Food, politics and the 2012 elections
By: John Verlinden/TRT Food Columnist–
Remember Jurassic Park, the best-seller and blockbuster movie? It was a cautionary tale about genetic engineering’s great potential (scientists create an idyllic prehistoric theme park with live dinosaur rides and exhibits), and one tiny unintended consequence (the amusements attack and eat the guests). Could our food supply be headed for such a future?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants or animals whose DNA has been altered in a way that doesn’t occur naturally – e.g., a gene from one plant or animal is transferred into the cells of another. The U.S. is the leader in production of GM foods, and they are already a large and important part of our food supply. We are assured these products have been adequately evaluated and are safe, but many people here and around the world remain skeptical.
GM foods hold great promise – in the near future, we’ll likely be able to create crops that are disease, drought and pest resistant with enhanced nutrition, animals that grow faster, require less food and produce less waste and plants and animals with special proteins that will protect us from disease. GM foods could help us eliminate hunger and improve global health. But, because this is still an emerging technology that is poised to expand dramatically in the next few years producing many new species, there are risks to public health, to the environment and to the economy.
Some other countries have established robust programs of oversight and regulation, require mandatory labeling of products containing GM foods so consumers can choose and have established careful control over ownership rights to newly created organisms. They worry about the long-term health effects of GM foods, outcrossing of genes from GM plants to conventional crops or to related species in the wild and about a few large corporations gaining control of all or part of our food supply.
Ask politicians who want your vote what they know about the future of GM foods. Do they have concerns? And, what do they see as an appropriate role for government in this area? This is an especially time-sensitive issue, as many new GM food products will be on store shelves before the next major election cycle.
Next month we’ll take a look at food additives.
Until next time – ¡Mucho Gusto!, ¡Muchas Gracias! y ¡Buen Provecho!