Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Living Modified Organisms
A Living Modified Organism (LMO) is defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.
Common "LMOs" include agricultural crops that have been genetically modified for greater productivity or for resistance to pests or diseases. Examples of modified crops include tomatoes, cassava, corn, cotton and soybeans.
Modern biotechnology means the application of: In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or the fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.
Are LMOs the Alchemy of the Future?
Humankind will be faced with numerous inevitable problems in the future, such as a huge increase in the world’s population, a decrease in farmland, a limitation to food supply, and environmental pollution.
LMOs that use biotechnology have emerged as an alternative to solve such problems.
Crops that are resistant to harmful insects can help solve food shortage by minimizing the cost and space required to cultivate them.
Some bacteria or plants (such as poplar and reeds) can remove pollutants in an eco-friendly way
Bio-fuel that is produced from plants is considered as a substitute for fossil fuels that cause global warming
Genetically modified animals and plants are used in the production of medications for incurable diseases
Are LMOs Safe?
Despite the many merits of LMOs, concerns have been raised over the risks of LMOs. They include whether the genes artificially inserted in LMOs may have bad effects on other species, or whether native biological species may be overwhelmed by LMOs, resulting in LMOs contaminating the entire ecosystem.
Against this backdrop, the international community concluded the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as an annex to the Convention on Biological Diversity in January 2000, recognizing the necessity of ensuring the safety of LMOs and preventing potential risks in advance.
In March 2001, the Korean government legislated the International Transfer of Living Modified Organisms Law (LMO Law), which effectuated the LMO Product Indication System, a protocol for indicating genetically modified agricultural products’ and the ‘standards of genetic recombination food’. Also, the government enforced the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the LMO law on January 1, 2008.
In addition, government agencies such as the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs apply strict standards when examining LMOs to determine their risks to human health and the cultivating environment, and their effects on the ecosystem and marine ecosystem, and notifies the public of the examination process and results.
In particular, the Ministry of Environment has been striving to protect the domestic ecosystem from the potential risks of LMOs by conducting an examination and discussion on the effects of LMOs used for environmental purification (genetically modified bacteria with an enhanced capacity for oil degradation and genetically modified plants for heavy metal filtering) as well as the effects that all LMOs may have on the ecosystem.