A poll from the School of Sociology at Australian National University (Lockie & Pietsch 2012) found that Australia is divided on the issue of genetically modified (GM) foods.
A decade ago, most Australians were strongly against genetically modified foods (Norrie 2012). Today, almost half of the people polled feel that GM foods are safe to eat (Lockie & Pietsch 2012). With more research, people are becoming aware of the use and advantages of GM foods and opposition has begun to fade.
Researchers speculate that one of the reasons opinions towards GM foods have changed is a worldwide food crisis. Many countries facing a shortage of food at the time of the study found genetically engineered foods were one viable option to meet the growing crisis. These factors may have helped in changing opinion regarding genetically modified food. Genetically modified foods have been around for more than a decade and there has been no fallout from the consumption of these foods as was initially feared.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have had their DNA altered in a manner which does not occur naturally. The technology used to create GMOs is sometimes referred to as gene technology, genetic engineering, or recombinant DNA technology. Using this technology, individual genes can be transferred between organisms and also between species. GMOs may be used to create genetically modified plants, which can then be used to grow GM food crops.
Genetically modified foods are produced for many reasons:
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are three main concerns regarding human health associated with genetically modified foods:
According to WHO, there have been no reports of allergic reactions to genetically modified foods currently on the market. Gene transfer refers to the potential to transfer genetic material that could adversely affect human health, i.e. antibiotic resistant genes. Outcrossing refers to the inadvertent transfer of genes from GM plants to conventional crops. This is a real concern, as there have been reports of this phenomenon occurring in the United States when corn which was meant to be used strictly as feed for livestock was found in corn that was used for human consumption.
Thus far, there have been no reports of illness or adverse effects on human health occurring as a result of consumption of genetically modified food.
As acceptance of genetically modified foods has increased, it can be safely assumed that they are here to stay. In the future, genetically modified organisms may be used to create crops that are resistant to extreme weather such as drought, crops that are more nutritious, and crops that can produce specific proteins that can be used in vaccines or medications. Plants and animals may be modified for enhanced growth and development.
Providing that governments can show that these foods are safe, acceptance of genetically modified foods will likely continue to grow.