Sunday, September 27

Are Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) Safe?

Recently, in the news media, there have been various reports about the introduction of certain Genetically Modified, GM, crops, and seeds into the country. Examples of such include: the release of genetically modified cowpeas to farmers in the country; the release of two transgenic cotton hybrid varieties into the Nigerian Seed Market; the granting of permits by the Federal Government for confined field trials on genetically modified maize, rice, cassava, sorghum and cowpea to ascertain ability to resist insect attack; etc.

All these despite growing opposition by a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, against the introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, in the country. GMOs, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, are organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.

What are the potential dangers of GMOs? According to an April 22, 2000 issue of Awake! Magazine: “Biotechnology has moved at such a dizzying pace that neither the law nor regulating agencies can keep up with it. Research can scarcely begin to prevent unforeseen consequences from arising.

A growing chorus of critics warns of unintended results, ranging from severe economic dislocation for the world’s farmers to environmental destruction and threats to human health. Researchers warn that there are no long-term, large-scale tests to prove the safety of genetically modified food. They point to a number of potential dangers:

Allergic reaction. If a gene producing a protein that causes allergic responses ended up in corn, for instance, people who suffer from food allergies could be exposed to grave danger. Despite the fact that food-regulating agencies require companies to report whether altered food contains any problem proteins, some researchers fear that unknown allergens could slip through the system.

Increased toxicity. Some experts believe that genetic modification may enhance natural plant toxins in unexpected ways. When a gene is switched on, besides having the desired effect, it may also set off the production of natural toxins.

Full article at Vanguard