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GM food or Genetically Modified food refers to the food crops or plants whose DNA structure has been modified in order to achieve a particular trait desirable to man. By the means of genetic engineering, man has been able to enhance some required traits in the crops (like the capability of a crop to grow in harsher climatic conditions) and is successful in abating the undesirable traits in a plant (like no seeds or smaller seeds in a fruit). GM food crops have been genetically engineered to either increase its nutrient value or increase resistance to insects and pests.  Flavr Savr tomato, (a type of tomato modified to delay its ripening and increase its shelf life) developed by Calgene, was the first commercially sold genetically modified food in 1994. Bt cotton (resistant to bromooxynil herbicide), alfalfa grass (resistant to the herbicide Roundup), virus resistant squash etc are other few GM food crops that have received marketing approval recently.  

Man, since ancient times, is involved in selective breeding of animals – eg. breeding wolves into more a domesticated breed: dogs. Crops have been cross bred and artificially selected increase the yield, improve shelf life, make it more palatable, easier to cook and store since the Roman times. Despite of the fact that it is not the very first time that man has meddled with nature to produce better crops or more domesticable animals, the GM foods have started a new debate all over the world. Many scientists and public societies have raised concerns about the effects of GM foods on public health and on the environment. Studies have been conducted which show that the GM foods could alter the balance in our ecosystem and could bring out disastrous and unwanted changes. It is claimed that the companies promoting GM foods are incapable of testing the long term effects of these crops on the environment.

  The biggest issue with the GM crops and the reason for people opposing is that it may cause allergies in humans. For example : Suppose scientists have introduced a gene from peanut plant into plant A to increase the size of the seed kernel. Now, a person who is allergic to peanuts might be allergic to plant A too. But since plant A is totally different from peanut plant, there is no way to find out the reason of the allergic reaction. Also, the possibility of the development of a new allergen when genes of two different species are mixed together cannot be ignored. New diseases and allergies could emerge if the GM crops and their effect of the environment are not tested thoroughly. GM food crops might result in the ecological imbalance and lower the level of biodiversity.

  If I were to comment on GM crops – their benefits and harms or if they should not be allowed to be marketed commercially, I would strongly stand by the introduction of newer and better GM crop varieties but with thourough testing and informed choices available to the consumer. If the consumer of plant A (mentioned in previous paragraph) knows about the peanut gene on the plant, he would be cautious while consuming plant A, hence the risk of sudden allergy attack can be avoided. If the companies study the interaction of the new GM crop with its environment meticulously and keep a vigilant eye for any unwanted effects, the problem of ecological imbalance due to GM crops can be avoided. The companies need to give full time to the lab testing and field testing and should not hurry to introduce their product in the market without a complete and assuring trial run. GM crops are engineered to be better than the crops already present in the nature. They have added advantages of more yield, better food quality, resistance to pests and ability to withstand harsher climatic conditions. They definitely should be promoted but with thorough testing by the company and a detailed fact sheet available to the consumer.                    
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