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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Genetically Modified Food: Some Ethical Arguments

ByDamla Aydin

Jul 9, 2022

Scientists are working on to modify food in order to achieve more desired results. However, in this way, it loses its naturalness. It makes some people to worry if genetically modified food are good for health or environment. Since it has also many possible benefits, people started to debate about its ethical issues. Should labeling of genetically modified (GM) food be mandatory? Should genetically modified food strictly regulated? Does GM food has more benefits or harms? Should we use GM food to end the world hunger? Read on to get answers and learn more.

What is Genetically Modified (GM) Food?

Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods obtained from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) does not exist naturally, but has been modified according to the wishes of farmers or consumers. The genetic material of these organisms has been altered through genetic engineering. For this to happen, researches take a preferred trait gene from one plant (or an animal) and then add it into the cell of the other. However, it differs from the traditional technique of selectively breeding, since selective breeding entails selecting parents with specific traits to breed with in order to create progeny with more desired properties. Genetically engineered crops have been on the market in the United States since 1994, when “Flavr Savr” tomatoes were introduced, which were formed to mature more slowly.

Why is GMO Controversial?

Some people find genetically modified foods beneficial because genetically modified foods have the potential to help end the unequal food distribution all around the world, reduce environmental issues like climate change, develop more resilient plants, and boost production. While others find it harmful since they thought genetically modified food is unhealthy and they enable a system in which a few corporations wield enormous power over our food production. This has sparked debate about whether genetically modified food should be consumed and whether it should be labeled or strictly regulated.

The Problem With Genetically Modified Food

A Pew research survey found that the majority of adults in the US, (exactly 63%) believe genetically modified foods are unsafe to eat. Each of the genetically modified organisms contains different genes placed in different ways. Therefore, each should be evaluated from their own good and making general explanations should be avoided. However, according to the World Health Organization, genetically modified foods currently on the international market have passed safety assessments and are unlikely to pose a risk to human health [1]. Therefore, the main problem with genetically modified foods is not whether they are healthy or not.

The real problem with genetically modified food is the agro-farming system behind them. By consuming these foods, people are actually supporting an unsustainable system. For example, Roundup Ready plants, from corn to soybeans to sugar, are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate. This resistance means that farmers can spray their fields indiscriminately without worrying about damaging their crops. As a result, the use of glyphosate with these plants increased rapidly in the United States. Dead spots are being created in US water sources by poisonous runoff from overspraying, and Monsanto, that is currently held by the German company Bayer, makes big money from both their Roundup Ready seeds and the extra rise in glyphosate consumption.

The Possible Benefits of Genetically Modified Food

  • Genetically modified food can help end the world hunger or change the unequal food distribution around the world.
The Possible Benefits of Genetically Modified Food

With the impact of developing technology, food production has outstripped population growth in recent decades. While many parts of the world have seen its positive effects, Africa and some parts of Asia have lagged behind in agricultural productivity. They maintained to be impoverished. Even in countries like India where fundamental foods are plentiful, poverty still causes the problems of access for a large amount of people. In this case, as a possible solution, people suggest to increase the food supply and agricultural incomes as a result of boosting agricultural productivity. But how people can achieve this? Genetically modified food has many possible beneficial applications, the most important of which is the provision of micro nutrient enrichment. The idea advocated here is that genetic engineering is beneficial and there is a moral imperative to enable developing countries to take advantage of these technologies.

  • The major benefit of genetic modification in plant biotechnology is that adjustments can be presented more fast and effective, with more specific targeting of desirable characteristics.

Genetic engineering allows the production of higher quality and more desirable food. Also, it allows herbicide tolerance, reduced herbicide applications. It provides resistance to insects, pests, and bacteria. Genetic engineering allows the application of micro nutrient enrichment. It is an application that will help many people with less money and shorter time.

Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

Since 1992, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has obligated genetically modified food labeling only if the food has a nutritious or food safety characteristic that differs significantly from what customers would assume of that food [2]. Numerous organizations and enterprises already voluntarily label food items to indicate that they do not contain genetically modified ingredients. Mandatory labeling would go even further, requiring that all food products that included any GM component (beyond a certain limit for trace quantities) be labeled as such. More stringent mandatory labeling requirements might include identifying each particular GM component and its extent of presence in the product.

The consumers have a right to know the components that their food contain. Also, voluntary labeling is not enough to inform people about the every GM component. However, the costs of labeling the GM foods would be reflected to consumers. The cost would not to reflected to producers. Nevertheless, mandatory labelin seems like the desirable ethical regulation to be implemented.

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[1] World Health Organization. 1 May 2014. Available here.

[2] P. Byrne, D. Pendell, & G. Graff. “Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods”. Colorado State University Food and Nutrition Series|Health. p.1. https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/foodnut/09371.pdf.

[3] Albert Weale (2010). Ethical arguments relevant to the use of GM crops. , 27(5), 582–587. doi:10.1016/j.nbt.2010.08.013