Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Global Watch - Food for the Future

In Europe today, three genetically modified crops are permitted. No new genetically modified plants have been approved in Europe since 1998, allowing more time to consider the risk surrounding GM crops. In USA, eating GM food has become quite common. Did you eat or you just simply do not know yet ?
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Japan has started importing GM crops in 1996 although several years later, the ministry tightened the rules in response to criticism - the system being too lax in preventing unapproved GM food from entering Japan.

What is a genetically modified food product ?

A tomato designed to stay fresh for a long time is one example. Corn designed to resist pesticides is another. More complicated, potato designed to produce a poison which kills harmful insects, meaning the farmer no longer needs to fight insects with insecticides. Animals can also be genetically modified.
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Rice or paddy needs no introduction to us, Asians. Rice is food for us and no other plant has had such a deep-rooted influence on our lives. Scientist created Golden Rice by inserting three genes into a certain rice variety which will in turn produce a greater amount of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. The debate over GM rice's effectiveness in eliminating vitamin A deficiency is still raging.
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Most people prefer not to buy food that has been genetically modified. The demand for organic foods is booming.
  • Does GM mean less pesticides in long run ?
  • Will GM damage our environment ?
  • Can GM produces higher yields ?
  • Are GM foods safe ?
  • Is anyone controlling GM ?

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Opponents of genetic modification argue that we do not know enough about the science and that altering genes could lead to unforeseen problems for future generations. A particular concern is that GM foods could trigger new allergic reactions. Supporters of the technology argue that strict controls are already in place and each modified product is thoroughly assessed. How can one avoid GM foods ?

What is your concern about GM ?


snaars said...

Beautiful blog you have here. I love the photos.

I worry about mutant rice plants pulling up their roots and stomping all over us ...

No seriously, I'm not sure. My wife and I buy organic foods whenever possible. I just don't trust GM foods. The reason I don't trust them is that I am human. Doesn't everyone have a fear of the unknown?

Yes, it may be a little irrational. GM foods might be the greatest thing! But history has shown that when we meddle with nature, the consequences are usually not good. We just don't have a very good track record.

emotionalistic said...

I am one of the majority that will not buy GM food. Was just wondering why do people nowadays are getting lazier and prefer things that will last longer?? So, who is to blame?? The technology or the people??

zbjernak said...

actually to be frank...
malaysians at this moment are not that particular abt GM or not GM food...

people here are more interested in ways of generating more income...

anyway...the song being played in your blog is GREAT!

ODD said...

I love what you are doing here. Beutiful and thought provocing. Brilliant.
I avoid GM foods, but when you go to a resturant who knows what they are serving you.
As Snaars says our history in messing up is great.
Ever see the documentary About what happened when in China they decided that Sparrows were a nusence and exterminated them by the thousands. Next harvest was decimated by Catapillers that the sparrows would have eatten. And a famine ensued.
We really dont know what the consiquences of our manipulations are going to do. Things are so complex that altering just one little bit could have many implications we have never even contemplated.

mrkiasu said...

I think all these sounds too scary to me, why can't we let those things as it is, why we must try to change the way the nature works.

Patrick Leong said...

the GM food bubble seems about to burst (and there goes my career - i am actually pursuing PhD in GM). as more and more scientific studies point to the dangers of growing and consuming GM crops and food, the biotechnology industry is increasingly coming under pressure.

can GM food make your body immune to antibiotics?

experts point out that eating GM food can change the genetic make-up of your digestive system and could put you at risk of infections that are resistant to antibiotics. people are eating GM soya in their diet on a daily basis - either direct intake or via seed contamination. one never really knows.

one always argues - food genetic engineering, is it a deserving venture ?

ODD said...

I guess you have a real problem with cross polination from an Un GM crop to a GM crop too, can't be that hard for pollen from a GM altered crop to cross polinate. and then what do you have?
What about the insects that eat the crops too?
What effect if any does that have on their genes, we know from experiance insects have a remarkable way of altering their genes, to be come more resistant to pestersides. The whole ecology thing is quite scary, you can sometimes understand why people burry their heads in the sand, drink beer and remain ignorant.

Patrick Leong said...

the major concerns of the general public regarding GM crops and food : segregation of GM and non-GM crops and cross-pollination between GM crops and wild species, the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes, and the prevention of new allergens being introduced into the food chain.

for cross-pollination to be successful, the plants would have to be compatible and flowering at the same time. before any GM crop is planted in the open, the likelihood of cross-pollination is carefully assessed. according to officials, cross-pollination can be prevented if there is a separation distance of 50 metres between GM and non-GM varieties. but pollens can travel alot further than that - bees. the system is still lax and unclear. harvesters move from field to field. i am more concern of seed mixing and spillage.

recent studies show potential harm - detrimental effects of GM on wildlife. to what extent, i am not able to answer ..

two years ago, i did a weekly seminar presentation on 'pharma' crops. since 1991 over 300 open-field trials of 'pharma' crops have taken place around the world (e.g. GM rice containing human genes grown for drug production, GM tobacco containing mouse IgA antibodies). GM firms are now using commodity food crops for pharmaceutical production. a bit scary actually.

do we accept GM when there are products to offer direct benefits for consumer health ?

obachan said...

I really see the dilemma regarding GM food issue, because I’m originally from a small, poor village where only old people growing crops in miserably small fields between mountains and the ocean. Their children moved out to live in big cities and typhoons mercilessly damage their crops every year. I can imagine what a blessing it can be for such farmers when easy-to-raise, strong GM crops were introduced to them.

Nevertheless, I want to and I do avoid GM foods when I have a choice. To me all those concerns about the possible hazards of GM foods are too big to ignore, and the fact that GM crops are being used for pharmaceutical production does not justify everything. Even with medicines not related to GM crops, we have already repeated the mistake of launching them too fast and getting them off the market after many people died because of unexpected adverse effects. We were all go for CFC until we realized the damage it caused to the ozone layer. I don’t want to see the same pattern again with the GM crops. I can’t help hoping that the blessing to farmers in poor villages be brought in some other way --- a safer way --- not with the GM technology as it is now.

Patrick Leong said...

obachan : GM food is being rushed through without adequate time to test. presently the various obstacles in relation to GM may not be overcome for a very long time. such food scares and the GM scandals have shattered consumer trust.