Threats Due to Genetically Modified Organisms – A Realistic ...


Dec 12, 2012 (4 years and 6 months ago)


hreats Due to Genetically Modified Organisms

A Realistic Assessment

Summary: There has been much debate about unknown bad effects of genetically
modified organisms that might lead to uncontrollable and irreparable damage to
environment and ecosystems.
Genetically modified organisms are incapable of
natural propagation. Therefore, all the fears about them are unfounded.

Hence we
should not unnecessarily restrict ourselves in their usage.

There has been much debate about safety of genetically modified cro
ps but
trading of charges and countercharges for and against genetically modified crops
ontinues unabated even after three


(since 1986)

of intense debate.

Potential threats due to genetically modified crops

products of genetic
engineering which
generally involves introduction of distantly related genes into a
, can be broadly classified into short term risks and long term risks.

Short term risks are generally identified early and are easily amenable to
experimental verification. Therefore t
hey are also


reported in literature.
Hence short term risks are easily manageable before, during and after release of
genetically modified crops for mass cultivation. Short term risks

being easily
amenable to human

regulation and control can’t be the

reason for perpetual
debate. All that needs to be done is to manage short term risks as and when

Appropriate control measures can be easily applied at the level of
seed production.

As far as long term risks are concerned, the principal threat

is the threat of
uncontrollable, irreparable threat to ecosystems and environment. Presently this
is essentially a theoretical risk, since no such instance has actually been reported
attributable to genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified cro
ps have
been most extensively used in USA during the past two decades and no untoward
long term adverse effects have been noticed. In fact 90% of food in USA is
derived from genetically modified crops.

The principal reason for this is that for all biologi
cal species and varieties identity
and integrity are big issues. All biological species and varieties tend to keep their
identity and integrity in the midst of naturally occurring massive gene flow with in
any ecosystem. In fact it can be safely assumed th
at all the species and varieties in
any ecosystem are exposed to all the genes present in the ecosystem, all the time
It is only by virtue of this natural ability to keep identity and integrity, various
species and varieties are able to do so.

technically speaking, a foreign gene may be relatively easy to
introduce within an organism belonging to a particular species or variety, as is
being routinely done in the course of genetic engineering, but it is indeed very
difficult to sustain and propag
ate over prolonged periods of time. Later or sooner
the foreign gene shall be identified and weeded out with or without the use of
terminator technology.
This understanding has led the author from a historical
definition of heredity to a rational definitio
n of heredity which views heredity as a
dynamic phenomenon. The new definition of heredity is as


“Heredity is defined as
the ability of the genome
to reproduce parental
phenotype with high but not complete degree of fidelity”

Use of the phrase “th
e ability of the genome” says it all.

In the entire debate about genetically modified organisms
we are concerned with
ill effects of naturally sustainable genetically modified organisms which normally
involves introduction of remotely related or rather unr
elated genes into a
genome. But what we overlook is the fact even naturally sustainable hybrids
occur only as exception to the rule. In hybrids compatibility or identity and
integrity issues are much less severe because hybridization always occurs among
osely related species and varieties.

Fitzpatrick says that besides the salamander hybrids, he only knows of one other
sustainable animal hybrid and three sustainable plant hybrids.

hybrids are naturally sustainable hybrids between California Tig
er Salamander

Barred Tiger


Keeping in view rarity of naturally occurring sustainable hybrids despite enormous
opportunity, incidence of naturally sustainable genetically modified organisms
can only be the rarest of rare events and can’t be regarded as a threat for all
practical purp
oses. As a matter of fact introduction of


species and varieties
from one geographical region
to another poses much greater ecological and
environmental threat and has happened many times in the past. In fact all
epidemics and uncontrollable weeds suc
h as congress grass in India can be
attributed to such events.

Hence, there can’t be any non
verifiable potential risk due to genetically modified
organisms that might catch us unguarded. Therefore, let us not fight the
Phantom. Summing up
genetically mo
dified organisms are reasonably safe for all
environmental and ecological purposes and let us not be carried away
by our

Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor and has written the
book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy

A sy
nthetic view”. The book begins
with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains
cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life
and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devot
ed to auxiliary
concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. This is the only
book that deals with subject matter of origin of nature and universe beginning
from null (Zero

or nothing
). This article is inspired by author’s understand
ing of