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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Feed Me

A conservative estimate of the percentage of cars in New Zealand that have a bumper sticker advertising their dislike of genetically modified foods would be around 20-30 percent. Kiwis are terrified of eating GM products.

However, the Associated Press reported today that

. . . [R]oughly 75 percent of U.S. processed foods -- boxed cereals, other grain products, frozen dinners, cooking oils and more -- contain some genetically modified, or GM, ingredients . . .
And that
. . . Nearly every product with a corn or soy ingredient, and some containing canola or cottonseed oil, has a GM element, according to the grocery manufacturers group.
So what's the big deal?

Opponents say genetically modified foods could cause allergic or toxic reactions and harm the environment. Worries include the mixing of GM crops with regular ones either by handlers, or pollen -- already documented -- and GM foods being sold where they're not approved.
That seems like a valid concern. However
Despite dire warnings about "Frankenfoods," there have been no reports of illness from these products of biotechnology. Critics note there's no system for reporting allergies or other reactions to GM foods.
I don't think I have a problem eating GM foods, and I really don't have a problem using GM products as a primary food source for developing countries. The biggest problem appears to be that
. . . [T]here's no system to track health problems caused by GM foods.

[The Union of Concerned Scientists and] the Center for Science in the Public Interest has long pushed for labeling -- only required when GM products have properties different from ordinary foods, such as a higher nutrient content. They contend consumers deserve a choice if they want to avoid GM foods and they also want government regulation.

That makes sense. Experimenting with foods isn't a sin against nature or something, and as we currently understand it, there have been no side effects from the foods that have been released so far. All most people want is to know what it is that they're eating. That, I think, is a reasonable demand, and a far cry from demanding, as the bumper sticker says, that food companies "Keep NZ GE Free!"

For more questions and answers on genetically modified foods, go here.


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