Deepakshi Kasat

Debating enables us to identify different perspectives and in turn helps in making more informed decisions. Biotech isn’t just limited to the scientists and engineers; it is as much a field for the users of this technology. Sometimes in fact, the creators get distracted by the potential of a discovery and tend to neglect the concept of “current need”. Interacting with the consumers and establishing a timeline that is in coherence with their needs makes research most optimal.

This month we present to you the first debate topic: “Genetically Modified Food should be labelled”.

There are a set of questions following the introduction. You can refer to the explanations for the questions in this article, and provide your answers in our google form here: https://forms.gle/xT9JV97ghPghWgJP8

We will feature the best responses in our September Issue! We hope to receive some bold and informative answers to evaluate this topic.

Genetically modified foods are derived from organisms whose DNA has been altered using recombinant DNA technology in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both. When such a product is introduced in the market, it has to undergo rigorous testing by national authorities to confirm its safety.

It’s time we debate! Below are a set of questions that can help you evaluate this topic and come to a logical conclusion. If something as basic as GM labeling becomes an unending controversy, we need to become more open-minded! So, let’s get together and solve it.

1. Is GM food labeling a matter of right-to-know or need-to-know?

All GM food is subjected through safety assessments before reaching the market. Consumers should also have the right to make an informed choice about the food they buy. However, the question of right-to-know or need-to-know boils down to awareness of GM food- Would you buy food that has been genetically modified?

2. Do the unaware really need to know?

Consumer choice and awareness is critical in any and every industry. However, what about conservative consumers? Those who are psychologically repelled by the idea of gene alteration- does informing them become more important while tackling food crisis?

3. Will transparency establish faith?

Campbell Soup Company experimented with labeling their GM product in 2016. Even though controversial at that time, research suggests that consumers did not boycott their product and labeling had no negative impact on their sale. When people feel like they have more control over outcomes, their perception of risks tend to fall. Does this example suggest we are ready for GM food?

4. Will labeling imply a warning about health effect?

A simple label stating genetically modified may be misread as a threat to health or allergic to health- making it unfair for the company selling the product. However, will more elaborate labels make it seem too complicated for general use?

5. Will mandatory labeling be more effective than voluntary labeling?

In order to understand this, the following questions must be asked first.

a. What percent of GM ingredients can bypass this rule?

b. Would meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals fed GM feed crops require a label?

c. Would food served in restaurants or other food-service establishments require a label?

d. Would the cost and burden of labeling on the company justify the need for it?

e. Would companies misuse the label and use a “non-GMO” label to promote their product? In such a case, wouldn’t this mislead the population, creating a divide and war between GMO and non-GMO unnecessarily?

Reference (Aug-2020-E2)

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