, at the same time enhanced fiber to help indigestion? Some people may concern about the size of the fruit, if we can have a big banana that can feed the meal of five people, will it be cutting down the cost of the family?
A recent article pointed out that tomatoes and bananas genetically modified to contain hepatitis B vaccine could rid the world of the virus. The virus, which causes high fever and attacks the liver, is a precursor of liver cancer, the biggest single cause of cancer deaths. A single gene transferred into a tomato or banana plant is reproduced as a protein thousands of times inside the fruit. When eaten it passes into the intestine and then into the blood stream producing antibodies against hepatitis B – working the same way as a traditionally injected but much more expensive vaccine. (Monsanto, 2000)
One of the advantages of GM fruit is herbicide resistance. It has given the opportunity to mass grow. In the past, well-controlled proportion of herbicide is used to avoid the agriculture to be killed and poisoned. With the tolerance, farmers nowadays can ‘…’ without too much conscious, and they may put even more herbicide so as to effectively kill all the weeds. This may be causing the fruits’ surface covered by herbicide, which are non-bio-degradable. If consumers buy the fruits, they may not be able to ensure whether the fruits are affected, and this is worse when the fruits consumed contain toxin that the fruits have absorbed.
Therefore, this is definitely harmful for health. Even though no obvious symptom may be observed but it may have hidden side effects, GE disrupts the integrity of the recipient genome with unpredictable side effects including ‘gene silencing’ both of the inserted gene and other unrelated genes in the organism. GE cannot readily control the number of copies of the gene that are inserted into the host, nor where in the genome they will end up. Inserted genes can disrupt the function of existing genes in ways, which may not show up until later generations. Another report indicated that GM crops, some of which contain their own built-in pesticides that split open the stomachs of the insects that consume them, are having serious health consequences on humans, some inactive herbicide may become reactivated inside your gut and cause a toxic reaction. In addition, a gene that was inserted into the corn might transfer into the DNA of your gut bacteria, producing long-term effects. These are just a couple of the many potential side effects of GM crops that critic’s say put the public at risk. (Smitch, 2006)
Mass numbers GM fruits are believed to exist in the market and some may not be identified, as they are not labeled. This implies that we may not know whether we are consuming any GM food everyday. Unless scientifically proven and legally approved, reliability of GM food should still be reconsidered.
Jeffrey M. Smith, Spilling the Beans, Institute for Responsible Technology, April/May 2006
Vaccine In GM Fruit Could Wipe Out Hepatitis B, Knowledge Center, http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/ukshowlib.phtml?uid=3893
David Heaf, Lists of Pros and Cons of Genetic Engineering, 2001, Ifgene, http://www.ifgene.org/proscons.htm