Literature Review- Genetically Modified Food
The topic on genetically modified food (GMF) is diverse and complex as it raises some public concern with regard to risks and safety of the products. The most of the past studies focus on social concerns, risks, safety assessments, and the impact of the GM on the health on humans. The literature review was conducted via a systematic search through the use of different electronic databases. This literature review is an integrative review the secondary research related to GM foods, especially health issues and concerns raised. The themes focus on the major concerns, contemporary aspects and controversial issues related to GM foods.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has organisms that have their genetic material altered through scientific means (WHO, 2002). Although the WHO has declared GM products currently in the global market has having undergone via risk assessment conducted by various national authorities, risk evaluations of GM foods especially for human health and nutrition, has not been performed systematically (Domingo, 2007; Magaña Gómez & de la Barca, 2009). Thus, there is a consensus from various studies as regards to the safety concerns of GM foods and products (Dona & Arvanitoyannis, 2009).There are contravening findings with reference to the safety of GM foods in terms of health and environmental risks. In their previous studies, Domingo, (2000), Domingo (2007) as well as Domingo and Bordonaba (2011) focused on the possible adverse health/toxic effects associated with GM foods and plants. These studies are beneficial because there are no other studies that have compared toxicological/adverse effects/health risks related to some plants. From these studies, there exists no major adverse health risks linked with GM foods such as Canola, peas, sweet pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, rice, soya beans, corn, and potatoes (Domingo, 2007).
Safety of GMF has always been a major issue related to the commercial use of such products. However, the already published studies have showed that GM products have no adverse effects on maize (Appenzeller et al., 2009a, Appenzeller et al., 2009b; Delaney et al., 2013; Healy et al., 2008a; He et al., 2009; Zhu et al., 2013), processed soybean fractions (Appenzeller et al., 2008; Chukwudebe et al., 2012; Delaney et al., 2008; Qi et al., 2012), and rice (Song et al., 2014), as well as canola (Delaney et al., 2014). Other studies have been carried out to evaluate the impacts of longer term dietary exposure to GMF and additional to assess the reproductive and developmental effects and no significant evidence has been achieved related to adverse effects (Brake & Evenson, 2004). Based on this, it implies that the 2-8% of the world population that suffers from food allergies is not entirely affected by the introduction of GMFs. Also, Jasa, Kubelka – Sabit amd Filipovski (2015) found that there are no harmful effects linked to GM crops and this makes them consumable by humans. Nonetheless, further assessments are required to ensure that GM products do not have adverse effects to people when they are introduced in the market.
The issue of consumer attitude towards GMF is linked to health and social concerns by the public and some scientists. Bawa and Anilakumar (2013) for instance noted that policies are required when introducing GMFs in the market as part of not only guaranteeing consumer safety, but also increasing consumer acceptance. Such actions have the capability of decreasing consumer-perceived risk associated with taking GMFs. Moreover, the contemporary issue related to GMFs is the consumer-perceived risk and the potential health-related risks (Martinez-Poveda et al. 2009). Costa-Font, Gil, and Traill (2008) also pointed out that consumer acceptance is a major challenge associated with the consumption of GMFs available in the market. However, assurance by biotech companies and other related stakeholders could positively impact the attitudes of consumers towards GMFs consumption.
Contemporary consumers have current information related to GM crops which is readily available in the internet. This has influence on their attitudes, consumption, and purchasing patterns. For instance, Tsourgiannis et al. (2011) carried out a study to establish the factors affecting consumers purchasing behaviour with reference GMO free products. The factors were certification of the products as GM Free, environment and nutrition value protection, quality, price, and marketing issues. Nonetheless, the study failed to show the factors that have influence on consumers with reference to purchase or rejection of GMF products. Thus, a future research is research to explore this contemporary marketing aspect as it is linked to GMF consumption. For example, the perception and attitude of consumers towards GM crops must be established to ensure positive reception of GMF (Costa-Font et al., 2008).
Snell, Bernheim, Bergé, Kuntz, Pascal, Paris, and Ricroch (2012) examined 12 long-term studies and 12 multigenerational studies to determine the effects GM diets such as rice and corn affected the health of humans. All the 24 studies reviewed suggested that there were no health hazards and there existed no statistically significant differences between the two sets of studies and parameters observed. Therefore, there was no biological as well as toxicological significance with regard to GM crops and foods. The studies reviewed by Snell et al. (2012) have provided evidence that indicates that GM plants compared to non-GM counterparts are safe and are also nutritionally equivalent. Similarly, Delaney (2015) pointed out that as the population continues to increase, GM crops can be used to feed humans as they are safe and pose no risks. In spite the need for using GMFs, Leimanis et al. (2008) pointed out that labelling is always important because it provides consumers with the choice of consuming GMFs or not. Safety of GM crops remains a major concern among consumers and as a result continuous research studies must be conducted in the future to increase the confidence, trust, and acceptance levels by consumers.
There are few research reviews that have been published related to health safety and risks of the GMF and GM foods (Dona & Arvanitoyannis, 2009; Key et al., 2008; Magaña-Gómez & de la Barca, 2009). From a general perspective, all these authors have agreed that in spite the fact that some studies have established that GMFs and crops are safe, more scientific efforts must be carried out so as to build confidence in the public and increase the acceptance of GM foods, and reduce the rejection by both the general public and scientific community. Particularly critical evaluation in the recent review conducted by Dona and Arvanitoyannis (2009) concluded that the results of majority of studies with GMF indicated possible cause of toxic effects, including renal, hepatic, pancreatic, and reproductive effects, which have the capability of altering biochemical, haematological, and immunologic parameters. Dona and Arvanitoyannis (2009) also concluded that recombinant GH use in animals must also be re-examined because it is linked to an increase in IGF-1 that promotes cancer. In the same journal, the same recommendations have been published recommending further research studies on the safety concerns of GM crops on people and animals (Rickard, 2010).
