What are transgenic foods?
We explain what transgenic foods are, and what genetic modifications are for. Advantages and Critics.
These genetic alteration techniques are applied, among others, to corn and soybeans.
Transgenic foods are those produced by vegetable organisms modified through genetic engineering and other bioengineering techniques, in order to give them new properties and achieve harvests that are more resistant, abundant and/or with larger products.
Transgenic foods are obtained as part of species improvement projects, only no longer through traditional methods of natural selection or hybridization (whose products are usually sterile), but by inserting genes from a similar species into the species to introduce specific changes in the reproduction of the species.
The first transgenic plant produced was born in 1983 and three years later the multinational company Monsanto was already marketing it.
It was a tobacco plant that had a gene inserted into it to make it resistant to the antibiotic Kanamycin.
In 1994, similarly, the Calgene company began marketing the first transgenic product: Flavr Savr tomatoes.
This type of genetic alteration techniques are currently applied with corn and soybeans, among other mass consumption vegetables, through the sale of transgenic seeds “manufactured” by large agrotechnology corporations.
Criticism of genetically modified foods
The GM food industry has often been accused of marketing unsafe, more allergenic or toxic foods.
The Exwen and Pustzai research of 1999, in which two groups of rats were fed natural and transgenic potatoes respectively, was famous in that sense, showing a greater deterioration in the case of the latter.
However, the numerous procedural and experimental design flaws incurred by these scientists greatly discredited their results.
For the time being, the results regarding the possible long-term toxicity of genetically modified foods are contradictory and inconclusive. However, this is not the only concern.
A controversial point regarding transgenic foods has to do with the gradual replacement of natural strains by man-intervened ones, whose artificially induced resistance would give them unfair advantages to compete with wild strains.
This would eventually lead to the impoverishment of the genetic well and, moreover, involves complicated intellectual property issues that would force farmers to pay royalties to the company that provides them with the transgenic seeds.
Advantages of transgenic foods
The genetically induced advantages of this type of food have to do not only with the achievement of species with greater size and greater profitability, which, it is argued, could serve to combat hunger in a world of increasing human population, but also with the obtaining of plants more resistant to pests and other substances for agricultural use.
This would allow intensive cultivation of plant species and increased production and distribution in local and regional markets.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that, due to climate change, agricultural productivity would decrease by 9 to 12 per cent by 2050. Transgenic foods could be a way of fighting the coming famine.