Gene Food: Is Biotechnology Really Friendly?
Biotechnology, a '90s buzzword, popularly conjures up somewhat ominous images of gene-tinkering. Yet manipulating the genetic makeup of plants and animals to improve crop yields is far from new. Cross-breeding for desired traits such as tallness, greater milk yield or sweeter fruits, has been practiced ever since humans took up farming. However classical breeding methods have drawbacks, especially the length of time required to achieve the desired quality. Traditional cross-breeding means crossing all the genes in two plants or animals for maybe 10, 12 or more years, to create one with the desired trait(s). Also, traditional cross-breeding can only be used within individuals of the same (or related) species - further limiting its ability to enhance or alter food quality.
What are the benefits of biotechnology? And are they, really?
Biotechnology can dramatically reduce the time and effort required to improve crops and livestock. The technique allows scientists to modify plants and animals in a more controlled way, choosing selected genes for cross-breeding instead of crossing hundreds of genes through many generations to obtain the desired characteristic. The new technique allows the transfer of one or a few selected gene at a time, for just one or a few desirable traits. And the technique even permits genes with certain traits to be transferred from one species to another, impossible by traditional breeding methods.
The basis of modern food biotechnology depends on the molecule deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, the genetic material of all living cells. It is contained in the chromosomes (threadlike structures) inside the cell nucleus. Unravelling the molecular structure of DNA opened the door to rapid advances in food biotechnology. instead of mixing all the hundreds of genes within a plant or animal in back-crossing, scientists can now "select out" a particular gene (length of DNA) responsible for a particular trait. In essence, genetic manipulation means taking one or more selected genes (portions of DN) and incorporating them into the genetic material of another plant or animal, bypassing the need for tedious years of breeding. The gene transfer is done by a complex "cut and paste" procedure in which transcription or cutting enzymes "cut" (remove) a specific gene from one organism's DNA and "paste" or splice it into the DNA of another organism.
The burgeoning benefits of food biotechnology include better tasting fruits and vegetables, disease-resistant crops requiring less pesticides and plants with improved nutrient contents, to name a few. See the conclusions at the end before you become overjoyed with these “improvements”.
For instance, slower-ripening tomatoes that can stay on the vine longer without rotting, will allow better-tasting ripe produce to be shipped out instead of being artificially ripened. Or, for example, crookneck squash plants can be made resistant to the viruses carried by insects (aphids) that often destroy them, reducing crop spoilage and decreasing the need for pesticides. Growers are also producing virus-resistant varieties of potatoes, cucumbers and melons. See the conclusions before you get too enamored of the possible benefits seen here.
Other improvements achieved through food biotechnology are sweet potatoes resistant to the "feathery virus," higher-protein rice (obtained via genes transferred from pea plants) and cooking oils with lower saturated fat contents. Corn, canola or soybean plants can now be modified to reduce their saturated fat content - thereby perhaps helping consumers to lower their blood-cholesterol levels. Gene transfer is also used in animals to make them resistant to specific diseases and to meet consumer demands for leaner meat.
Stringent regulations ensure the safety of biotech techniques – True or False?
Health Canada, Environment Canada, Human Resources Canada, Fisherlee and Oceans along with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada jointly regulate the products of biotechnology. They assess health risks before products made by biotechno10gy are allowed on the market. These agencies ensure that human and animal health and the environment are not harmed. In Canada today, the only approved use of biotechnology for food production is for chymosin produced through recombinant DNA techniques.
Chymosin, known as the "animal-friendly cheese enzyme" is far cheaper and easier to produce by biotechnology than its predecessor rennet, which had to be extracted from bacteria in the lining of calves' stomachs (Almost half the cheese made in North America no longer requires rennet – but there are complications beyond normal ken with this process, so make sure you know the whole story).
Also under consideration by Canada's regulators is an application by the Canadian dairy industry to use bovine somatotropin, or BST, to increase milk production. BST, a protein hormone needed by cows to produce milk, can now be made outside the cow's body through recombinant DNA techniques, then put back into cows to enhance milk production. This could be a very dangerous process.
In conclusion – beware.
Given that the world's present population of nearly 6 billion will double to nearly 12 billion by the year 2030, one would think right away that anything that can help food production keep pace should be welcomed. Never-the-less, the advent of gene modification techniques gave us several GMOs including most notoriously Soy.
The Soy GMO has, in the first 10 short years, contaminated virtually the entire world’s crops of Soy, to the point where there is practically no uncontaminated Soy stock left anywhere. The possibilities of “Certified Organic Soy” are virtually nonexistent. Similar problems are arising with other GMO grains around the world.
Two problems seem to arise from genetic modifications. While we have increased production of grains, helping to meet food shortages with increasing populations, digestive disorders abound with the new grains and cross-polinization with unmodified stocks is slowly contaminating the world’s crops of “natural” grain stocks.
Our governments seem to be hiding these known, published and publicized results of GMO activities. One thing is certain right now: the producers of Bio88+ (Plus) use only the very finest “certified” organic components in the making of their highly nutritious food product. In itself it provides virtually all of the added nutrition, in the form of vitamins and minerals, that you need in your diet in order to maintain excellent health.
Bio88+ (Plus) is produced in a government supervised laboratory using an ancient Native North American fermentation process. Feel free to contact the author by email for additional information.
About the Author
Loring Windblad has studied nutrition and exercise for more than 40 years, is a published author and freelance writer. His latest business endeavor is at: http://www.organicgreens.us