Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are organisms (animals, viruses, plants or bacteria) whose genes have been changed for a great diversity of applications varying from farming production to scientific exploration (Viljoen, Dajee, & Botha, 2006). The types of possible risks involved with the use of GMO’s differ according to the kind of organism being altered and its future application. The main threat of GMO’s is linked to their apparent negative influence on the environment and human well-being since GMO’s that could directly affect human health are mostly products that human often consume as food. This paper will analyze the negative effects of genetically modified organisms.
Up to date, the only sorts of products that have been allowed for human consumption in the United States are genetically modified plants. All genetically modified organisms that have been allowed are regarded by the government as harmless as their traditional analogs (Viljoen et al., 2006). Nonetheless, there are numerous types of potential health impacts that insertion of a new gene into an organism could have. Primary health hazards in this case would include increased toxicity, new allergens production, reduced nutrition and antibiotic resistance.
Food allergy influences roughly five percent of children and three percent of adults in the US and is a serious public health hazard (Viljoen et al., 2006). Allergic reactions in humans happen when a usually innocuous protein gets in the body and provokes an immune response. If the new protein in a genetically modified food comes from a source that is known to lead to allergic reactions in humans or from a source that has never been used as human food, the protein can provoke a serious immune reaction in human body. Though no allergic responses to genetically modified food have been confirmed by consumers, the studies signifying that some genetically modified products could lead to an allergic response has made biotechnology firms to cease their researches (Paine, Shipton, Chaggar, Howells, & Kennedy, 2005).
Most plants contain components that are poison to humans. A great number of the plants that people consume have toxins at rather low levels, so that they do not have any adverse health effects. There is a thought that implanting an artificial gene into a plant could make it produce toxins at higher levels, and that can be dangerous for humans (Viljoen et al., 2006). Also, if genes in the plant become damaged during such implementation procedure, it could lead the plant to change its production of toxins. Besides, the new gene can influence a metabolic process, and as a result, a plant may start producing more toxins. Though these outcomes have not been detected in genetically modified plants, they have been noticed through traditional breeding approaches, generating misgivings concerning the safety of genetically modified plants (Paine et al., 2005). For instance, potatoes bred in such a way for increased resistance to diseases produced higher levels of glycoalkaloids.
A GM plant could hypothetically have lower nutritional value than its traditional analog in case it made nutrients unobtainable or indigestible to humans. For instance, phytate is a common compound that can be found in grains and seeds that combines with minerals and makes them unavailable to humans. An implanted gene could make a plant produce more phytate, which would decrease nutritional value of the minerals in the plant (Paine et al., 2005). Another instance comes from a research demonstrating that a strain of GM soybean produced less compounds of phytoestrogen, which is thought to decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease, than the traditional soybeans.
Lately, health specialists have become worried about the increased number of bacterial strains that display rather high resistance to antibiotics. Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics by producing special antibiotic-resistant genes through mutation. Scientists are not sure if the target plant will integrate the new gene into its genome (Viljoen et al., 2006). By integrating the necessary gene to an antibiotic-resistant gene, the new genetic modified plant can be verified by planting it in a solution that contains the corresponding antibiotic (Paine et al., 2005). If the plant remains alive, it will be obvious that it has used the antibiotic-resistant gene along with the necessary gene. However, there is a thought that bacteria that lives in the guts of animals and humans might use an antibiotic-resistant gene from a genetically modified plant before the DNA becomes totally digested.
So far, it is not clear what kind of threat antibiotic resistance to bacteria poses. No studies have ever been conducted on bacteria integrating new DNA from human digestive system (Viljoen et al., 2006). The two sorts of antibiotic-resistant genes used by specialists are the ones that may be already found in bacteria in nature, and thus, the procedure would not present new antibiotic resistance to bacteria. Nonetheless, the FDA is seriously concerned with such studies, so it encourages specialists in this sphere stop using antibiotic-resistant genes (Paine et al., 2005).
To sum up, genetically modified organisms cause harm owing to the fact that they may be rather toxic to human. Studies have also revealed that genetically modified organisms negatively influence the immune system of the people. Besides, it may cause allergic reactions. Another matter of concern is bacteria that show resistance to antibiotics.