We created an online debate form on “Genetically Modified Food should be labelled” to understand the views of our readers and the general populace. From our understanding, we do realize that there is a major lack of awareness of primarily what genetically modified food means. Further, the fear that accompanies the words “genetic modification” has created a stigma against incorporating biotechnology and genetic engineering in our daily lives.
We realized our new goal on interacting with our audience. The BioTalk Magazine now intends to make biotechnology not only accessible but also acceptable to everyone. In an effort to do so, we will conduct monthly debates and post biotech related facts on our social platforms. The more you get involved with us, the more open-minded and educated you will become, eventually embracing the technology of our near future.
It’s time we all rethink about genetically modified food and their identification policies. Risk and safety assessments will be conducted by concerned authorities, and only once the product has successfully passed the following tests, will it reach the consumer:
(a) direct health effects (toxicity),
(b) potential to provoke allergic reaction (allergenicity);
(c) specific components thought to have nutritional or toxic properties;
(d) the stability of the inserted gene;
(e) nutritional effects associated with genetic modification; and
(f) any unintended effects which could result from the gene insertion
As a matter of fact, different genes are inserted in different ways into the product. Hence, there can’t possibly be concrete and uniform guidelines for analysis of all GM foods. They are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, rest assured, they are thoroughly evaluated.
When “selective breeding” and “artificial selection” have been practiced undisputedly throughout history, why is methodological intervention in the form of gene editing questioned?
We have featured some of your responses below.
Is GM food a matter of right-to-know or need-to-know?
Definitely not a right to know. Can be a need to know for people who would like to understand the genetics. For the general populace, it would not make a difference.
It is a matter of right to know. I support the growth of genetically modified organics due to their ability to help solve the world’s hunger and starvation problem. It should be a right-to-know just like we have the right to know if a product is organic, contains a cancer producing substance, or can cause negative health effects if taken in abundance (excess caffeine).
We identify ourselves as Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, Marwadis, Hindu, Christian, Indian, etc. at different levels, but genetically, in fact, we are all mixed up. Similarly, other plant and animal organisms are genetically mixed up due to cross-pollination, cross-breeding, outcrossing, outbreeding, etc. So, in some way, all the food that we eat is genetically modified. When talking about ourselves, there is a need to identify ourselves, or else there would be many problems and chaos. That is why we identify ourselves. Similarly, there is a need to label GMOs so that people know.
Do the unaware really need to know?
Yes, the unaware people must be enlightened with this topic as it can help increase the popularity of Genetically modified food and thus can lead to acceptance of it across the world.
The unaware need to know the positives of GM food so that they do not desist from buying that. Labeling unnecessarily puts a doubt in the mind of the unaware as in general the mind always doubts if additional information is provided.
Will transparency establish faith?
Surely, transparency is the foundation for any system to grow. The people need to know what exactly is been done with the food they are eating and why they should continue eating Genetically Modified food. It will thus help build a strong relationship between the producers and the consumers.
Transparency in the form of a good campaign for awareness will definitely establish faith. But not necessarily through labelling. As mentioned in the previous question, transparency in the form of labelling might have counter effects.
Transparency will allow for us to talk more openly about it with the outcome, hopefully, being that the world supports its growth and consumption.
Will labeling imply a warning about health effect?
No, not necessarily. People might be allergic to certain food anyway. Genetic modification is done to enhance or exaggerate the response to a level that is needed thus increasing the actual potential.
No. GMO labelling will not imply a warning about health effect. A change in the genetic composition made will increase its nutritional content which will not cause a health issue.
Will mandatory labeling be more effective than voluntary labeling?
Yes, I believe mandatory labelling will be more effective than voluntary labelling as it will build a trust which is needed also social acceptance needs to be the top most priority. Rather than thinking about mandatory or voluntary labelling we should talk about Genetically Modified crops more often to take out the fear from the target consumers also, when they find that the system is totally transparent it will help build the social acceptance anyway. Meat, eggs, and dairy products must require a label, food served in restaurants also must require a label. The cost and burden of labelling on the company does justify the need for it. There should be regulatory board governing the label for GMO and should strictly be taken into consideration.
Since I believe that labeling should not be required, I would recommend voluntary labeling. If the manufacturer believes that providing info would be beneficial for the particular product, and the cost benefit analysis is in his favour, he can go for labeling. So I believe it should be voluntary. And of course making it mandatory has its own set of problems. Misuse is definitely a possibility by the non GM community.
Mandatory disclosure of these kinds of things is actually a legal obligation of FDA, and in the case of labeling, it’s fallen down on the job. Relying solely on voluntary non-GMO claims by some companies on some products, will never give consumers a full picture of what they’re eating
Consumer education is important to build up confidence of consumers about GM products. First impression about GM products in consumer mind is it not good for health.
When label of organic is information for the consumer of potential benefits why not have labelling, which alerts to potential harm
Making it clear that products contain genetically modified ingredients via a label will give a consumer a sense of trust with that company. If we make it obvious that foods contain genetic modification it will allow for more talks to be had and possible lessen the fear or confusion of it.