Mountain View Medical Supply

Monday, July 1, 2013

Should We Grow Genetically Modified Crops?

Adapted from of Fear, by Peter Tyson

Industry, government, and many academic scientists tout the benefits of genetically modified (GM) foods for agriculture, ecosystems, and human health and well-being, including feeding a world population bursting at the seams. With equal passion, consumer groups, environmental activists, religious organizations and some scientists warn of unforeseen health, environmental and socioeconomic consequences.

The debate concerns each of us: what we and our children are eating. And, you’ve been consuming GM foods for some time. Farmers have been raising GM food crops such as corn, soybeans and potatoes since the mid-90’s and because food companies pool raw materials from many sources, they end up in a single processing stream. And with global GM crop farming rising 25-fold in just four years, it’s something we need to educate ourselves about.

Is genetically modified food safe to eat? Scientists and government regulators maintain that GM food presents no food safety issues at the present moment. Biotechnology critics and other scientists disagree, arguing that there’s inadequate testing and regulation of GM food. The StarLink episode (in which GM corn, approved only for animal feed, was found in taco shells) revealed flaws in the U.S. regulatory system.

Critics of biotechnology say GM’s introduce a new genre of environmental and health questions. For example, introduction of a foreign gene from distant species (e.g., a gene from a fish into a strawberry) increases the risk of allergenicity. Also, the risk of new toxins must be considered, and they point to a lab research which has revealed possible unintended consequences of GMO’s.

What are the benefits of GM’s?

GM crops can help the environment (reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides) and the farmer be more successful (pathogen resistance creates abundant crops). Using high-yield technology increases production and allows more land to remain undisturbed. Also GM crops make it easier to feed the world (enhanced crops with vitamins).

So basically GMO’s that are in our food stream are genetically modified to deter bugs and disease creating healthier crops with less chemical applications. The question is what gene is introduced to the plant that is the deterrent, and is that healthy for humans to consume?

Petitions have been submitted to the FDA to have all GM foods labeled as such, and they are “currently considering those petitions”. The FDA’s Biotechnology Policy is dated May 29, 1992 (57 FR 22984). In 2001the FDA issued a proposed premarket notification rule (66 FR 4706) where developers submit a scientific and regulatory assessment of the bioengineered food 120 days before the food is marketed.

Who is regulating GM’s? The FDA works with most bioengineered plants through Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the USDA. Bioengineered foods that contain an introduced plant-incorporated-protectant (PIP) is subject to review by the EPA.

The FDA’s website states: “FDA supports voluntary labeling for food derived from genetic engineering”.

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