Genetically Modified Crops and Human Health

Table of Content


People have been naturally genetically modifying plants for thousands of years. While this hasn’t caused any adverse health issues in humans. It is proven that genetically modified crops and their consumption have shown traces of some unwanted health issues. Although genetic engineering is a common and essential practice in biotechnology, it has a specific use in crops is controversial. There has been an increasing public interest for information concerning the safety of these products. In this research, we would be considering all the various aspects concerning the ill effects of how genetically modified crops affect human health and also about how the socio-political mindset is and various controversies.


Genetically modified organisms (also called GMOs) can be said to be organisms (which includes plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (the DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating or by natural recombination. The technology which deals with genetically modified organisms is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It helps in the transfer of desirable characteristics from one organism to the other.for example, let us consider genetically modified bacteria have been developed that have a gene for insulin added to their genome. These bacteria can produce large quantities of insulin as they grow, which is then extracted and used by people with diabetes which helps in controlling their blood sugar levels genetically modified principles are being applied in crop production.

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Farmers long have sought to grow plants or breed animals with desirable characteristics. The earliest farmers chose seeds from their best plants as the sources for the next year’s crop and selected their best animals to breed and produce another generation. Increased knowledge of plant and animal genetics led to the practice becoming more sophisticated, allowing farmers and scientists to select specifically for traits they wanted. They also began creating new crop hybrids in laboratories and applying chemicals and radiation in an effort to induce desired changes in plants’ genetic makeup. Instead of inducing mutations that deliver desired characteristics, GMO scientists directly edit the genetic code of plants and animals by inserting genes that carry the characteristics being sought one example of genetically modified crops is Roundup Ready ​corn which is a variety of corn created by Monsanto Company that’s resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. This genetically modified organism produces glyphosate resistance stems from the addition of a bacterium gene and enables farmers to use more of the herbicide.

Two common types of genetically engineered crops are insect-resistant (Bt) crops and herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops. Bt crops contain genes from Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium and produce insecticidal proteins. HT crops are tolerant to herbicides that farmers use to control weeds.

Genetically modified crops are an issue of serious concern and an issue that is gaining worldwide attention. Many people still think that genetically modified crops would affect their health and even The World Health Organization (WHO) states that genetically modified organisms currently available are no more likely to cause health problems than traditional foods, but it also states that foods need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Another controversy surrounding GMOs involves their impact on the environment. One Green Planet cites the impact of Bt crops on nontarget species as a potential problem. For example, bees are not considered to be a pest, but Bt crops still possibly cause harm to bee populations, which in turn could create a domino effect leading to pollination being inhibited. Butterflies and birds are examples also cited as nontarget species that could be impacted. Additionally, pests that are targeted are likely to eventually become resistant to the negative effects Bt crops might have on them, leading to an endless cycle of crops being altered further, followed again by further resistance from pests, and so on.

The impact Bt and HT crops can have on organisms and microorganisms necessary for healthy soil also is a concern.

Literature Review

The term “genetic modified organisms (GMO)” has become a controversial topic as its benefits for both food producers and consumers are companied by potential biomedical risks and environmental side effects. (Chen zang, 2016 )

GM plants may impact on human health both directly – through applications targeted at nutrition and enhancement of recombinant medicine production – but also indirectly, through potential effects on the environment. (Suize Key ,2008 )

Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology and the resulting organism is said to be ‘Genetically modified (GM)’, ‘Genetically engineered’ or ‘Transgenic’. The principal transgenic crops grown commercially in field are herbicide and insecticide resistant soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. (A.S Bawa ,2013 )

The future of GM foods involves many aspects and trends, including enhanced nutritional value in foods, strict labeling laws, and potential beneficial economic conditions in developing nations.( Amanda harris , 2015).

Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are crops which have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally. Individual genes which promote durability or nutritional value are transferred from one organism to another to create biologically robust plants. (Ruchir raman,2018)

The benefits of currently available genetically modified (GM) crops in reducing waste and agrochemical use in agriculture, and the potential of the technology for further crop improvement in the future are discussed.(Nigel G Halford, 2000 )

Molecular genetics has been and is a very useful tool used to better understanding of genes underlying quantitative traits associated with increasing crop yields or improving food quality. The eagerness to increase crop products has resulted in the genetic manipulation of plants, which has raised much polemics ranging from political, ethical and social problems. ( Iryna sentakska ,2013 )

People have been naturally genetically modifying plants for thousands of years. While this hasn’t caused any adverse health issues in humans, thanks to artificially genetically modifying plants for food, we have possibly introduced unwanted health issues. Health issues such as allergenicity, digestive health are some main concerns for people. We will be discussing a range of drawbacks that people and researchers often associate with GM foods.

