What are transgenic foods?

We explain what transgenic foods are, and what genetic modifications are for. Advantages and Criticisms.

  1. What are transgenic foods?

Transgenic foods are those produced by plant organisms modified by genetic engineering and other bioengineering techniques , in order to grant them new properties and achieve more resistant, abundant crops and / or with larger products.

Transgenic foods are obtained as part of species improvement projects , only no longer through traditional methods of natural selection or hybridization (whose products are usually sterile), but by inserting genes from another similar species into the species, to introduce specific changes in the reproduction of the species.

The first transgenic plant produced was born in 1983 and three years later the multinational company Monsanto already commercialized it. It was a tobacco plant that had a gene inserted to make it resistant to the antibiotic Kanamycin. In 1994, similarly, the Calgene company began marketing the first transgenic product: Flavr Savr tomatoes.

This type of genetic alteration techniques are currently applied with corn and soybeans , among other vegetables for mass consumption , through the sale of “manufactured” transgenic seeds by large agrotechnology corporations. The five countries with the highest amount (almost 95%) of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina and China.

  1. Criticisms of GM foods

The GM food industry has often been accused of marketing unsafe, higher allergenicity or toxicity foods . The investigation of Exwen and Pustzai of 1999, in which they fed two groups of rats with natural and transgenic potatoes respectively, was evidenced, showing a greater deterioration in the case of the latter. However, the numerous procedural and experimental design failures that these scientists incurred widely discredited their results.

For the moment, the results regarding the possible long-term toxicity of genetically modified foods show contradictory and inconclusive results. However, this is not the only concern about it .

A controversial point regarding transgenic foods has to do with the gradual replacement of natural strains by those intervened by man , whose artificially induced resistance would give unfair advantages to compete with wild strains. This would eventually lead to the impoverishment of the genetic well and, in addition, involves complicated intellectual property issues, which would force farmers to pay royalties to the company that provides them with the transgenic seeds.

  1. Advantages of GM foods

The genetically induced advantages of this type of food have to do not only with the achievement of species with a larger size and greater profitability , which, it is argued, could serve to combat hunger in a world of increasingly human population ; but also with obtaining plants more resistant to pests and other substances for agricultural use.

This would allow intensive cultivation of plant species and increased production and distribution in local and regional markets . The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that, due to climate change , agricultural productivity would decrease between 9 and 12% by 2050. Transgenic foods could be a form of combat against the coming famine.

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