Rus Articles Journal

Genetically modified products: guilt presumption?

O speak to “genetically modified“ food much and willingly now - politicians and state officials, experts in the field of biotechnology, medicine and ecology, representatives of clergy, cultural figures and arts say...“ Edible“ fruits of genetic engineering it is regular, long and “with appetite“ are exaggerated practically by all mass media. The information stream falling upon the modern consumer, “scintillating“ special terms like “genetically modified sources“ and “transgene products“ (and also a little pathos definitions like “food 3 - go the millennia“ and “Frankenstein`s food“), is quite impressive, but a plot... it is not especially useful.

Too many emotions contain current informing the inhabitant on merits and demerits of genetically modified food - and few passionless facts. The facts which knowledge will allow the visitor of a supermarket who beheld the inscription “contains the modified starch“ on packing of the product suitable for the “food basket“ to make a purchase or to refuse that without painful Hamlet “to be or not to be“, rollicking native “was - was not!“ and uncompromising “I do not trust!“ a la Stanislavsky. And therefore there is a sense these facts to look.

“So far as all to call by the names...“

In order that it is better for h2 to be guided in a flow of inconsistent information on “genetically modified“ food, to their potential buyer will not prevent to get “shapochny“ acquaintance to some biotechnological terms - otherwise the aforesaid stream will easily and easy turn into the most real flood. In which the true picture of things will irrevocably disappear.

Today for the characteristic “problems Frankenfood“ mass media widely use the terms “genetically modified sources“ (in abbreviated form - GMI), “genetically modified organisms“ (GMO) and “transgene plants / animals“. And quite often between these terms such equal-sign - is traced that, generally, is incorrect. Transgene organisms always are genetically modified - it is the fact. And here the fact that genetically modified organisms always are transgene - at all not the fact.

The matter is that genetically it is possible to modify an initial genome (a set of the genetic material which is contained in cages of a live organism) of any organism differently - it is possible to introduce, for example, artificially in it alien genetic information. And it is possible - it is simply artificial “to switch off“ or “strengthen“ some genes 1 an initial genome (as it occurs during the usual, provided by the nature, mutational process with which results long ago and quite lawfully selectors work). In the latter case biotechnologists do not use containing “others“ DNA specific genno - the engineering designs capable to be built in actively a genome of an initial organism, - and these designs opponents “Frankenfood“ most often and “frighten“ the consumer.

Thus, transgene are organisms which genome the additional site of DNA is built in, and genetically modified - transgene organisms, and also organisms which some own genes “are switched off“ or “strengthened“.


1 the Gene - DNA site, the structural and functional unit of heredity controlling formation of any sign.


Krom of transgene organisms and the mutants which are artificially created by geneticists the products received by way not of molecular, but cellular biotechnologies sometimes can be not absolutely correctly ranked as category of genetically modified organisms also (transfer of these or those parts - organellas - cages: mitochondrions, chlorolayers) - hlibridization (transfer of chlorolayers), mibridization (transfer of mitochondrions), merges of protoplasts or a somaklonalny variation. It is thought, there is no sense in detail to understand details of these technologies - enough to tell that practically nothing really threatens genetic “inviolability“ of the consumer of fruits of this biotechnological delicacy. Though to look such cultures - “residents of Michurinsk“ (according to opponents of all unnatural) can is very more frightening - imagine, for example, carrots with a tops of vegetable... parsley. Such plant was once received by biotechnologists by merge of protoplasts of two aforesaid plants.

the Thorny road of “forbidden fruit“

30 years ago, discussing security measures when using of just appeared technology of recombinant DNA, scientists decided to limit extremely rigidly “freedom“ of future transgene organisms - up to creation of genetic impossibility of a survival of the last in the outside world. Outside laboratories, that is. But already ten years when it became clear that transgene organisms as the press can “paint“ them are not so terrible later, prisoners - rekombinant received first “eases“ - and were published. New Light, mainly.

A lot of time left on passing via powerful “filters“ of the federal agencies controlling use of drugs and foodstuff, environmental protection and national health care - but even more time demanded formation of public tolerance to “genetic monsters“. The North American continent of a sample of the middle 80 - x remembers both mass protest actions, and scandalous media campaigns and even physical destruction of experimental fields by conservative-minded citizens... All this was.

However passed

- and now the USA is the undisputed world leader in production of genetically modified food (about 70% of all volume of their production fall to the share of this state). Surely develop the aforesaid production Canada and a number of the countries of Latin America. And also Europe - France, for example. Also China of course is engaged in it. The quantity of the “edible“ types which underwent genetic modification is so far estimated in many tens - soy, potatoes, beet, colza, corn, tomatoes, bananas, sweet potato, a papaya... The amount of foodstuff which part GMOs and GMI are is estimated already absolutely in other orders. Hypermarkets - products are on sale in many countries of the world (in Russia - since 1999; at least - officially), they are eaten by hundreds of millions inhabitants of the planet - such is today`s reality.

of Property, acquired by crops as a result genno - engineering modification, without exaggeration, - are extremely valuable. Resistance to effect of herbicides and pesticides, extraordinary wide range of ambient temperatures at which safety of fruits is ensured and productivity does not decrease; indicators of productivity... All this impresses. Also as the expressed useful properties of some products - as, for example, the profile of fatty acids optimized for prevention of atherosclerosis and excess weight in some grades of genetically modified corn and soy, the high content of the well-known lekopen in hypermarket - tomatoes, special characteristics of starch in potatoes (not allowing, in particular, the last to absorb a lot of fat during frying). However mistrust of essential part of the planetary population to genetically changed foodstuff from it does not become less - in spite of the fact that, perhaps, any of types of raw materials for foodstuff is not exposed to such rigid check on safety as GMO. And is the cornerstone of this mistrust, undoubtedly, fear.