The introduction of GM food for consumption and commercial purposes has continued to raise controversy among environmentalists, scientists, and economic activists. Supporters of biotechnology on food production have noted that GM foods are safe and not any different from conventional ones (Shahzadi, Malik & Raza, 2015). However, opponents of GMF have pointed out that there exists no similarity between GM foods and conventional foods (Shahzadi et al., 2015). The opponents have noted that GM foods must cover some aspects such as food labelling, the effect on biodiversity must be established, and other potential positive and negative impacts (Fonseca, Planchon, Renaut, Oliveira, & Batista, 2012; Maghari & Ardekani, 2011). Regulatory agencies on the other hand have contended that GMFs are nontoxic, nutritious, and more appropriate. In additions, the genetically modified foods have the ability of solving agricultural and health issues. Additionally, they have limitless benefits and no potential health and environments, and can be used to fee the world (Jacobsen, Sorensen, Pedersen, & Jacob, 2013).
In Europe GMFs have strongly ben opposed by environmental organizations as well as NGOs and this has raised noticeable public concerns and controversies (Fonseca et al., 2012; Nykiforuk, et al., 2012). For instance, consumers do not accept GM products because they still belief that GMFs have health issues (Maga & Murray, 2010). This is in spite the presence of European government laws set to regulate and provides guidelines related to GMF. The regulations also provide regulations that advocate for the labelling of the products and it offers protection towards economic and health interest. In United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are responsible for the control of GMFs in terms of safety and health risk concerns (Strauss, 2006) In regard to developed nations, remains as highly negative because the use of GMFs is still a controversial issue (Kynda, Curtis, Jill, & Mccluskey, 2004). Nonetheless, U.S consumers compared to Europe have profound behaviour towards GMFs. A Canadian study established that consumers were more willing to buy GM potatoes if the products were offered at slightly discounted prices or at discounts (Shahzadi et al., 2015). Thus, in spite of the controversies, the consumption of GMFs remains a challenge to the population.
The issue of controversy is related to the promises of GMFs and the possible problems related to toxicity, genetic hazards, and allergenicity (Zhang, Wohlhueter, & Zhang, 2016). In support, Bawa and Anilakumar (2013) noted that the inserted gene in food products which have been GM has the potential of disrupting the natural genes, hence the possible hazards. There are also perceived risks associated with GMFs and this could have negative effects to the ecology. There is scientific controversy with regard to the safety of GM crops and GMFs. The scientific controversies have been present in regard to GM soybeans safety. However, there are conflicting studies given that soybeans 356043 was reported to be safe (Sakamoto et al., 2007) while 305423 was also found to be safe for human consumption (Delaney et al., 2008) just like conventional non-GM soybeans. Nonetheless, some authors have concerned with issues related to the safety of GM soybeans and they have recommended further investigations to be carried out assess the long-term impacts of GM diets and the possible synergistic consequences with other products (Cisterna et al., 2008; Magaña-Gómez et al., 2008; Malatesta et al., 2008a; Malatesta et al., 2008b).
Available scientific data shows that animals that have been fed using GM crops experience harm, while others have died (Maghari & Ardekani, 2011). The effects or death could be as a result of the adverse effects of GMOs and the alteration of genes in crops. However, the controversy is that the same crops have been regarded safe for human consumption (Zhang et al., 2016; Bawa & Anilakumar, 2013). In addition, rats that have been exposed to transgenic soya or potatoes were found to have abnormalities while animals exposed to maize, and particular biotech corn presented some complications such as death, early deliveries, and abortions died (Velimirov, Binter, Zentek, 2008). Nonetheless, this remains as a controversial issue because other studies carried out by company generating the biotech crops failed to show any negative impacts of GMFs on mice (Maghari & Ardekani, 2011). Although agri-biotech companies have not accepted the existence of a direct relationship between human health problems and the GMFs consumption, opponents have provided some examples. For instance, foodborne diseases including soya allergies have in the last ten years increased in the UK and USA (Daniel, 2004), and Morgellons disease epidemic has also increased the U.S. (Ho & Cummins, 2008). The increase could have been as a result of increased consumption of GMFs. Another study conducted in India indicated that cotton handlers of cotton that was GM developed skin allergy (Kurunganti, 2008).
From the literature review, most of the published studies involved individuals and biotechnology companies dealing with GM foods and products. This shows advancement in the recent pasts given that Domingo (2007) noted that there were limited studies in scientific journals published by the companies. Most of the studies (Domingo 2000; 2007) have also demonstrated that GM foods not only safe, but also nutritional as the ones acquired via conventional breeding. This is supported by research undertaken by biotechnology companies that are responsible for GM commercialization of the GM plants. The risks assessments done on some foods such as corn, rice, and soybeans have indicated that GM foods do not have adverse effects that can the health of humans and the environment as well. In spite the positive findings more research studies are required on toxicology of GM foods. Moreover, the perceptions and reactions of people(consumers) towards GM foods is still negative in most cases, in spite the probability of using such foods to reduce famine and food shortage. A relatively remarkable finding of the current review is that further studies are required on various types of GM foods to establish their effects on health of humans. Also, GMFs are here to stay despite the existence of the possible ecological risks. Experimental research conducted has so far been carried on rats and there is little on human beings and such testing could raise ethical, legal, and moral issues. Thus, further research must be conducted on different crops such as soybeans and corn that are GM.
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