Though everything about GMF looks fascinating, it has remained one of the most controversial and critical topics for decades.
Our world population is continuously increasing but agricultural land is limited. Thus, food shortage is a major problem we are facing today. Hence, there is a need for research and development in agricultural science and technology to speed up food production while maintaining nutrients in the food.
Genetically modified food (GMF)
One such technological innovation is that of Genetically modified foods (GMF). GMF products are obtained from producers, like plants and animals, whose DNA has been altered via genetic recombination. These are also known as ‘Biotechnologically Modified Foods’. For simplification, One can think of a building, where the outer architecture is kept the same, whereas the interior design is modified to achieve a new environment. The genetic engineering and technology also works in a similar way. The GMF looks almost the same but it’s interior aspects have been transformed.
GMF have attracted attention due to their fast growth, longer shelf-life, higher nutrition and cost-efficiency. This is beneficial to both the producers and traders. Gene Technology has played a dominant role in the ‘Green Revolution’. The production of food has tripled; while population doubled in the same period. The tripling of food production was achieved with only a 30% increase in the cultivated land.
Genetic diversity is achieved by gene improvement in a given crop and is fundamentally important for hybrid development. Modifying DNA structures offers many advantages such as they are present in abundance, simple, quick and experimentally reproducible. At present, there are 100 rice hybrids available, but only 47 are officially released for cultivation. Due to the availability of unofficial GM seeds in the market and no detailed information, farmers uproot crops and face huge economic loss.
Thus, understanding the diversity and originality, as well as the database of the hybrid rice from both public and private sectors is essential. Dr. A. K. Singh and his team, from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, carried out tests using molecular fingerprint technology. These scientists studied the simple sequence repeats (SSRs) in the DNA extracted from the available bulked leaf samples of rice. This technology could successfully differentiate hybrids from the native plant varieties. The team proved that their technology results have implications in protection and authentication of the hybrids.
Though everything looks fascinating, GMF has remained one of the most controversial and critical topics for decades. Firstly, the severe impact on the society, environment and the economy is a critical parameter which disturbs experts. Secondly, the health risks involved with GMF are toxicity, allergenicity and genetic hazards. Moreover, chemical pesticides mixed for food growth and better productivity remain in food in the form of residuals. Lastly, the use of chemical pesticides reduce the productivity of the land over the period and further make it infertile.
So far, genetically modified crops are temporary but effective solution for the increasing demand for food in the world. However, they can cause direct or indirect health problems not only to humans, but also to agricultural lands. It is essential to protect yourself from harmful effects due to the continuous consumption of certain foods, though it may be organic or inorganic. In conclusion, GMF are rapidly changing the agricultural science and quality of the food we consume. Further research, adaptability will benefit farmers and people, and pave the way towards getting the right food to our population.
Editor: Dr. Ratnesh Jain
Illustrator: S. Sripradha, Pranita Herwade-Kumbhojkar