GMO products have appeared no more than 10 years ago. Immediately they turned from a subject of research into the area of political speculation and manipulation of public opinion. They became "horror stories" for the consumer. Why did it happen, which myths about GM foods are true and which are false? Professor Yakov Alexeyev, head of the Laboratory of Genetically Modified Organisms with the Research Institute of Agricultural Sciences shared with MedPulse.
"Can we say metaphorically that the potato gene, for example, was "installed" a gene of a scorpion, which made insect not touch it?"
"Yes, figuratively speaking, this is how it is. Since geneticists have learned to construct a matrix gene of an organism (plant, animal), achieving certain goals, a lot of opportunities came up that previously were only topics of fiction novels.
For example, some plants are so genetically modified that they do not react to pesticides that are killing weeds growing nearby. There are, of course, frost-resistant varieties and heat-resistant ones - plenty of developments. GMO plants are the future of the planet, I am convinced of this. Without them, we will not feed the population."
"Yet, if you ask anyone in the street or social networks - "are products with GMO good or bad" Almost everyone will answer that they are not certain, but will not buy them anyway, supporting it with the arguments in defense of their words."
"I think that our hypothetical opponent will provide not the arguments, but rather a list of the popular myths about GMOs, "horror stories" that fill tabloid publications and the Web. I can list the major ones, and give your feedback for each of them.
Myth #1. GMO foods can trigger cancer. Transgenes tend to get integrated into the genes of intestinal microorganisms, and this is a mutation. It is known that cell mutations lead to the development of cancer cells.
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This is an absolute lie. GMOs cannot be integrated anywhere because of a simple reason - they disintegrate in the body into harmless parts in the first few minutes after entering the stomach. Maximum 20 minutes - and those little bundles of genetic chains are already dispersed, impersonal and become building blocks for our body.
Myth #2. Another consequence may be weakening of the immunity (70% of the human immune system is in the intestines), and cause metabolic diseases.
The answer to this is above. This is a lie and for the same reason. Most often consumer confuses two concepts: GMO plants and genetically modified microorganisms. These microorganisms are cultured milk products, found in beverages based on ferments. Indeed, genetically modified foods with micro-organisms in the event of regular consumption cause insensitivity to certain antibiotics. This is because these microorganisms were modified to be resistant to antibiotics. But this is another story. And it is not as catastrophic as portrayed by the press. This is not universal phenomenon.
Myth #3. Eating foods with GMOs may cause allergic reactions, and often harmful. For example, in the U.S., where GM foods are eaten freely, allergy affects approximately 70% of the population. In Sweden, where such products are banned, only 7%. I am convinced that the comparison in this case is incorrect. You cannot compare these two countries only on the basis of use or ban of products with GMOs. Is it the only difference between the U.S. and Sweden? They have different cuisine, lifestyle, natural conditions, soil composition, and so on and so forth. But they are compared anyway, deceiving and scaring the consumer.
Incidentally, the EU has already allowed some products with GMOs. The reason for the ban of GMOs is not the fear for the health of the nations of Europe, but much more prosaic things. When the U.S. technology made cheap GMO products in large numbers, European countries banned the use and consumption of GMOs to protect its own agriculture from the expansion of U.S. products. They did not have technologies, they had no other choice. Now the situation has changed, and as a consequence, there is the liberalization of laws regarding the use of GMOs.
Myth #4. The world has not conducted research on the impact of GMO products on the human body due to lobbying the producers of these products. Of course, this is completely untrue. We are now in the building of the Research Institute of Agricultural Sciences, i.e., a research institute devoted to the problems of GMOs..
Institute of Nutrition conducted a massive study on the influence of animal products with GMO with 80 parameters a few years ago. Nothing terrible has been revealed. Besides, do not forget that plants with GM (and, accordingly, products) have been around for some 10 years. Of course, there simply was no time to conduct 50-70 years studies.
Myth #5. GMO products are only interesting to underdeveloped countries, since from the beginning it is food for the poor.
And this is a myth. How did America authorized not only the use, but also the production of GMOs? Yes, the original and the main goal of geneticists working in this direction is creation of cheaper products capable to survive in any climatic conditions, containing the necessary trace elements, etc. I repeat - the planet has no other choice except to use transgenic plants. The situation in Russia there was unique a decade ago: on the one hand, on a wave of hysteria in Europe our academics had a very simple solution - it was banned. Banning is very simple. No need to invest in science, technology development, creation of new structures of the agricultural sector. On the other hand - in presence of a total ban on production of our own plants with GMOs, there is an import permit for 15 types of genetically modified lines of five varieties of cultivated plants: soybean, corn, potatoes, rice and sugar beets. That is, we still eat foods with GMOs - they are just imported."
"Do you, your family eat foods with GMOs?"
"Frankly speaking, I am convinced that, compared with food that contains preservatives, flavorings and colorings food with GMOs is harmless. Yes, I will eat this food ... if I can find it! We have well-established control system by Rospotrebnadzor that monitor food with GMOs, so they are not easy to find. On the contrary - labels "No GMO" are increasingly more common. Yet, there are as many additional ingredients there as in a department of household chemicals."
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