Organic food had been warmly accepted whereas genetically modified foods have been midst controversy. The article attempts to break the myth and clear the threat imposed by these foods.
Organic food: Organic foods are those foods in which there is no use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and preservatives. In the early 1900s, farmers started using pesticides, fertilizers and preservatives for growing and processing crops. But in 1940s there was a reaction against the use of chemicals in food and hence, started the organic farming.
There are few countries where the regulators have set certain parameters which the crops and the farming process have to meet before they can be tagged as organic. But differentiating between organic foods and non organic is difficult; therefore, the organic foods have labels on them certified by the regulators. Although the scientific studies concluded so far hasn’t been able to find any difference in nutrition value between organic food and non organic, yet there is huge demand of organic foods as they are considered safe for consumption.
The organic foods are not easily available as the production still is very contained. But the biggest disadvantage of organic food is that they are expensive. The reason behind this is lesser average yield per hectare for organic food as compared to conventionally grown foods. The common perception about organic food is that they are not infected by insecticides and are germ free, but that’s a fallacy. Recently, organic grape tomatoes were recalled from the markets by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency because they feared that tomatoes were infected by salmonella, even, though the product had certified labels on the packaging. Another myth about organic food is that they reduce the risk of cancer, which is not backed by any scientific study.
But the demand for organic food is growing cause of the impact of organic farming on the environment. Organic farms produce less waste and do not release harmful pesticides in the environment. Due to soaring demand, there are different types of organic foods available nowadays. Organic meat (the animals are fed natural food), organic fish (fish are grown in fish farms), organic baby and dairy products.
There has been huge increase in the sale of organic food industry across the world. In America alone, the sale of organic food products has increased from 1 billion $ in 1990 to 26.7 billion $ in 2010. The overall organic food market has grown as they are considered safe compared to conventionally grown food and with the increased focus on good nutrition it is expected that the organic food market will keep on flourishing.
Genetically modified food: Genetically modified food (GM food) is a food in which the genes have been modified or have been replaced by new genes by using molecular biology techniques. The changes in the DNA of the plants are made to achieve the desired traits such as longer shelf life, increased nutritional content or increased resistance to disease and bacteria.
In early 1990’s, tomato was the first GM food that was introduced in the market. After this many crops were genetically modified and introduced such as wheat, corn, brinjal and cotton. Unlike organic food, GM foods are not subjected to mandatory labelling in USA and Canada but in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and European Union the GM food requires labelling. The consumption of GM foods has increased in the last 20 years and in America alone it is believed that 60% of the grocery foods contain GM ingredients.
There has been intense debate on the impact of GM foods on the environment and human health. GM foods supporter believe that the food production will increase as GM foods are pest and disease resistant. GM foods need fewer pesticides and less herbicide which will save money for the farmers. It is believed that GM crops are more nutritious and are drought and salinity resistant as compared to conventionally grown crops.
On the other hand, the critics of GM foods have always maintained that they are not suitable for human consumption, but, even after 15 years of consumption of GM foods, no ill reports have been reported which can substantiate this claim. Though few studies concluded that GM foods have adverse effects on mammals but they were considered biologically irrelevant by the food safety authorities. But GM foods do raise some concerns as few scientific studies have shown that insects and pest might become resistant to GM foods as a result of genetic evolution.
There is also threat of gene transfer from GM foods to humans which might transfer allergens which can make them sick. In spite of all these, the consumption of GM foods has increased across the world. But there are few European countries where GM foods are banned.
Overall, there is no substantial study which can illustrate the advantages of organic food and the disadvantages of the GM foods. The food safety officials should conduct more studies and then decide whether to promote genetically modified crops, organic crops or conventional crops or to find a way where they all can co-exist.