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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

September 2013

Did you know that some foods you eat are genetically modified?

Genetically Modified Foods

These are foods, in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. From prehistoric time plants and animals have been involved in selective breeding. Scientists first discovered that DNA can transfer between organisms in 1946. The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. 

In 1994, the transgenic Flavr Savr tomato was approved by the FDA for marketing in the US - the modification allowed the tomato to delay ripening after picking.  

Advantages Genetically Modified Foods

• Genetically modified food technology can develop crops with higher yield, with less fertilizer, less pesticides, and more nutrients.
• Decrease of maturation time of the plants, so they can be harvested sooner, stay riper longer and more often during the year. 
• Foods are more resistant and stay ripe for a longer period of time.
• Reduction in food-borne illnesses e.g.  Foods causing allergic reactions.
• Developments of new kinds of crops that can be grown at extreme climates.
• As more crops can be grown and at more places, this decreases global warming through the increase of oxygen in the environment and the decrease of carbon dioxide.
• Enhancement of the size of food.
• Less labor requirements. 
• Less factory additives needed.
• Scientific development of agriculture, health and related sciences due to the better understanding of the products. E.g. the development of new medicines.

Disadvantages Genetically Modified Foods

• Harm to other organisms. E.g. genes and their effect included in a crop may turn out to be poisonous to insects (monarch butterfly poisoned by Genetically Modified Foods corns).
• Scientists can choose which genes to manipulate, but they don't yet know where in the DNA to precisely insert these genes and they have no way of controlling gene expression. 
Genes don't work in isolation, changing a few could change the whole picture, with unpredictable results.
• Genetically modified crops cross-pollinate with nearby non-genetically modified foods plants and could create ecological problems. 
 Genetically Modified Foods technology companies patent their crops and also engineer crops so that harvested grain germs are incapable of developing.
• Since the production of engineered food involves infusing animal genes in the crops and tampering with nature, it might not be good for consumption in the long run.
• Genetically engineered food would increase the dependency of developing countries, on industrialized nations. This would result in a dominance of the world food production by a few countries. New advances may be skewed to the interests of rich countries.
• The biggest disadvantage of genetically modified food is that they have harmful effects. on the human body. The consumption of these genetically engineered foods can lead to development of diseases that are immune to antibiotics.
• Possible creation of new kinds of weapons; genetic food and beverage weapons.
• Herbicide-resistant and pesticide-resistant crops could give rise to super-weeds and super-pests that would need newer, stronger chemicals to destroy them.

Conclusion

The advantages and disadvantages of genetically modified foods are numerous and is strongly dependent on the consumers’ preference and the developers’ motive. All genetically modified foods should be labelled by law, however according to many articles reviewed most popular brand fail to label their products genetically modified.

Do you support companies that produce Genetically Modified Food? 
leave a comment below and share your views

Are you purchasing your food from a safe source?

Food is a vital part of maintaining proper health and a nutritious diet.  If the foods we eat are not handled and prepared in a hygienic manner the consequences can be detrimental to our health. When purchasing our foods it is of critical importance that we pay special attention to the activities going on around us. 
Observe the cleanliness of the premises you are buying your food from. It is not an easy task to keep a food handling establishment clean, if the operator is not a tidy person. Hence having a well-kept and sanitary establishment is the first step in producing a safe food. In taking note of the cleanliness of the premises there are certain things that will be more evident in the food display area of an unhygienic food premises.
·         Cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and in corners.
·         Excessive dust and dirt on shelves and counter.
·         Over filled garbage receptacle(s).
·         Brooms, mops and other cleaning items in the food display area.
·         Live or dead insects
·         Rodents (rats) droppings
·         Chemicals and other toxic items in the food area.
In the process of preparing food the potential of contamination is very high. This risk increases exponentially when the food handler has no regards for personal and food hygienic practices. Consequently this may result in the consumer eating unsafe food and getting sick. For this purpose it is imperative that the consumer pays attention to the person handling and preparing their food. According to the Center of Disease control and prevention (CDC) they estimate that 97% of food borne illness can be linked to improper handling of food in the homes and restaurants. As a result a food handlers who;
·         Talks excessively over  the food
·         Do not practices frequent hand washing
·         Do not wear proper protective clothing (hair nets)
·         Has long or dirty nails
·         Whitlow fingers
·         Boils and rash on the uncovered areas of the body
·         Has on jewelry while preparing food
Will likely contaminate your food and hence as consumers you need to be more skeptic about buying food from these sources.

Finally, it’s critical that you purchase foods from certified establishments. This means an establishment that has been certified by the Ministry of Health to sell food to the public. Such premise will have a health certificate posted in a conspicuous area of the food premises.  The significance for this is that these premises are monitored by a public Health Inspector periodically and have satisfied the minimum requirements under the Public Health Law to sell food.  At some point in our daily activities we take on the role of a consumer therefore, it’s essential that we are cognitive of these facts that will assist us in purchasing safer and wholesome foods for ourselves and family members.