we are afraid of

of What...

we mainly Are afraid of that potential harm which genetically modified organisms can render our own on organisms. And still - that potentially dangerous influence that GMOs can render on environment.

of Threat, “proceeding“ from GMO, it is possible to divide conditionally into two categories - potential (hypothetical, or postulated) and... attributed. As for the last, here it is possible to carry the hypermarkets mentioned by irreconcilable opponents - food allergic reactions (including - the perverted reactions to introduction of some antibiotics) and certain hormonal changes (feminization of boys and premature puberty at girls). The ability which is allegedly found in genetically modified soy to cause decrease in a potentiality in men also belongs to the same category. Any of above-mentioned effects of GMO is not confirmed with objektivizirovanny methods of evidential medicine now - and it means that all these statements can be considered as actually unfounded.

the situation with threats potential is More difficult - i.e. those that can proceed from transgene food, for example. As appears from the definition “potential“, there are no evidences in favor of real harmful effect of transgene products now. But that can (theoretically) be shown years later. According to enemies of “Frankenstein`s food“, so far as containing alien (even - “chuzhevidny“) DNA genno - engineering designs “are able“ to take root, say, into a tomato genome, why not to assume that, having released from the tomato digested by the person, they will be able to take root also into a genome, for example, of epiteliotsit (cages, from within covering intestines) human intestines? Having replaced with that a “vertical“ order of transfer of genes, natural to the person, from ancestors to descendants with absolutely not a typical “horizontal“ order - with dangerous, perhaps, consequences? In the form of toxic, immunopathological reactions or carcinogenesis (provoking of oncological diseases), for example?

To be fair here should noting

that “horizontal“ (i.e. not from ancestors to descendants, and as if “from outside“) transfer of genetic information is not the invention of gene engineers - it exists in the nature for many millions of years. From time immemorial and till present human genome is “horizontally“ modified, for example, viruses - of any of us more than it is enough “adopted“ fragments of their genetic information in DNA. As it is enough, in general, and internal means of protection from a “horizontal“ stream of alien genes - - in particular, the considerable part nukleinovo - acid “newcomers“ is ruthlessly “cut“ on functionally useless pieces by the numerous special enzymes which are available for us under the name of a restriktaza. And if such “newcomer“ appears artificial genno - the engineering design used for modification of tomato, then from above-mentioned enzymes - Cerberuses she should not count on indulgence.

Of course, for human health it is also not necessary to tell about absolutely guaranteed safety of transgene organisms meanwhile - at least because present genetic engineering is not perfect at all. However the probability of existence of such negative effect is unambiguously estimated as low.

... And how we escape?

With this postulated “transgene“ threat each of us has the right to fight in a voluntary order - ignoring genetically modified (and transgene) foodstuff. However, for this purpose it is necessary to be able to distinguish unmistakably those from products, the avoided above-mentioned “presumption of guilt“. That is from products of a “natural“ origin. And ideally to distinguish them it is necessary to be able not only on store counters and racks, but also, say, in the plate with a delicacy which is just given the waiter.


For providing effective anti-GMO of “navigation“ in shops of those countries whose economic state in a full order, and the population has not especially a kind feeling for “Frankenstein`s food“, the local legislation provided obligatory marking of the foodstuff containing a certain number of hypermarket - components, - for Europe, for example, this quantity makes 0,9%. For lack of such marking or understating of maintenance of GMI serious penalties will be by all means inflicted on the producer. As for a problem of “examination in a plate“, and the last in the aforesaid countries poorly - poorly is solved - on the basis of the developed tiny DNA - the testers allowing to make the express - the analysis of food directly on the place, quickly and reliably.

As for us, here, as usual, everything is not so simple... In - the first, special marking of food, the maintenance of hypermarket - components in which it is higher than 0,9% in Russia are not obligatory - meanwhile this business especially voluntary. And in spite of the fact that aforesaid, obligatory for marking, the threshold of contents is mentioned in a number of domestic regulations since June, 2004, the State Duma still did not “legalize“ this situation - though “was risen“ to a question in November of this year. However, legislators promise to repeat attempt at the very beginning of a year 2005 - go.

In - the second, it is much more difficult to catch the producer on deception in Russia, than in Europe, - owing to the fact that the laboratory base of the hypermarkets controlling a problem - products of departments is rather weak: obviously there is no equipment for the quantitative analysis of hypermarket - components and high-quality definition of those in products leaves much to be desired.

I, at last, in - the third: the penalty sum provided now for violators of the existing laws (20 thousand rubles) at all desire cannot characterize a penalty as how many - nibud serious. So - and effective.

the Conclusion

Genetically modified food already became today`s realities - and hardly they will disappear from a scene of the global market tomorrow. Serve as pledge to that as constantly improved unique qualities of products, and solid economic interest of their producers. Discrepancy of information on safety of GMO, apparently, will also last not one more year - at “Frankenstein`s food“ many serious opponents; it is enough to remember that proceeding to this day transatlantic “hypermarket - war“ between the USA and Europe began last century. And in the war, of course, as in the war - all information is verified first of all ideologically. The truth in this case, as usual, is somewhere nearby. Near golden mean between polar opinions of the parties. And therefore for future mother facing a question “to be or not to be“ in her diet to genetically modified foodstuff, probably, it makes sense to be guided by words of the great philosopher from Celestial Empire who wisely noticed that “the careful person seldom is mistaken“.