Posts tagged ‘Biotechnology’

GMO Salmon under reveiw by FDA

This week the FDA is holding public meetings regarding their review of genetically engineered salmon.  If approved for consumption this would be the first genetically engineered animal product to be introduced into our national food chain.  GMO’s are already in use in plant material, and currently there are no labeling requirements in the U.S. to allow consumers to tell which food products contain them.  If approved these genetically altered salmon would open the door to the other GMO meat products waiting in the wings, including EnviroPig, and a cow designed to resist Mad Cow disease.

It’s no secret that GMO’s are controversial, and there have already been problems and issues related to the altered plant products, including the uncontrollable spread of GMO crops and potential health threats.

GMO’s fall under the category of drugs according to FDA review guidelines and so this fish and any other GMO product seeking approval are reviewed by a panel of experts who normally review veterinary pharmaceuticals – not food safety issues.

All of this makes me very nervous.  I have my doubts about the rigour and accuracy of the FDA’s safety review processes, and I also am suspicious of the amount of influence that Big Food might have on their decision-making (I know it sounds paranoid, but that doesn’t really matter if it happens to be true).  The amount of money to be made from this technology, paired with the potential environmental and health effects make this a very potentially volatile topic.

Obviously I hope that the FDA does not approve this GMO fish for public consumption.  Further, I hope that if it does approve it that they at least require clear product labeling so that those of us how are made very nervous by GMO’s in our food can attempt to avoid them.  For now everything is up in the air.

Why food is kind of scary…

My research into genetically modified foods continues, and I can’t help but feel that no matter how much we oppose the use of this technology,  it will do very little good.  I know that is hugely pessimistic, and not overly constructive but, hey – this is my blog, so I’ll damn well say how I feel.

Genetically modified products are already in a large percentage of the foods we are exposed to – with no labeling.  The companies that control the bioengineering technology are huge and powerful.  The government agencies that are in place to protect citizens from questionable technologies and practices are seemingly unable (or unwilling?) to properly monitor things.  This could be due to an inability to keep up with emerging technologies, antiquated testing and analysis techniques, or some kind of sinister relationship with the very people they are supposed to be policing (likely it’s some combination of these).

These genetically modified organisms (GMO‘s) are supposed to be helpful.  They are supposed to be cheaper and more productive (one of the major reasons that people have been in favor of this technology is to help solve the world food shortage problem), however there is evidence that this is not the case.  They are supposed to be safe, but again there is evidence against this.

Genetically modified crops spread through natural processes into other crops whether we want them to or not.  This is dangerous for several reasons.  Firstly it gives the companies who own the rights to these crops legal cause to sue farmers for growing their crops without paying for them, even if these people had no intention of doing so.  Second these mutant crops could threaten the very existence of non-modified crops, taking over their gene pool and totally replacing them within  a few plant generations.  Thirdly, if, when all is said and done, there are major health and environmental risks associated with these organisms, we may be unable to control their propagation.  And these are just the risks that I can think of off the top of my head.

Genetic modification of animals is another, however similar, story.  So far my research has focused on crops, not livestock, however as I understand it the potential dangers are the same.  It’s bad enough that our factory farming system has made it a practice to be viciously inhumane to our nations livestock and contribute to the rise in diseased food due to idiotic feeding and housing practices (i.e. feeding cows corn when their digestive systems were built to digest grass, causing – well, you know what, just watch Food, Inc.).  Now we have to worry about whether the meat we are eating is even real, or if it in fact comes from mutant cows!!  Most recently I’ve heard about the possibility that the FDA may allow GM salmon to be put on the market.  I think we all know what happens when we mess around with genetically modifying fish.

I’m joking, but only a little.

All this research has led to me being very apprehensive about eating anything.  I’m not developing an eating disorder here, I’m simply unable to put aside the facts when I’m shopping, cooking, sitting down to a meal, etc.  I do not want genetically modified organisms in my food, or the food of my family. I do not want to have to feel creeped out every time it’s time to go grocery shopping or cook something.  I’m pissed off, because I like food.  I really like food, which has always worked out well because – we need to eat, there’s no getting around it.  And I wouldn’t want to if I could.

There has always been  a level of risk associated with eating: some foods are poison (certain berries for example), some foods can carry diseases if improperly handled or cooked (chicken, pork), some foods are laden with cholesterol and salt (which will eventually lead to trouble for the human body).  But these are things that just happen.  We have developed natural defenses against some of these problems, as have the food products (for example, berries that are poisonous are so in self-defense, and often have a bitter, unpleasant taste to prevent themselves from being eaten).  My point is that we already have enough to worry about in terms of food and eating.  We don’t need to add this level of creepy mystery, and dare I say nefariousness to the business of food.  We really don’t.