According to the FDA US Food and Drug Administration, many of the foods that are already common in our diet are obtained from plant varieties that were developed using conventional genetic techniques of breeding and selection. Hybrid corn, nectarines (which are genetically altered peaches), and tangelos (which are a genetic hybrid of a tangerine and grapefruit) are all examples of such breeding and selection. Food products produced through modern methods of biotechnology such as recombinant DNA techniques and cell fusion are emerging from research and development into the marketplace.
Historically, farmers bred plants and animals for thousands of years to produce the desired traits. A clear example of this would be the breeding of dogs, ranging from poodles to Great Danes, or roses from sweet-smelling miniatures to today's long-lasting, but scent-free reds.
Selective breeding over time created these wide variations, but the process depended on nature to produce the desired gene. Humans then chose to mate individual animals or plants that carried the particular gene in order to make the desired characteristics more common or more pronounced.
Why are they being used?
One reason, according to Global Issues, is that there is a lot of money and profit involved in genetically engineered food. So, from a business perspective it is more favourable; for example to produce crops that can be resistant to your pesticides, so that you can apply more of them. If you are a chemical company that produces pesticides as well as GM crops, then this is a good way to sell both products.
* More nutritious food
* Tastier food
* Disease- and drought-resistant plants that require fewer environmental resources (water, fertilizer, etc.)
* Decreased use of pesticides
* Increased supply of food with reduced cost and longer shelf life
* Faster growing plants and animals
* Food with more desirable traits, such as potatoes that absorb less fat when fried
* Medicinal foods that could be used as vaccines or other medications
* Modified plants or animals may have genetic changes that are unexpected and harmful.
* Modified organisms may interbreed with natural organisms and out-compete them, leading to extinction of the original organism or to other unpredictable environmental effects.
* Plants may be less resistant to some pests and more susceptible to others.
Tomatoes, potatoes, squash, corn, and soybeans have all been genetically altered through biotechnology. Many more foods have engineered ingredients and more are being developed.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates production and labeling of genetically engineered foods. Some people have raised concerns that the genes from one food that are inserted into another food may cause an allergic reaction. For instance, if peanut genes are in tomatoes, could someone with a peanut allergy react to tomatoes?
In January 2001, the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition proposed that developers of bioengineered food submit scientific and safety information to the FDA at least 120 days before the food is marketed.
Can it solve world hunger?
It's often questioned whether genetically engineered foods can solve world hunger, but as Friends of the Earth pointed out, "many people in the world are suffering from malnutrition and hunger because they cannot afford to buy food, not because it is unavailable."
Genetically engineered foods are generally regarded as safe. There has been no adequate testing, however, to ensure complete safety. There are no reports of illness or injury due to genetically engineered foods. However, each new genetically engineered food will need to be judged individually.