The GMOs (Genetically Modified Oragnisms) are the organisms
with genetically engineered genetic material. While it sounds absolute
scientific and safe, there have been controversies about GMO’s food
safety. In lack of sufficient awareness,
there is a general apprehension if GMO’s are safe to eat. In United States, the
regulation of GMOs falls under United States Department of Agriculture (USDA),
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) with each agency dealing with different regions of regulations. The EPA
evaluates for ecological safety. USDA assesses if something is safe to grow whereas
FDA decides if it is safe to eat. The EPA mandates that crop growers to obtain the
license and it also regulates GMOs those contain a pesticide, like B. thuringiensis. The USDA regulates by
conducting pre-release field testing. The USDA also runs groups those evaluate
and monitor GMO crops for safety. These groups may destroy the products and can
stop the growing or movement of suspected crops.
Under FDA regulation, a genetically modified plant does not
need a license if it meets the following six standards
Is not a harmful weed
The introduced genetic material that was infused
is stably incorporated into the plants own genes
The operation of the introduced gene is well
known and does not cause plant disease.
Is not toxic to non-target organisms.
Will not cause the production of new plant
Does not contain genetic material from human or
The firms creating genetically modified food do not have to
consult with FDA for testing of the grown GMO material as the FDA does not test
the products, instead it sets the guidelines for safer food and drugs. Since
1992, the FDA has claimed no testing is necessary and considered GMOs as safe.
This however, triggered questions like are GMOs the biggest experimentation on
humans without their knowledge? Should GMOs be labeled? The FDA though doesn’t
demand labeling of foods that are genetically modified, with reasoning that
they are substantially equivalent to non GMO foods.
Safety is the most controversial facet of GMO production.
There are concerns about allergy, transfer of antibiotic resistant markers
along with other unknown effects. Also, there are concerns like is there a
possibility of ecological effects on other organisms i.e. possible transfer of
trans-genes through cross-pollination, loss of flora or fauna along with
In 1996, Monsanto introduced Roundup ready crops those were
genetically modified to resist Roundup and in beginning, soya beans, followed
by corn were tested for being Roundup ready crops. (Roundup is the brand-name
of a herbicide produced by Monsanto, with active ingredient Glyphosate).
Glyphosate traverses rapidly within plants and gathers in
meristems growth areas. It then inhibits protein synthesis and targeted plants
do not grow. While this herbicide was primarily invented to control unwanted
plants within crops, they actually affected the main crop as well. Such crop
while contaminate ground water by infiltration through wells, it also is
damaging to foraging animals. Also, glyphosate are known to remove minerals
from the soil once sprayed. This necessitated the need for Roundup Ready i.e.
GMO modified crops so that effect of glyphosate limits within unwanted weeds
and not on main crop, however at the cost of being “GMOed” !