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New technology: Issues relating to the use of genetically modified crops

R. H. Phipps 1,  
Centre for Dairy Research, Department of Agriculture, The University of Reading, PO Box 236, Farley Gate, Reading RG6 6AT, UK
J. Anim. Feed Sci. 2000;9(4):543–561
Publish date: 2000-10-04
With increasing population and decreasing area of land available for food production the development and use of genetically modified (GM) crops is considered as an important tool to ensure global food security. The rigorous safety evaluation, which can take up to 10 years by independent Regulatory Agencies prior to final approval of GM crops, is noted. The rapid uptake of GM technology is illustrated by the increase, between 1996/1999, from 2 to 40 million hectares and that while 72% is grown in the USA a further 15 countries grew GM crops. The paper discusses a number of safety issues including antibiotic resistance marker genes, potential allergenicity, substantial equivalence, consumption of transgenic protein and transgenic DNA and their detection in milk, meat and eggs. Far from increasing the risk of allergenicity GM technology can offer the opportunity to reduce/eliminate protein allergens that occur naturally in foods such as rice, wheat and peanuts and that GM crops are compositionally (laboratory analysis) and nutritionally (animal feeding studies) equivalent to their conventional counterparts. The paper notes that while concern has been expressed about the possible accumulation of transgenic protein and DNA in milk, meat and eggs, and the possible implications of this on animal and human health, the regulatory agencies and the World Health Organisation concluded that there is no inherent risk in consuming DNA, including that from GM crops as mammals have always consumed significant quantities of DNA from a wide variety of sources, including plants, animals, bacteria, parasites and viruses. To date transgenic protein and DNA have not been found in milk, meat and eggs. The paper concludes, by providing numerous examples of the potential benefits to the farmer, consumer and the environment in both developed and developing countries, with particular emphasis on the ability of GM technology to increase crop yield, improve food quality and to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture by amongst other things the lower use of less toxic agrochemicals.
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