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What Is Genetically Engineered Food?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Genetically engineered food is any food product which has been altered by either adding or removing certain genes from its makeup. This is done in a laboratory in order to give food products certain characteristics. For instance, some genetically engineered food is injected with certain bacteria or cells which make it naturally pest-resistant. The use and consumption of genetically modified foods is heavily debated amongst health advocates and environmental agencies alike.

Farmers have been creating their own versions of genetically engineered food for centuries by growing and harvesting the offspring of their healthiest and largest plants. Through the years, these genes become dominant and eventually lead to better foods. This takes many years, however, so science has developed ways to do this using artificially injected genes from other plants and even other species in order to create foods which are larger, faster growing, and more resistant to insects and other threats.

There are many lofty goals and arguments created by those in favor of genetically engineered food. By creating larger crops which are less likely to be affected by insects and weather, more food will be available to feed the masses in poor nations. Scientists are also working on creating larger foods and those with more vitamins and minerals than would normally be found in nature. Vaccines may also be added to the foods' genes to help protect those in countries which can't afford to manufacture and distribute vaccinations.

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Genetically modified food may also be good for the environment, since pest resistant plants may be developed, reducing the need for pesticides. Foods can also be made more nutritious and less caloric. Many of these advances are still being investigated, but when and if they become available, they may save farmers money on losing crops to insects and other pests as well as in buying fertilizers and pesticides.

Some are violently against this type of gene altering, primarily because the overall safety of altering the genes of food items has not been proven safe for long-term consumption. The eventual health risks of eating large quantities of genetically engineered food are not yet known. Some evidence has already shown risk of food allergies and other dangers, although more research is needed to determine the extent of such potential threats.

Other worries regarding genetically modified food is that eventually insects will become immune to the genetically added repellents and other forms of pesticides. Pollen from altered plants may also affect the surrounding wild vegetation and lead to weeds which are resistant to herbicides. This would create problems for farmers who would then have to find a new way to control pests and weeds.

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