Monday, August 3, 2009

Genetically Modified Foods; Savior or Scourge?

The battle over genetically modified foods continues, though it has simmered down in recent months. The reason is most likely due to the fading health threats and the advances in the technology. It is a good time to take stock of whether or not the advances have helped or hindered the world's food supply.
Genetic engineering has been used to make many staple crops resistant to herbicides or to make them produce their own insecticide. Both advances offer real benefits to farmers by increasing yields or farm income. Though organic farming may be better, it won't be replacing conventional farming anytime soon. Organic farming is very expensive and riddled with regulations.
Consumer benefits fall short, as biotech crops have not made foods more nutritious, cheaper, or tastier. We are still a few years away from a soybean oil with omega 3 fats to replace trans fats.
On the plus side, GM crops currently being grown are safe and cause less environmental damage than their conventional cousins. Most GM crops allow farmers to use fewer chemical pesticides. Others support no-till farming, which protects the topsoil and reduces agricultural runoff into rivers and streams. In developing nations with millions of poor subsistence farmers, GM crops are proving highly popular. Farmers in India and China growing cotton engineered to produce the Bt pesticide benefit because they can use fewer chemical pesticides and enjoy sharply increased yields. That translates into fewer pesticide poisonings. And, with the Rockefeller Foundation's grant, Golden Rice may soon move from the laboratory to fields in Southeast Asia. This particular rice provides beta carotene, which can prevent vitamin A deficiency and blindness in a region where deficiencies are epidemic.
To secure the future of GM foods, Congress should require the FDA to formally approve new GM foods to ensure that they are safe for humans. Consumers can continue to trust the safety of GM foods with stronger, not stifling regulations. ~Center for Science in the Public Interest

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