Food Biotechnology Term Paper

Pages: 7 (1922 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Agriculture

Food Biotechnology

The objective of this work is to critically review at least six sources of literature related to food biotechnology which contain arguments against the use of food biotechnology and to then summarize the key concerns and arguments and construct an Issues Management Plan which outlines how a food company or the client of the food company would manage consumer concerns of incorporating a GM ingredient into food products. Some of the issues may include legal labeling, responses to public inquiries and proactive strategies.

Due to the increase in food biotechnology there exist an increasing requirement for packaging and labeling both for health and consumer concerns. This work examines the specific issues in today's food biotechnology specifically as to the concern of consumers in accepting this new technology. The regulation process falls under the Economic Cooperation and Development organization (OECD) which published principles for making review of "large-scale planting of transgenic crop plants." (McCammon, 1999) The U.S. has 13 years experience in evaluating biotechnological products. Furthermore statutes have been implemented, procedures established and the criteria set for evaluation of such products. Finally the food products are evaluated by the Food and Health Administration (FDA), The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Animal and Plant Inspection Health Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture." (Ibid)

According to the work of Sally L. McCammon, Science Advisor to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for the U.S. Department of Agriculture: "If genetically engineered organisms are to gain greater acceptance, decisions that address concerns associated with the application of biotechnology to agriculture must be science based. Science also must be the base by which regulatory officials can sure and build upon credibility, remain current and assure a rational basis for decision-making." (1999) McCammon states that the science-based assessment means that "the review of any particular product is done using scientific criteria relevant to that product. Advances in biotechnology -- being able to determine what has actually happened at the molecular and biochemical levels -- have increased the ability of regulators to scrutinize product safety and the effect of product modification upon safety. The scrutinies of certain products and the rigor by which evaluations are performed have also increased due to biotechnology." (1999)

I. SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS OF FOOD ADDITIVE INGREDIENTS

The actual assessment of food products is done by the FDA. The policy governing the FDA is the consultation procedure that was "published in the 1992 Statement of Policy; Foods Derived from New Plant Varieties." (McCammon, 1999) The policy requires that companies that develop new plant varieties consult with the agency "on safety and regulatory questions under the authority of the FFDCA. FDA policy is based on existing food law and requires that genetically engineered foods meet the same rigorous safety standards as is required of all other foods. The FDA biotechnology policy treats substances intentionally added to food through genetic engineering as food additives if they are significantly different in structure, function, or amount from substances currently found in food. Many of the food crops currently being developed using biotechnology do not contain substances that are significantly different from those already in the diet and thus do not require pre-market approval." (McCammon, 1999).

II. FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGY IS NOT NEW

According to the International Food Information Council: "For centuries, bakers, brewers, vintners and ranchers have been using biology to their advantage and modifying genes to make bread, beer, wine and cheese. The processes they have used can be likened to those used in agricultural biotechnology." (2004) Stated as well is that when breeders of crops develop new varieties two questions are given careful consideration: (1) Will they inadvertently increase naturally occurring toxicants while seeking other modifications, such as enhanced protein content?; and (2) Might they inadvertently create a toxicant in a new plant by crossing two plants known to be safe?" (International Food Information Council, 2006) Food safety evaluation is required by the FDA for all food products that contain:

Genes that are not already present in the food supply

Significantly altered nutrient levels

Significantly different composition from substances currently found in foods

Allergenic proteins

New antibiotic-resistance markers

Significantly increased levels of toxicants (Ibid)

The work entitled: "Food Biotechnology" published in the Family and Consumer Sciences Journal states: "Some people use the term biotechnology to refer to the tools of genetic engineering that have been developed since 1973. But biology, technology, and human-directed genetic change have been a part of agriculture since the beginning of cultivated crops some 10,000 years ago. Biotechnology has, in a general sense, been used as a tool for food production since the first breeders decided to selectively plant or breed only the best kinds of corn or cows. Technology is a tool we use to achieve a goal, such as improved food quality." (Tietyen & Garrison, nd) Biotechnology is used by scientists for improving foods "for the benefit of consumers, producers, or the environment. Consumers may benefit from improved nutrition or food quality. Producers may be able to grow crops under adverse conditions, such as drought. Some genetically engineered plant foods require significantly fewer chemical applications during growth and therefore have less environmental impact." (Ibid)

The following are just some of the products that biotechnology has served to enhance:

Corn, soybeans, and cotton that require fewer applications of herbicides/pesticides

Soybeans that are lower in saturated fats, and higher in oleic acid, offering better frying stability

Virus-resistant papayas that make crop production more dependable

Peppers improved to be tastier (sweeter) and remain firmer after harvest

Potatoes and corn that are disease-resistant and produce a higher yield (International Food Information Council, 2006)

Tietyen & Garrison state that: "Both the public and scientific communities are evaluating their stance on the use of biotechnology for food production. Most consumers favor the use of biotechnology when it allows producers to decrease their use of agricultural chemicals. Ultimately, consumer desires will decide the fate of foods produced with biotechnology through the effect of demand on supply and their demand for accountability from U.S. public agencies. For consumers to responsibly participate in these decisions, they must be well informed about the potential benefits and risks associated with biotechnology." (nd) According to the USDA government website foods and food products developed through biotechnology will offer consumers healthier, better tasting, safer and more nutritious foods. Biotechnology will also "give growers and processors higher yielding crops that require fewer pesticides and herbicides and that can grow in traditionally inhospitable climates." (Ibid) The FDA is stated to not believe "that additional food labeling information is needed to identify foods that are the product of biotechnology -- a position that NFPA supports." (USDA, nd)

III. CONSUMER DOUBTS

The doubts of consumers related to food biotechnology are doubts that can be overcome through proper planning and through educating the consumer as to what food biotechnology actually is. Stated in the work entitled: "Biotechnology Overview, Product Applications, Consumer Response" is that: "Labeling of products modified by biotechnology is not an issue of high concern among consumers. When 1,000 consumers were asked to identify food safety concerns only 2% volunteered genetically modified foods. Similarly when asked to voluntary describe information they would wish to have that is not currently available on the food label only 2% noted genetic modification." (Bruhn, nd) Finally when "specifically asked what of several pieces of additional labeling information people might prefer, 17% identified genetically engineering, 16% indicated no additional information, 15% didn't know and 31% requested pesticide residue information." (Ibid)

The study also found that consumers want to be "informed when new products are different from the traditional ones." (Bruhn, nd) The problem that exists is that labeling may not provide enough information thereby causing the consumer to misunderstand the product. "Special labeling or use of the term 'genes' influences consumer attitudes." (Bruhn, nd) In the event labeling were to be required a survey shows that 61% of consumers in a telephone survey believed that whole foods should contain labels, 53% of consumers believed "major ingredients in a food should bear the label, 42% would also label minor ingredients such as corn starch in a mixed dish, and 38% would apply labeling regulations to any material from a modified product." (Bruhn, nd)

III. ISSUES Management PLAN

As this work has revealed the Food and Drug Administration does not require labeling on all genetically modified food products. However, there does appear to be a general concern among consumers as to the safety of these genetically modified food products. In order that the consumer population is put at ease about the consumption of these food products it appears to be generally advisable that the consumer be kept up-to-date and educated about the developments in food biotechnology.

Education of the consumer and the public at large is not an easy undertaking. The work of Bruhn (nd) states that: "The label is only one means of providing consumers with information. Over 75% of consumer believed information other than labeling was a more appropriate method… [END OF PREVIEW]

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