Genetically modified food or GM food is food produced by changing the original DNA of an organism by using methods of genetic engineering. These foods are also known as genetically engineered food (GE food) and as bioengineered food. These changes in the DNA of an organism allows newer traits in that organism and allows better control of them. This makes the use of that organism easier. Before the advancement of technology, selective breeding was done to intensify the beneficial traits but after the 1970s development of technology to alter DNA changed the way of changing organism’s accord to need forever.
The first modification done with this technology was genetically modifying microbial enzymes for food production like cheese and the first genetically modified food was Flavr tomato in 1994.
Genetical modification of food products made the shelf life, quality, taste, disease resistance is better than the food before Genetic Modification. Like in the banana’s case, the banana we eat today is a complete modification of what bananas before GMO.
Bananas first originated in Papua New Guinea about ten thousand years ago and had large and hard seeds. These seeds made up most of the fruit. As humans domesticated this plant, they selectively bred varieties with smaller and lesser numbers of seeds. The banana was genetically modified to make them high-calorie seedless foods.
Bananas before genetic modification had a lot of differences compared to the genetically modifies ones. The Cavendish variety banana, the ones we often eat today are seamless triploids. They have immature small seeds which are hardly noticeable but the banana before genetic modification had seeds more than pulps and the shape, therefore, differed from the ones we see today. The before GMO banana and after GMO banana differ in their reproduction styles as well.
Why is the genetic modification of bananas increasing?
Bananas are one of the most important food crops in the world. It is a top 10 food which is consumed in almost every part of the world. This fruit is eaten raw as fruit as well as cooked by steaming, boiling, or frying processes. Bananas have been a staple food in many parts of the world, like Uganda, because of them being high in starch content.
GMO bananas are increasingly grown because it being a vital and cheap source of food. Bananas can also grow in a range of climatic and environmental conditions. This makes this crop an important source of energy for the ‘’hungry period’’ and for world food security. In addition to world food security, these GMO bananas protect the soil and increase fertility where they are planted.
Due to all of the aforementioned benefits of GMO banana crops, newer genetic modifications are under research to improve the crop quality, minerals quantities like vitamin A in the fruit, and disease resistance. Biotechnology companies all around the world have therefore been engaging in bettering this crop quality. Previous promising results have caused a large increase in the funding for GMO banana crops.
How far have we come with Genetically Modified Bananas?
There has been a dramatic increase in research on bananas before GMOs to improve the current condition of this crop. These researches have published a multitude of genes that target the required outcome. The most targeted traits have been resistance to pests and diseases, ripening, stress tolerance, and reducing seed content in bananas compared to bananas before GMOs.
Pests and diseases like Fusarium wilt caused a lot of loss for bananas before GMOs but the introduced resistance to this using RNA interference has been successful in increasing this crop yield compared to banana crops before GMO.
Recent progression in furthering genetic modification of bananas includes enhancing the vitamin and iron content in cooking bananas. This intervention of supplements and fortification of food aims to improve the health of banana staple areas like East Africa.
In addition to these fortifications of the crop, many kinds of research for using genetically modified bananas in other fields have also been increasing. A biotechnologist at Arizona State University tried making vaccines out of bananas. This is not it, researches for delivering medication out of bananas are ongoing. It is therefore safe to assume that this food might become the superfood of the world.
Pros and Cons of genetically modified banana
The discussion of whether genetic modification of organisms should be allowed is always debatable. Many people oppose the idea of changing the natural processes and support something unnatural whereas others support the logic of continuous improvement for the betterment of humanity.
Many crops have been approved for sale after genetic modifications. Genetic modifications have been a part of our life for so long that we cannot recognize these crops or fruits before genetic modification. Most people, including me, could not recognize bananas before GMOs.
The major reason for incorporating genetic modifications in bananas was to increase their yield because of it being an important food crop.
The major Pros of bananas now compared to bananas before GMO are :
1. The banana crops today are saving them from extinction. Bananas are comparatively difficult to grow and are affected by a multitude of diseases and pests. GMO bananas show resistance to these adversities and save this important food crop from extinction.
2. Bananas are a very good source of carbohydrates and are consumed as a staple food in many parts of East Africa. Incorporating genetic editing technology and fortifying this food crop has enhanced the nutrition and thus health of people consuming it.
3. The growing population is bound to face a food crisis. Genetically modifying bananas could help to solve the food problem and increase food security in societies
The major concerns involving GMO of bananas are:
1. One of the major support of using bananas before GMOs is due to the adversities it may have on human health. The modified proteins and enzymes might harm the health of a large population over a long period. A few types of research suggest that GMOs might have toxic effects on immunology and biochemical harmony in the body.
2. The other major con or a concern regarding GMO bananas is the domination of world food production by companies. The companies that develop the seed new to the yield. They might control making seeds of the plant, limit production, etc according to them.
Bananas before GMO was not able to deliver the range of facilities as the genetically modified bananas today deliver. Overall, these modifications have benefitted humankind more than the seeded and non-disease resistant banana variations have. These modifications have an overall positive impact on society as of now.