Should Labeling be Required for GMOs?
The debate over genetically modified foods continues to haunt producers and consumers alike. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are foods that have been modified through bioengineering to possess certain characteristics. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or increased nutritional content (Whitman, 2000). The debate continues to grow as to whether these genetically altered foodstuffs are the answer to hunger in the coming years, or whether we are simply children playing with something that we do not have the capacity to understand. One of the biggest debates in the GMO issue is whether producers need to use labeling of foods that contain GMOs, or whether they should be treated as any other natural food source. This research will support the position that current regulatory practices concerning GMO crops are inadequate and that stricter labeling laws for GMOs needs to be enforced.
Before genetic engineering, plants were bred using standards cross-pollination techniques to produce improved strains. This method was time consuming, taking many generations to perfect. It was not very precise either (Whitman, 2000). There were many factors that could influence the outcome. With genetic engineering, the researcher can isolate the exact gene sequence responsible for the desired characteristic, such as drought tolerance, or high productivity (Whitman, 2000). Some of the current uses of genetically modifications being used are pest resistance, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, cold tolerance, drought tolerance, salinity tolerance, nutritional content, pharmaceuticals, edible vaccines, and phytoremdiation (Whitman, 2000). Phytoremediation is the practice of developing plants that can help to clean toxins from contaminated water and soil.
The UDSA is carefully monitoring the development of genetically modified foods by using a similar testing protocol that is used to approve drugs for the human market. As of 2000, there were over 40 plant species that were approved for commercial distribution in the United States (Whitman, 2000). As the population of the world continues to grow, so does the interest in genetically modified foods as a potential solution. However, there are those that do not agree.
Safety Concerns and GMOs
Discussions concerning safety issues and the potential harmful effects on humans have been largely theoretical. The key concerns have been allergic reactions, gene transfer to non-GMO crops, and outcrossing with domestic species (WHO, 2009). To address the issue of allergic reactions, the World Health Organization and other governing bodies discourage the use of the most common allergenic foods. Gene transfer occurs when the genes from the spliced material enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract and splice themselves into the human body. The possibility of this occurring is believed to be so...