Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Biotechnology, New Controversies

Genetically engineered nutrients saturate our eating habits nowadays: in the USA alone, over 80% of commercially-processed foods contain modified organisms, although buyers don't realise what they're actually consuming. However, there are risks associated with these foodstuffs.

These GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are mostly soy and corn crops, engineered to contain innovative pesticide residues, as they have been altered to be herbicide-tolerant or to produce mutated Bt toxins. Serious potential risks associated with the consumption of GMOs may derive from unforeseeable insertion mutagenesis effects, metabolic effects, or even from the introduction of newer, untested pesticide residues.

The most meticulous regulatory tests on the GMOs are three-month long feeding tests on laboratory rats. However, these kinds of procedures are neither obligatory, nor independently performed. Moreover, the test data, along with the related outcomes, are kept confidential by the companies.

Therefore, the debate on the safety of genetically modified organisms employed for nutrients continues to be extremely lively, over fifteen years after their very first commercial launch; furthermore, massive social, economic, and political concerns have been raised. In fact, even though a number of stakeholders assert that a history of safe application of GMOs can be upheld, there are absolutely no human or even animal epidemiological scientific studies to support such a claim so far, especially as a consequence of the deficiency in labelling and traceability within GMO-producing nations.

Thus, two main biological interpretations regarding the utility of production of GMO have arisen: while a few GMO-producing companies claim that GMOs are harmless, the majority of scientists assert that there is a necessity for longer tests before commercialisation. Scientific disputes are common. Nevertheless, longer, more in depth, and transparent toxicological laboratory tests on GMOs would have been beneficial to their acceptance by the scientific community.

In conclusion, the promotion of unambiguous, unbiased and also reproducible health studies for new commercial products is required, the dissemination of which involves implications on a large scale. Lifetime analysis on laboratory animals ingesting GMOs ought to be completed, as opposed to what is being done today. Such tests might be connected to transgenerational, reproductive or even endocrine research studies.

However, it must be emphasised that according to many scientists, including microbiologist Richard Lacey, it is practically unachievable to even conceive of a testing method to evaluate the health effects of GM products when introduced into the food chain. Additionally, there are no convincing nutritional or public interest reasons for their introduction.

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