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HomescienceAre GMOs Still a Concern? - Science & Health

Are GMOs Still a Concern? – Science & Health

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Tomatoes were the first, and since then scientists have genetically modified many foods. In Portugal, regulations are still strict.

They have a longer lifespan, which helps them if they have to travel long distances to get to their destination. They are more resistant to weather and even pests, such as fungi or insects. From the lab to the supermarket, these foods are appearing with genetic changes in order to improve them, which is called “genetically modified.” The first called Flavor travel (“Protector of flavor” in Portuguese), was a tomato developed by Calgene North America in 1994. Now, there are many more, such as potatoes with more starch and even wheat with a richer flour. It has become one of the alternatives to organic food. But is that the right word? “Nowadays, nothing is natural anymore, despite the misconception that we consume natural or organic foods. Humans have interfered with almost everything, that’s for sure,” he says. Saturday Margarida Oliveira, researcher and biologist at the University of Nova de Lisbon.







The first genetically modified food was the tomato, created in 1994 by Calgene North America.
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It all starts with the seeds of the plant themselves, which are modified in a laboratory. Genes are extracted from other foods to give the food new properties, such as a longer expiration date. They are already present in the soil, and are “bombarded” with pesticide chemicals called herbicides, to which there is already greater resistance due to the genetic crossing process. The result is a food that is externally identical to organic food, but with different properties, which are nevertheless still surrounded by controversy.

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Some argue that some of these foods can affect health, for example by increasing allergies. In genetically modified farms, more chemicals are used in the farming process, which, combined with genetic modifications, makes it difficult to know what the “short-term effects” are. [e] What impact does it have on health? “In other words, we still don’t know more than we do about these genetic changes,” explains Susana Fonseca, vice president of the environmental association ZERO.

In fact, when it comes to the possibilities arising from gene crossing, the sky is the limit. For example: you could introduce a peanut gene into an apple. But this change could cause problems. For example, if someone with a peanut allergy eats that apple, they will still have an allergic reaction, even though it is a different food. “At the very least, it would be an unpleasant surprise,” adds biologist Margarida Oliveira.

And in Portugal?

At the moment, it’s not unusual to see the letter “T” on packaging in Portugal – the symbol that distinguishes GMOs from organic ones – in regular supermarkets. The reason? These products are subject to strict regulations within the European Union, of which Portugal is a member, and were used mainly in animal feed. The exceptions to human consumption in our country are corn, beets and soybeans, most of which are still produced and exported from the United States, the country where they were born. Climate change is certainly still one of the major challenges facing global agriculture, but genetic hybridization “is not a solution to improving the productivity of this industry,” says Susana Fonseca.

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They have a longer lifespan, which helps them if they have to travel long distances to get to their destination. They are more resistant to weather and even pests, such as fungi or insects. From the lab to the supermarket, these foods are appearing with genetic changes in order to improve them, which is called “genetically modified.” The first called Flavor travel (“Protector of flavor” in Portuguese), was a tomato developed by Calgene North America in 1994. Now, there are many more, such as potatoes with more starch and even wheat with a richer flour. It has become one of the alternatives to organic food. But is that the right word? “Nowadays, nothing is natural anymore, despite the misconception that we consume natural or organic foods. Humans have interfered with almost everything, that’s for sure,” he says. Saturday Margarida Oliveira, researcher and biologist at the University of Nova de Lisbon.

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