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Gentetically Modified Food Essay, Research Paper

The article, Frankenfears, written by Andy Coghlan, David Concar and Debora MacKenzie was published in the New Scientist magazine in February of 1999. The article dealt with an issue of rising concern, genetically modified food. Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, suggested that procedures routinely used in genetic engineering can make plants harmful. He then goes on, without justification, assuming that the plants which were being experimented with would be used for human consumption. The controversy surrounding this statement is that nowhere has anyone indicated that this trangenetic food was, in fact, going to be used for human consumption–rather it was being used for the process of genetic engineering itself. When Stanley Ewen, one of Pusztai’s supports, examined samples of gut lining from rats which had eaten the transgenetic food, he saw abnormalities such as increased production of cells in intestinal crypts, the clefts between the fingers-like villi that line the wall of the of the small intestine.

Skeptics of Pusztai’s findings, such as Willy Peumans–a researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, suggest that the most likely explanation is ” that the process of inserting the lectin gene into the food cells and their growth in tissue culture disrupted the behavior of the foods other genes. This may have altered the plants biochemistry and made them produce high levels of other toxix substances, such as alkaloids. With all controversy put aside, everyone agrees that the questions raised by Pusztai’s preliminary findings will require tests on plants engineered to contain DNA constructs, but lacking genes for lectin or the other genes added in commercially grown genetically modified crops.

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