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GMOs: Positive and Negative Impacts

The term GMO is quite common and is gaining significance in a variety of food products. GMO which stands for Genetically Modified Organisms has been a subject of debate ever since it’s discovery among various scientific communities as to whether they are actually advantageous or not. The most common applications GM products are in the food and pharmaceutical industries. However, GMOs can also be used in the environment for its protection and monitoring. Before getting into the impacts of GMOs in various fields it is quite essential to be clear with the concept of GMOs.

What are GMOs?

GMOs are basically organisms that are genetically engineered to include a particular trait of another organism or remove certain traits. So basically it is the manipulation of living organisms at the molecular level which is done by using recombinant DNA technology. A gene from one organism is transferred to another one through the use of suitable vectors. The GMO products that find their uses every day include soy, corn, tomatoes, milk, etc. A wide range of applications is in the field of pharmaceuticals, food technology, agriculture as well as environmental management.

Positive Impacts of GMOs

The protection and maintenance of the environment are one of the most significant topics that are gaining significance among people. However, by manipulating certain living organisms like bacteria, plants, etc. the wastes generated in the environment can be treated effectively. In order to degrade non-degradable wastes,  either restructuring an already existing metabolic pathway or assembling a whole new pathway is done by using suitable techniques of genetic engineering.

GMOs also play a vital role in monitoring the contents of the environment. A known quantity of pollutants present in the environment can help one to put effective methods to control the level of that particular pollutant. A pollutant can be sensed by using biosensors that can detect the concentration of pollutants. The biosensor consists of a biological element which can be a nucleic acid, antibody or a microorganism which can help to detect the concentration of a particular pollutant. The biological elements can be genetically modified to produce more effective signals, detect new pollutants, etc.

GM crops are the plants whose genetic makeup has been manipulated in order to inculcate certain desirable traits. For e.g. a genetically modified corn plant which is made resistant to certain pests would result in increased yield as corn would not be susceptible to pest-related diseases as well as invasions.

GMOs are quite essential for the production of various pharmaceutical compounds that are generally obtained through living organisms such as plants, animals as well as microbes. Plants and animals could be injected with genetically modified hormones whereas microbes are manipulated at the genetic level in order to improve the quality as well as yield of the required pharma products.

Negative Impacts of GMOs

Since GMOs are a new variety of species their reaction with the elements of the environment is unknown. Some predict that they can interact with other species to produce a mutant strain which may prove to be dominating over the other species thus resulting in a lack of biodiversity in the future period. The by-products mutant strains could also produce toxic effects on the environment as well as its components.

Recombinant bovine growth hormone is a synthetic hormone which is injected into the cows in order to increase the yield of milk. However, according to the American Public Health Association, these milk has more of the hormone IGF-1 which can prove to be carcinogenic. The use of GMOs should be avoided as it can affect fertility, immune system and many more functions in human bodies. The consumption of genetically modified crop plants by the predators could also prove to be harmful to them.
The unknown distribution of GM crops could result in the production of the genetically modified compound. For e.g. it was proved that most of the honey found in the areas surrounded by GM crops showed different characteristics than the naturally existing honey. This is due to the fact that honeybees secret nectar from genetically modified crop plants that result in honey being genetically modified. This could prove to be a bane for the people who are allergic to GMOs as they the are unaware about it's genetically modified nature.

Conclusion 

Since genetic engineering is a new field, it's disadvantages might be visible in the long-term period in the environment as well as human health. Current researches are focusing on to explore the disadvantages on one hand whereas studying genetically modified genes to produce new products. It could prove to be a boon in future for the food industries as new products such as cow free milk, cultured meat as well as genetically modified chocolate would make a mark in the market. However, proper tests and trials should be conducted in regards to its short term as well as long term effects on an individual as well as an environment before getting any new GMO based products in the market.

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