In this article we will discuss about the development of genetically modified food.
A genetically modified food is a food product derived in whole or part from a genetically modified organism (GMO) such as a crop plant, animal or microbe such as yeast. Genetically modified foods have been available since the 1990s. The principal ingredients of GM foods currently available are derived from genetically modified soybean, maize and canola.
Some governments have a very strong mutual disagreement over the labelling and traceability requirements for GM food products. For example the European Union and Japan require labelling and traceability while regulatory agencies in the United States do not believe these requirements are necessary.
The origins of genetic engineering represent a series of sequential scientific advances from the Nobel prize-winning discovery of DNA to the production of the first recombinant E .coli bacteria. The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was a tomato created by Calgene called the FlavrSavr.
Calgene submitted it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for assessment in 1992; the agency determined that the FlavrSavr was in fact a tomato, did not constitute a health hazard, and did not need special labeling.
Calgene released it into the market in 1994, where it was welcomed by consumers who purchased the fruit at two to five times the price of standard tomato’s. However, production problems, and competition from a conventionally bred Long-Shelf-Life (LSL) variety prevented the product from becoming profitable, and Calgene was bought by Monsanto in 1995.
A variant of the FlavrSavr was used by Zeneca to produce tomato paste which was sold in Europe during the summer of 1996. It’s labelling and pricing were designed as a marketing experiment which proved that, at the time, European consumers would accept genetically engineered foods.
This attitude would be drastically changed after outbreaks of Mad cow disease weakened consumer trust in government regulators, and protesters rallied against the introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans.
Transgenic crops are grown commercially or in field trials in over 40 countries and on 6 continents. In 2000, about 109.2 million acres (442,000 km2) were planted with transgenic crops, the principal ones being herbicide- and insecticide-resistant soybeans, corn, cotton, and canola.
Other crops grown commercially or field-tested are a sweet potato resistant to a US strain of a virus that affects one out of the more than 89 different varieties of sweet potato grown in Africa, rice with increased iron and vitamins such as golden rice, and a variety of plants able to survive extreme weather.
Between 1996 and 2001, the total surface area of land cultivated with GMOs had increased by a factor of 30, from 17,000 km2 (4.2 million acres) to 520,000 km2 (128 million acres). The value for 2002 was 145 million acres (587,000 km2) and for 2003 was 167 million acres (676,000 km2). Soybean crop represented 63% of total surface in 2001, maize 19%, cotton 13% and canola 5%.
In 2004, the value was about 200 million acres (809,000 km2) of which 2/3 were in the United States. Four countries represent 99% of total GM surface in 2001: United States (68%), Argentina (22%), Canada (6%) and China (3%). It is estimated that 70% of products on U.S. grocery shelves include GM ingredients.
In particular, Bt corn is widely grown, as are soybeans genetically designed to tolerate glyphosate herbicides. The US Agriculture Department estimated that 38 per cent of the 79 million acres (320,000 km2) of corn planted in 2003 will be genetically engineered varieties as well as 80% of the 73.2 million acres (296,000 km2) soybeans.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimate that 75% of all processed foods in the U.S. contain a GM ingredient. Future envisaged applications of GMOs include bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, fish that mature more quickly, fruit and nut trees that yield years earlier, and plants that produce new plastics with unique properties.
The next decade may see exponential progress in GM product development as researchers gain increasing access to genomic resources that are applicable to organisms beyond the scope of individual projects.