By Dr Emmanuel Mutyaba
Today biotechnology in agriculture is presented as to the solution to nutrition problems yet in reality is it just business oriented and quite destructive than constructive.
For instance, Wansink and Chan (2001) reported that, to improve the business of soya foods in the US, they had to invent a technology that can tamper with its natural contents thereby removing its natural components and making it acquire other components of other plants in order to make it sweeter so that it attracts many consumers.
And as a consequence, it was reported by soya-tech (2003)(htt://www.soyatech.com) that the soya foods retail sales improved in the US by more than 10% between 2002 and 2009. Moreover it is noted that the GM soya been produces lower levels of phytoestrogen components which helped to protect against heart disease and cancer than the natural soya bean (Bakshi 2003). Most of the natural components of soya are destroyed simply because they want to increase its sweetness to attract more consumers.
Quite often, biotechnological manipulation of nature is done for egoistic tendencies. That is why it solves one problem while leading to others. This is verified by the dangers GMO crops, which are presented to us as a solution to food shortage yet in reality they are intended for something else, which is even dangerous to our health. For instance, Smith, J.M (2007) revealed that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) cautioned its doctors to prohibit their patients from consuming genetically modified foods. Smith reports Dr. David Schubert’s personal communication to H.
Penfound in Canada on October 25, 2002 saying that children and pregnant mothers are the most affected by the toxins and other dietary problems of GMO foods. Ermakoya, I (2006) reported that rats fed on GMOs for a long time, produced smaller young ones many of which died prematurely and those which survived to maturity had problems getting pregnant and their DNA had significant changes. The male ones that were fed on the GNO foods, had their testicles changed from normal pink to dark blue and their sperms altered. In India, the buffalos that were grazed on GMO cotton seeds, had complications such as premature deliveries, miscarriages, infertility and prolapsed uteruses. In the US several farmers reported that pigs and cattle that fed on GMO corns became sterile and others got false pregnancies.
Such cases may be caused by the fact that, GMO crops are made in such a way that they produce their own built-in pesticides in every cell so that they kill any insect that bites them. These pesticides are more concentrated than the sprayed ones and cannot cause health problems for those who consume them. In India, cases of deadly flue-like symptoms from those who consumed GMO foods in 2008 were reported (Sunday India 2008). J.M. Smith says that in USA, the AAEM associates health problems like asthma, allergy and inflammation and gastrointestinal problems with consumption of GM foods.
GMO foods are known for causing our bodies become anti-biotic resistant. Genetic engineering in plants comely done by removing a gene from the crop and inserting in another gene which will sabotage the normal growth components of the crop to a desired one. But the crop resists the taking in of that foreign gene.
What the bio-technicians do is to attach that gene to an antibiotic since crops take in antibiotics without problem. In order for the gene not to be destroyed by the antibiotic, it has to be antibiotic resistant. Then the crop incorporates that antibiotic resistant gene into its genome. Now when we eat that crop with antibiotic resistant genes and those genes are consumed by the bacteria found in our guts makes then acquire that antibiotic resistant element thereby they no longer respond to antibiotics we take to eliminate them. (Geo-pie see website).
Apart from that, in the process of forcing a foreign gene in a crop, it may react by producing high levels of toxins or in case internal damages occur, may alter the crop’s natural metabolic path way causing the crop to produce toxins as a response, which are harmful to whoever consumes it (GEO-PIE).
GM foods may cause cancer. AAEM made a research on rats and founded out that those fed on GM potatoes, their stomach lining showed excessive cell growth which may easily lead to cancer. They are also suspected of altering the liver, pancreas cells, change enzyme levels and damage kidneys as well as leading to sterility.
Apart from health problems, GMOs are hazardous to the environment. There is a risk of contaminating natural plants by pollinating insects, birds and winds when they transfer engineered genes from GM plants to natural species. This results into a hybridization of the GMs into the natural ones a thing which alters the ecosystem.
Besides that, the 1999 laboratory study published in Nature, in USA, revealed that pollen from GN crops, leads to a high mortality rate among butterflies, caterpillars, and other insects that find them on the grass and in the air where winds blow them. Toxics released into soil by GM crops kill the soil bacteria and other living organisms in the soil yet they are essential to the integral soil health for plants to grow naturally.
One can talk of the soil having “grown old” that cannot geminate crops anymore because it has been spoilt by use of GM crops. Rain drains these toxins into water bodies thereby becoming harmful to the living creatures such as fish we eat, and also makes our water we drink harmful. We ought to accept the suggestion of the pope of not doing anything that destroys the environment. GMOs are indeed dangerous, they contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink and the crops and animals we feed on.
The writer is a lecturer at the Uganda Martyrs University, Institute of Ethics
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The health dangers of the GM foods