Fish: a variety of Atlantic salmon that grows to market weight in 18 months instead of 24 to 30 months. More economical for fish farmers to raise transgenic fish that are cheaper to feed and faster to market than to raise conventional fish.
Disadvantages: 1) may cause resistance in the insects has they are constantly given doses of insecticide. 2) may kill beneficial insects as well as the harmful insects. 3) considered to be a “franken food”.
Rice: known as “golden rice” which was modified to contain large amounts of beta-carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A). The inserted genes were from a bacterium and two were from daffodils (Bionet, 2002).
Advantages: 1) advantageous to nutrient deprived third world countries. 2) helps balance the diet of countries with limited diets consisting mainly of rice (Asia).
Disadvantages: 1) makes the third world countries dependent on the “rich western world” for the rice, as it cannot be grown from the sterile plants. 2) again, the “franken food” fear that we are somehow playing with the natural order of things.
Tomatoes: known as the “flavr-savr” tomato. Came on the market in 1994 and was the first genetically modified food available to consumers (Bionet, 2002).
Advantages: 1) modified to remain fresher longer, so can ripen on the vine to produce a better flavor. 2) can tolerate lengthier transportation to market, so the tomatoes do not need to be picked while still green.
Disadvantages: 1) used genes that made them resistant to antibiotics. Genes for antibiotic resistance are no longer inserted into the tomatoes. 2) the “franken food” fear. People do not understand the process and advantages and therefore do not want this tomato on the market.
Disadvantages: 1) the genes used for modifying the plants can be transferred to the insects, causing resistance in the insects. 2) these plants can pollinate weeds, transferring the herbicide resistance to the weed creating “super” weeds
Because of the on-going controversy surrounding GMOs, the Plant Genetic Engineering Lab here at NMSU, does not advertise what they are working on. They prefer to remain anonymous to prevent the over-zealous from creating problems.
The creation of “terminator” gene technology which produces sterile seeds from the genetically modified plant. The farmers will have to re-purchase the non-sterile seed each year. This can become expensive, especially to the small farmer or farmers in third world countries.
Another concern is the loss of biodiversity. Since genetically modified plants do not occur in nature, the possibility of “genetic pollution” may occur. When the gene pool from the wild and native species collapses because of the introduction of these modified genes, there will no longer be diversity in the plants.
There is the possibility of allergic reactions if a gene that can produce an allergic reaction (say from a peanut) were inserted into corn. People with allergies to peanuts would then become allergic to the corn. However; the FDA requires that the label state if an allergy causing gene was used, unless they can prove the gene does not make the food cause allergies.
There is the possibility that natural plant toxins may be enhanced in unsuspecting ways.
Transgenics or GMOs need to have a better PR agent to allow the consumer to know the true nature of GMOs and any true risk that they pose to the human population. Education is key when dealing with any genetically modified organism, the more you know, the better, more informed decision you will make.
Ultimately, it is the consumers decision whether or not to purchase and consume transgenic foods. Proper labeling on all transgenic foods will allow the consumer to make their own choice.