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Miércoles, 06 Febrero 2019 09:28

Transgenic foods, are they as bad as they say?

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Determining whether transgenic foods are harmful to human health is one of the most important scientific and public policy issues for today's society.

On September 9 of this year, the Semana magazine published an interview with the Nobel laureate in Medicine, Richard Roberts, where he presented his ideas and affirmed that transgenic foods are not harmful to human health, and that they are the International NGOs such as Greenpeace, who have created a bad reputation for these genetically modified foods, based on dogmas and studies that have not been confirmed.

According to Richard Roberts, the procedure to generate transgenic foods: "It is a precise way to improve the genes of food in a fast and safe way. The GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) method finds the specific gene that we want and puts it directly in the plant. Thus, we achieved a modified plant that has a very precise engineering and that was only made to be produced with the gene that we introduced."

These foods have been attacked basically on two fronts: the first, is the effects that these could produce in humans, because they are derived from a procedure that is carried out with modifications in the gene of plants, fruits, among others, suggesting that by not being something organic and natural, it could have counterproductive results for the health of the people who consume it. On the other hand, the environmental defenders, assure that these practices are damaging the structure of DNA of the plants and derivatives, due to the fact that although there is no modification to certain species, these can have changes through pollination, since according to these organizations, it could transfer characteristics modified by this means.

According to Especiales Semana (11/28/2016) GM foods and their market are controlled by six companies worldwide (BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta), which dominate between 70% and 75% of the global market of pesticides and seeds. This means that this business has become an oligopoly, and this is what the defenders of the environment and food safety criticize.
 
Big companies that control the seeds and pesticides market. Graphic took from Especiales Semana (Transgenics ¿A Threat? 11/28/2016)
 
“There is not enough long-term evidence of the impact of genetically modified seeds; but there has been an impact on biodiversity. When you start using these seeds, to increase productivity, this causes the traditional ones to be in the background, that is to say that little by little the use of conventional seeds will be reduced ". Affirmed Nathalie Cris Abrahams Chow, Researcher in Ecology and Environmental Management of the Epidemiology and Population Health Group of the School of Public Health of Universidad del Valle.

According to the Semillas de Colombia Group, in 1996 there were one million hectares sown with transgenic food in the country, while in 2015 there were 175 million.

The professor belonging to the Nutrition Group of Universidad del Valle, Mildrey Mosquera Escudero, who works in the area of Molecular Biology - Biochemistry, of the School of Basic Sciences, commented what transgenic foods meant: "I do agree with the transgenic foods; what Roberts said in the interview with Semana magazine is very true, because what is being done with genetically modified foods is to accelerate the process of natural selection. If farmers see that one plant has more production than another, they will start to stimulate this gene in the presence of the plant, and not only the production, also its resistance to pests, its growth, among other things.” Although the professor defends this practice, she also comments that she does not agree in certain aspects, because the big industries have handled transgenic foods at their whim, where their main objective is to generate their own profits, leaving aside the well-being of being human and the planet.

There are many scientific advances that are being designed to meet the needs of the population; that is why synthetic meats are being created in the laboratory, to avoid the process inherent to meat production, which significantly contributes to the greenhouse effect, among other things. In this sense, there is a great possibility of being able to contribute to humanity, and using these scientific and technological advances to improve the lifestyle of people, while trying to ensure the protection of the environment.
 
 
For years, the big companies that are against GM foods, such as Greenpeace, have been criticized that it is not proven that these foods have negative repercussions on human health, but that if they continue to be handled indiscriminately, could bring consequences to the environment. The two-time winner of National Prize of Genetics and Biotechnology ACCB in the Meeting of Biological Sciences, Professor Adalberto Sánchez-Gómez supports this concept: "The massive use of this type of crops iit can bring an impact on the environment, and this has to do in perspectives more of an evolutionary type, because as these techniques continue to be used more and more, we will put our food sovereignty at risk, in the sense that this reduces the variability of response to environmental pressures in natural populations. This means that there will be less and less natural defenses to cope with pests and diseases".  Professor Sánchez added: "GM foods have no impact on human health, in the sense that they are not foods that can cause a specific pathological condition. Therefore the affirmation of the Nobel Prize is valid, due to the fact that there is no significant evidence with statistical sufficiency to support a hypothesis that affirms that when consuming this type of food, discomfort in health is generated".

Richard Roberts, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in medicine with Phillip A. Sharp, when they verified that the information deposited in a gene was not continuously available, but was fractionated; concluded the interview stating that "As with technological advances, advances in global food also happen as we decide. It is a decision we make. Many people are apathetic because they can go to the supermarket and choose from so much variety. Children in Africa, on the other hand, have no choice. As a society, we should not say that genetically modified food is "bad or dangerous food" in the conditions in which the global famine is. If they do not eat, they will surely die. "

Depending on a document published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), although progress has been made in reducing hunger in Colombia, it is still far from the reasons to celebrate. The figure is worrisome: there are more than three million Colombians in conditions of hunger and food insecurity.

In accordance with Agro-Bio (Association of Agricultural Plant Biotechnology), Colombia began to use genetically modified crops since 2002, with the planting of the blue carnation; since then the other products that have been genetically modified are: cotton, corn and blue roses. Research is currently underway to genetically modify foods such as yucca, rice, potatoes, sugar and coffee.

According to figures from the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA), in 2017, 86,030 hectares of genetically modified (GM) corn, 9,075 hectares of cotton and 12 hectares of blue flowers were planted in Colombia for a total of 95,117 hectares of transgenic crops.
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