Gmfood Biotechnology Is Still Developing and Requires Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2766 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Agriculture


Biotechnology is still developing and requires rigorous evaluation and regulation before it can be safely accepted. With the present divided opinion among the scientific community and the absence of biosafety standards in many countries, embracing the 'biotechnology way' as an answer to the food requirements of the world, presents a difficult choice.

Biotechnology has advanced at an amazing pace and what was only a talk in the last decade is now already a reality. GM food has become a topic of heated debate over the last few years. The ethical perceptions and opinions about GM food are quite varied. Robert Shapiro the CEO of Monsanto feels, "There now exists an opportunity to create a genuine science of nutrition, something that has never existed in human history." In the UK prince Charles opines, "I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into the realms that belong to God, and God alone" [Michael Specter] Besides the ethics of GM food, issues pertaining to the health, environmental effects, Patents and safety regulations and other public concerns have to be carefully ascertained. With millions of people in African (Sudan, Zambia, etc.) countries facing chronic hunger and severely malnourished the prospect of GM food as a potential solution to the food crisis needs to be rigorously evaluated. A brief overview of these important issues that surround the GM food revolution would help us gain better insight into the promises and the challenges of agricultural Biotechnology.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on Gmfood Biotechnology Is Still Developing and Requires Assignment

The United Nations has established codex, an international body that monitors the food standards and adherence to international biosafety guidelines. [Linda Bren] in the Unites States, the FDA is the regulatory authority on all food products. Genetically modified food items are also subject to the same rigorous evaluation as other conventional food products. Agricultural biotechnology is supervised by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and all commercially grown genetically modified crops require a non-regulated status issued by the USDA and the APHIS. The EPA also oversees genetically modified crops for their effect on the environment as a whole. The FDA does not look into the methods by which the food crops are grown but only the nutritional value and the safety of the products. The FDA has consistently endorsed GM crops and one of its statement release reads, "We are confident that food derived from plants developed by new biotechnology will be just as safe as those produced by traditional biotechnology." [BIO]

There are significant loopholes in the system as it is that is exploited by GM food companies. A good example is the case of Bt Potatoes from Monsanto. Bacillus thuringiensis gene is introduced into potatoes to develop potato beetle resistance. However, these facts remain hidden (not labeled) from the consumer as the FDA exempts insecticides from its scrutiny. So the unwary consumer does not know that he is consuming traces of insecticide along with the usual nutrients of a potato. [Michael Pollan] it is estimated that as much as 75% of all processed food stuff available in the grocery stores within the U.S. contain ingredients from genetically modified crops. As per 2003, there were more than 100 million acres of genetically modified Soya, cotton and corn in the United States. Since soybean oil, cottonseed oil and corn syrup are the basic ingredients in most of the processed foods it is clear that we are already consuming genetically modified food substances with or without our knowledge. [Linda Bren]

It would not be economically sensible for a biotech company to produce innovations without obtaining monetary compensation for the same. It is estimated that around $4 million dollars are spent in before a GM crop can hit the market. [Dave Toke, 19] the issue of patenting GM crops is a cumbersome one. In view of the existing hurdles in obtaining patents with the different standards prevailing in different countries, the BIO is moving towards harmonizing at least certain procedures among the signatory countries to get rid of redundancy and save the recurrent costs. [Lila feisee] Many anti-GM proponents find it totally annoying to think about patenting life. There is definitely no question of doubt that patenting GM products would increase the control of a few companies. For example, Monsanto's patented Soya seeds do not allow farmers to resow the seeds and also forced them to buy herbicide supplied by them.

Earlier in 2004 Monsanto was awarded the patent for a wheat strain originally grown in India known as Nap Hal. Greenpeace challenged Monsanto's obtained patent on the grounds of 'biopiracy' stating that the newly patented strain of wheat was not expressing any special characteristics. As Christoph Then, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner said, ' Monsanto is trying to get ownership of the specific genetic traits of Nap Hal. it's robbery of generations of effort in cultivation of Indian farmers." Monsanto on the other hand vehemently defended its patent. Though the patent was not granted in India, there are still serious implications for Indian farmers and the Indian government as it affects the export of wheat and wheat products to U.S. And European countries. "Indian farmers should worry about this," Then said. "It's their effort stolen from them. It might prove relevant for all export facilities of the wheat from India. In a larger context, this controversy is relevant for all farmers." [Charles Choi]

The U.S., Canada and Argentina together account for almost 90% of the total GM crops production. Though in the U.S., the FDA and the USDA have been vouching for the safety of genetically modified foods there is certainly a large measure of uncertainty in the Europe. The European union had banned all GM products since 1998 until 2004. The European union report of 2004 to the WTO has clearly expressed the potential dangers and the uncertainty surrounding the approval of GM crops. "it is apparent from the scientific advice... that there is no unique, absolute, scientific cut off threshold available to decide whether a GM product is safe or not." The report added that there were " large areas of uncertainty" and "some issues have not yet been studied at all." [James Sturcke] While European union took a long time before accepting GM food imports elsewhere in south east Asia, Monsanto, the GM crops giant, tried a different route to establish market for its patented GM cotton. Between 1998 and 2001 the company had paid a sum of U.S.$700,000 to Indonesian ministry officials as bribery. Monsanto was bought to justice for bribery and forced to pay $1.5 dollars to U.S. government in compensation for its shameful act. The company had also agreed to close scrutiny of all its business within the country for a period of 3 years. This is a clear indication of the dangers of patenting and commercial exploitation and how it could override environmental safety concerns. [Greenpeace]

GM Foods (Health effects)

In view of the large-scale of the food crisis and the widespread malnutrition that is observed among third world children, GM food seems to be a promising solution. For example, the widespread VAD in these countries can be easily managed by using GM rice, which has high concentrations of beta-carotene component necessary for synthesis of vitamin a the improved version of the golden rice developed by British scientists contains 20 times more beta-carotene, which implies that even a 70 gm intake would satisfy the daily-recommended dosage. This in context of the VAD induced blindness and associated high infant mortality rates, presents an attractive option. Another GM product, a new variety of protein-enriched potato, is being widely marketed to be the answer to the malnutrition problem among children in the developing nations.

In a report on the impact of GM food on children the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) has suggested that the heath aspects of GM food on humans can only be ascertained after exposure for a long period of time. Hence, in the absence of such exhaustive studies the notion that genetically modified foods carry the same nutritional benefits as the conventional foods is disputable. In the wake of the prevailing controversy baby food manufacturers in Canada have removed GM ingredients from their products. (Soya-based baby feed). Some animal studies have also shown results that confirm our doubts about the negative effects of consuming GM food. A study conducted by Arpad Pusztai and funded by the Rowlett Institute in Scotland showed that rats that were fed with GM potatoes suffered significant health problems. The Genetically engineered potatoes were designed to be pest resistant by means of gene splicing. Evidence for intestinal inflammation and reduction in organs size were noted in the rats used for the study. The RSC also expressed concern about that the increased possibility of allergy due to the genetically modified foods, "The potential widespread use of GM food products as food additives and staple foods, including use in baby foods, may lead to earlier introduction of novel proteins to susceptible infants either directly or via the presence of the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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