Effects of GM Food on Human Health


Some GM foods have shown to produce allergic reactions in the human body. This is mainly due to the fact that GM foods have certain genes that have the potential to cause allergic reactions. Theoretically, GM foods can cause allergic reactions, the most plausible evidence comes from a woman from California, who went into an anaphylactic shock after consuming three corn tacos. An investigation into this matter revealed the fact that some taco shells made out of corn products contain a gene that codes for a pest-repellent protein called Cry9C. While some research has shown that there is no ‘direct’ connection between the Cry9C gene and allergic reactions, this still doesn’t completely disprove that statement that Cry9C has something to do with the allergic reaction suffered by California women. Allergies due to GM Foods might just be for an individual and not the whole of consumers.


Some researchers believe that consuming GM foods can possibly cause cancer. This can be caused due to certain unwanted mutations in DNA, which can be dangerous if it’s entered into our body.

Few pieces of research suggest that there are no data to indicate that there is any direct correlation between GM food and cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) has said that there is no evidence of this and it’s just a myth.

Anti-Bacterial Resistance

Plants are genetically modified in order for it to gain resistance to many types of plant diseases. This can lead to a concern that consuming such GM Food could affect the ability of people to defend against illness.

There is a small probability that the gene present in food can be transferred to the cells of our body or bacterias present in our gastrointestinal region. The genes present in GM crops are there so as to be resistant to some antibiotics and consuming these can make some of our cells resistant to antibiotics. Data have suggested that this is indeed possible but its chance to occur is low. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the possibility of gene transfer is low furthermore suggesting that the anti-bacterial resistance in humans is also low. However, as a precaution, WHO has set guidelines for the companies who manufacture GM Foods. As long as the GM foods pass the guidelines set by the WHO, there is no harm.

Gastrointestinal Damage

Gastrointestinal disorders cases such as Irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac disease, and chronic constipation have considerably increased in the past 20-50 years. Now, there’s a possibility that ingesting GM foods for a long time can also cause these disorders. A certain herbicide called Glyphosate is usually used in GM plants if ingested can cause a disturbance in intestinal microflora balance and cause the growth of harmful bacteria stains.

The activity of digestive enzymes can possibly be reduced following the consumption of GM food, leading to impaired digestion. GM foods with Glyphosate and Bt Toxin can damage the microvilli in the intestinal tract similar to that seen in people who suffer from Celiac disease. While this does not imply that all GM Food is bad for health, it just tells us that GM foods with Glyphosate and Bt Toxin can cause possibly cause side-effects for those who consume it for years.

Terminator Seeds

In the polarised and fractious debate over the use of genetic change in agriculture, few troubles have raised hackles as plenty as the proposed use of genetic use restrict techniques (GURT), larger in many instances acknowledged as “terminator technology” or – to its many opponents – “suicide seeds”.

The notion in the returned of GURTs is to produce seed or offspring which are sterile in order to preclude the unfold of new genes which have been introduced into the goal plant. Campaigners towards the technological know-how have prolonged alleged that terminator seeds would enslave farmers through way of stopping them from saving seed from one season to the next, making them structured on re-purchasing seeds from big biotech companies. The furore over a decade ago led to a global moratorium on GURT development, agreed below the aegis of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000.

The popular worry about terminator seeds has in view that come to be some thing of a zombie myth: consistently mentioned by using skill of opponents of GM technological know-how as a motive for their campaigning, notwithstanding GURT in no way certainly having come into existence. Lurid claims proceed to be circulated, such as the allegation – at the begin with the aid of Indian anti-technology activist Vandana Shiva – that sterility would by hook or by crook be inherited and transferred unintentionally to one-of-a-kind plants, however this being biologically, as well as logically, impossible.

F1 hybrids – the offspring of two great father or mother types of the identical crop – moreover require farmers to purchase seeds anew every year, due to the fact their second-generation seeds do no longer breed true. But their use has been growing for a long time due to the reality farmers value superbly the extended productivity, and as a result profits, that come from the seeds’ hybrid vigour. Almost all the world’s business corn crop is grown from F1 hybrid seed, for example.

As these existing examples show, this utility of present day technological know-how to agriculture need now no longer be remotely scary, but activists stoke fears in order to tightly closed prohibitions on scientific search for which conflicts with their ideological preferences. Opponents of innovation many times cite the precautionary principle as a intent to end scientific work, but forget about the flip-side: particularly future advantages foregone when utilized sciences are now not pursued.

A continued ban on GURT may also sound good and precautionary, on the other hand can also want to injury our manageable to enhance lifesaving vaccines and environmentally encouraged crops. Scientists be allowed to conduct research, and society can later decide– through open, inclusive and democratic debate – how or if these applied sciences are later deployed greater widely.


We see that GM foods sometimes do cause some side-effects if we consume it for a long period of time such as gastrointestinal disorders (if Glyphosate and Bt toxin is used) and allergies (for certain people). Antibiotic resistance should not be a problem as the WHO has set guidelines in order to prevent it. We can rule out cancer as a cause due to the consumption of GM foods as no data provide any evidence to support the claim. We can, therefore, come to the conclusion that GMO plants are no more risky than their non-GMO plants, as long as the GM foods we buy from the market successfully passes the guideless set up by the WHO.



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Genetically Modified Crops and Human Health. (2021, Nov 06). Retrieved from

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