Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Is Fear Of Frankenfood Holding Back Progress For The World’s Food Supply?

Date:
October 25, 2000
Source:
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Summary:
Genetic engineering is among the most complex and contested topics in today’s world. In addition to questions about the human genome, other ethical concerns have arisen, especially regarding genetically modified foods. Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Thomas A. Shannon, professor of religion and social ethics, recently spoke on “Genetically Engineered Agricultural Products and International Regulations” at the Evangelishce Akademie Loccum in Hanover, Germany. The late September presentation was part of EXPO 2000. Shannon points to wide differences between the United States and Europe when it comes to genetic modification.

WORCESTER, Mass. - Genetic engineering is among the most complex and contested topics in today’s world. In addition to questions about the human genome, other ethical concerns have arisen, especially regarding genetically modified foods.Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Thomas A. Shannon, professor of religion and social ethics, recently spoke on “Genetically Engineered Agricultural Products and International Regulations” at the Evangelishce Akademie Loccum in Hanover, Germany. The late September presentation was part of EXPO 2000.Shannon points to wide differences between the United States and Europe when it comes to genetic modification.“Generally in the U.S.A., genetically modified foods have been introduced rather widely and until very recently the public has been rather silent,” he says. “Even now the protests seems to be restricted to a small number of vocal groups who show up at international conferences. In Europe, however, the introduction has been very slow and the public rather vocal in its concerns and objections.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves genetically modified foods the same way it gives approval to any other food or drug. The FDA recognizes any additive as safe if it already exists in the natural food supply–even if it is inserted into unrelated plants through genetic modification.

“Because most genetic modification is done by transplanting genes from one plant or animal already used in the food supply to another, most genetically modified foods are not subject to safety approval under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1992,” Shannon points out.

In Europe, it’s a different story. Any company that manufactures or imports a genetically modified food must request approval from the food safety authority in the European Union membership. That means a case-by-case risk assessment.

Final judgment is left to a European Union Commission. Ten years ago, an international report by the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development looked at the safety of genetically modified, or what it called “novel” foods. Sixty experts from 19 countries found that new varieties of whole foods coming to market don’t undergo extensive toxicological testing, and yet whole foods often contain natural toxins and non-nutritional substances. Based on their long-term use, however, whole foods are considered safe. So, the experts asked, why hold “novel” foods to a higher standard?

Obviously, the United States has adopted that philosophy more freely than Europe, where products from genetically engineered sources must be identified before coming to the market.

So what is the answer for the manufacture of genetically modified foods?

Some legislators and scientists have suggested using the “precautionary principle,” which states that if any scientific objective raises concerns about possible dangers to the environment or human, animal or plant health, then it should not proceed. In February 2000, the Commission of the European Communities suggested that the precautionary principle should apply if a potentially negative effect may result from a product or procedure, or when scientific evaluation of the risk is impossible to determine.

But other experts ask, when has such a standard of confidence ever been part of scientific study?

“One can think of hardly any technology or cultural practice for that matter that could pass that standard,” Shannon says. Is it fair to hold genetically modified foods to higher standards than earlier efforts, such as hybridization or crossbreeding, to improve the food supply?

“We have been violating such a standard for a long time,” Shannon says. “Plant and animal breeding technologies of the past had as their goal the development of new and heartier plants and animals that reproduced at a greater rate. Most of these foods were introduced without the kinds of safety standards now being required of genetically modified foods.”

Without a resolution to this question, farmers and scientists will be stymied, Shannon says. While scientists have found no human health problems thus far with genetically modified crops, can the world live without a firm guarantee against future adverse effects?

“A general framework needs to be established to monitor safety and health issues as well as environmental issues,” Shannon suggests. “The sooner this is begun, the sooner the issues can be addressed, and policies put in place that will respond to national issues as well as international marketing programs.”

Hanging in the balance is the need to increase and improve the food supply for a growing world, as well as the possible development of crops such as beta-carotene enhanced rice that would deliver vitamin A to large populations.

For more information, contact Shannon at 508-831-5468 or e-mail tshannon@wpi.edu, or Arlie Corday, WPI assistant director of media relations, at 508-831-6085 or e-mail acorday@wpi.edu.

Note to Editor: Thomas Shannon is the author of 25 books, including “Made in Whose Image? Genetic Engineering and Christian Ethics” (Humanity Books, 2000). He was a main participant in the first-ever grant to look at religious issues related to genetics through the Human Genome Project. The three-year grant was sponsored by Ethical Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) and funded by the National Institutes of Health. He has taught at WPI since 1973 and holds a B.A. from Quincy College, an S.T.B. degree from St. Joseph Seminary in sacred theology, an S.T.M. degree from Boston University School of Theology in sacred theology and a Ph.D. from Boston University Graduate School in social ethics.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "Is Fear Of Frankenfood Holding Back Progress For The World’s Food Supply?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001024140140.htm>.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute. (2000, October 25). Is Fear Of Frankenfood Holding Back Progress For The World’s Food Supply?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001024140140.htm
Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "Is Fear Of Frankenfood Holding Back Progress For The World’s Food Supply?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001024140140.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins