Genetically Modified Foods have become prominent in the world today and have warranted the need to understand what they are, how they are produced and the issues they raise with respect to their production and consumption. A GMO refers to a plant or product that has been genetically modified with genetic engineering techniques. GMO culture is mostly found in crops and foods such as soybeans, corn, tomatoes and apples, among others. Genetically Modified Foods were introduced in America in 1998. However, people did not know about them as much as they did when controversies about their effects became popular. This has raised the question of whether the controversies are warranted or are genuine. This paper will discuss Genetically Modified Foods, touch on the controversies surrounding them and discuss the organizations that have been involved in the issues surrounding the GMOs .
Unknown to many people, Genetically Modified Foods have been in use for over a decade now. Unfortunately, it is a new phenomenon with few or no long-term studies that have been conducted to confirm the real effects of GMOs. Irrespective of this fact, there have been many controversies with GMOs with arguments about their effects. The controversies mainly touch on health concerns because GMOs have not been adequately tested to prove their safety. The main concern is the reactions that have been put forth against the specific gene inserted into the GMO plants. Another controversy, aside from the genetically modified engineering, touches on the fact that GMOs contaminate conventional crops planted near them1. A survey carried out in the Midwest revealed that there are millions of acres where GM corn and soybean crops are planted. Farmers reported direct damages or costs dealing with genetic trespass of the GM plants .
The WTO has been at the center of the GMOs controversies as a body that should assure people worldwide about the safety of GMOs because it has the legal mandate to do so. The Cartgena Protocol on Bio-safety is an important development in the international regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetic engineering. This was the first international law to be ratified to regulate GMO production and use and also to regulate genetic engineering. There are specific provisions of the relevant WTO agreements that touch on GMOs. All of them are relevant in terms of bio-safety regulation. These provisions are provided for, for instance, by Article I, III and XI of the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) 1994 . Other agreements include Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) and Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement), among others, all of which serve to protect people from the harms of GMOs .
Controversies on GMOs have been a constant issue of concern in the US, Canada and the European Union. The WTO has been at the center of this trying to resolve issues between these entities. There is a general consensus between scientists that GMOs are not wholly unsafe. However, their safety for the environment, animal health and human health must be assessed . The EU legislation of GMOs follows the approach taken by WTO and reflects the needs of the Cartagena Protocol on Bio-safety. In May 2003, the US supported Argentina and Canada and initiated a WTO case against the EU. The case was because EU authorization regime for GMOs. The three complaints were clear, but the WTO took too long to reach a conclusion on the cases. The WTO ruled that in favor of the EU stating that it would be difficult to rule without hearing scientists’ perspective. Later on, the WTO asserted the legitimacy of the environmental and health issues contained in the EU procedures and regulations .
The status of the WTO proceeding on GMO today has declined in the sense that it has declined to deal with such issues. However, the WTO eliminates precaution as a legitimate reason for governmental decision-making. This has reinforced the ungenerous interpretation of Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement.
The food labelling justification in different countries including Russia, EU, Japan, and China on the GM foods labelling requirements illustrates the need for labelling foods to inform the public on the GMOs in the market. The EU introduced the first labelling initiatives in 1997. 64 countries followed suit and labelled GMOs to enable people understand what they are eating. These labelling policies differ in their scope, nature, exceptions, coverage and the degree of enforcement. However, the common feature in the labelling in the above stated countries, including China, Russia and Japan, is that they have voluntary labelling guidelines that dictate what can be labelled GMOs and let companies decide if they can use such in their products.. However, the EU labelling policy is mandatory, which requires producers to display the type of genetic engineering used. The justification for such measures is mainly to inform consumers on the traits and properties of food products to make informed decisions .
The advantage of labelling GM foods is that they inform the consumer about nutrition values, allergenicity or composition. This approach to labeling, therefore, safeguards public health against any potential risks and addresses the basic concerns of most consumers. Consumers are enabled through the GM foods labeling to know whether any GM materials are contained in the food and through this, they can make wise and more informed choices. It also helps enhance tracing and surveillance of GM food .
The disadvantage of labeling GM foods is that it influences people not to buy genetically modified products, which could make companies go into losses when their products are not bought by consumers. Secondly, it can make consumers develop unwarranted fear about GMOs and undermine genetic engineering that could be a novel idea towards production of more food to fight hunger especially now when there is little scientific evidence showing major effects attributed to GMOs .
In the United States, no federal or state law has been developed that requires labeling foods produced by genetic engineering. Recent labeling proposals in two states, California and Washington in 2013, have been defeated. The most vocal and probably the first group to take issue with the new technologies are the environmentalists. GMOs in their view may upset the nature balance irreversibly. They are demanding a moratorium, for that particular reason, on the marketing and production of GMO’s until more on their effects on fauna, flora and human potential effects. The US government and the Food and Drug Administration are also opposed to the labeling because labeling in the country is voluntary.
The Organic Consumers Association has been vocal in calling for labeling of GMOs since they demand consumer choice and freedom. In reality, the Consumer groups are not anti-GMOs, but they firmly believe that consumers should be able to choose not to buy the goods in question, on ethics, health or religion. In addition, they point out that there are no benefits in hiding information about GMO products. Other groups supporting the labeling initiate include Whole Foods Market Inc., PCC Natural Markets, the largest certified organic coop in United States, and the non-profit advocacy group .
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The international Governmental organizations IGOs have different relating to biotechnology and genetic engineering. Some IGOs call for labeling while others do not. For example, Monsanto, a grocery manufacturer, is one of the IGOs that have strongly opposed labeling. It has been on the stop for paying millions of dollars to voters to vote against labeling especially in US. The WTO as an IGO has been on the forefront in regulating the production and use of GMOs by acting as a mandated legal entity where countries can seek legal redress with cases of GMOs. The European network of GMO free regions has also contributed in the GMO debate in the sense that it has been vocal against the spread of IGOs. TUSCANY is another IGO that adopted a law that prohibited the cultivation of transgenic crops in that region. The EU has also been on the spot especially on opposite sides with countries such as the US, Argentina and Canada for advocating for strict labeling measures. The EU regulatory system ended the moratorium period in 2003 by authorizing the introduction of new GMOs in Europe. The European Network led by Paolo Petrini, the Agricultural Minister for the Marche Region has maintained its stand against GMOs. The commitment of the Network is to ensure the introduction of a state of GM-free areas that is legally recognized .
In the risk assessment of GMOs by EFSA’s takes a more wide and broad analysis of genetically modified microorganisms, plants and animals and assessing their human safety, environment and the animals. The GMOs the legal frame is set by a directive on their release into the regulations and environment on the feed and GM food. EFSA’s focus of GMO units and panel lies in the scientific risks evaluation assessment of new market application for GMO market authorization, and the corresponding applicant’s guidelines and developments. The GMO EFSA panel has comprehensively elaborated GM guidance documents on GM animals, microorganisms and plants, as well as on risk assessments specific aspects such as the comparator selections. European Commission upon requesting also provides special scientific advice to EFSA; example consideration of potential risks of new plant breeding techniques and post-market environmental monitoring of GMOs, scientific developments in the diverse areas of risk assessment and technological progress in breeding technologies. The risks of exposure to genetically modified organism as required by GMOCU is avoided or when in a case where it is not applicable can be controlled adequately as a means of reducing the level of accepted risk involved with exposure. The GM’s purpose and adequate approach in its risk management strategies is mainly one that allows the flexibility to enable a combination of controls that are proportionate to the risk or can enable one to select the most suitable controls .
There are countries with voluntary labeling while others have mandatory labeling mandates. This is the first reason why there are no uniform international laws. The guidelines of voluntary labeling dictate defining rules called non-GM or GM. This means food companies are allowed to decide their products labels. Mandatory labeling, in contrast, requires that food handlers retailers, processors and sometimes restaurants or producers display whether the products contain materials of GM content. In this manner, the degrees of National regulation defer even by their implementation. In addition, in countries with mandatory regulations of labeling differ majorly due to the threshold of the level for labeling of GM ingredients, coverage and Labeling content. Some reluctance has been recorded with NGOs in terms of their interests in the GMO issues unless they are directly involved .
As stated above, Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) have become prominent in the world today. There have been many controversies with GMOs with arguments about their effects. The controversies mainly touch on health concerns because GMOs have not been adequately tested to prove their safety. The safety and environmental concerns have brought governments and intergovernmental organizations together in addressing them. However, the approaches taken by governments and the IGOs differ with others calling for labeling while others putting restrictions not to accept GMOs within their regions. GMOs still remain an issue of contention and may be an issue, which may never be resolved.
This paper is a research proposal that seeks to study how dangerous genetically modified organisms are and their negative effects. It is evident that genetically modified organisms are consumed by many people who are not aware of their adverse effects. In this regard, the paper gives an overview of a proposed quantitative research that can be helpful in addressing the topic.
Currently, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have continued to replace our diet. There has been an increasing supply of foods which are genetically altered in many parts of the globe. The result has been adverse effects on human health, especially that of the local communities. Genetically modified organisms are usually resistant to pesticides since they originating from splicing of different species genes that are joined by means of genetic engineering (GE). This process is normally impossible to make happen in nature, especially for the non-GMO projects. Recent studies have illustrated that continued consumption of these foods can result in high risk of certain diseases.
The effect of the genetically altered and processed foods is worsened by the fact that most people tend to consume these toxics without even realizing that they are doing so (Jumba, 2010). It implies that whereas large corporations dealing in the genetically modified seeds are making huge profits out of the same, the general population seems to suffer in somewhat way. This means that choosing to grow local organic products over genetically modified crops cannot help in addressing the adverse effects of GMOs. The fact that large corporations that deal with GMOs have increasingly outweighed the local farm produce implies that people will continue to consume even more GMOs in the near future. Therefore, there is a need for a study whose findings can promote the understanding of the effects of such organisms and help address them. Therefore, this research proposal is important to large corporations, local farmers, and the government as well as the food production industry. It will help the various organizations and stakeholders in formulating the necessary policies for governing how genetically modified products are produced, packaged, and distributed to reduce their adverse effects.
The goal of the research will be to establish how dangerous genetically modified organisms are. To achieve this goal, the researcher will use a number of sub-questions that will enable him to realize the objectives of the study.
This study will employ quantitative approach (survey and questionnaire methods). The approach will allow the researcher to take a central position, especially in collecting and analyzing data that will stem from both the primary and secondary sources. Since such large volume of data normally represents a set of data that is often false in our view, quantitative approach will help ensure that only essential facts can be gathered. In addition, quantitative approach will also help in establishing the link between the dangerousness of genetically modified organisms and the economic variables that large corporations seem to attach to such products. As a result, this approach will allow the researcher to collect data that have both the human and environmental meaning in determining ways in which consumption of genetically modified organisms can be reduced or eliminated.
In explaining the health and safety risks of genetically modified organisms, Koch (2010) pointed out that whereas GMOs were first produced in 1996, they already have side effects. For instance, there have been increased antibiotic resistant bacteria, allergic reactions, and other toxic dangers in the form of safe foods. This implies that many children who have life-threatening allergies can be associated with the increased GMOs intake. In a research conducted by Smith termed, “Genetic Roulette”, it was shown that 37 people had already died from the GMOs side effects while 1,500 had become partially paralyzed with more than 5,000 being temporarily handicapped by chemicals that are used in growing GMOs. Smith added that glyphosate which is associated with GMO causes infertility, stillbirths, miscarriage, and cancers (Smith, 2007).
While the effects of GMOs may only begin to manifest in humans, various tests conducted on animals have illustrated how animals have continued to suffer due to the health implications contributed by GMOs. Smith (2007) noted that lab animal tests with genetically modified foods have indicated cases of stunted growth, bleeding stomachs, impaired human system, altered gene expression, and abnormal and potential cancerous cell growth in intestine among others. Consequently, GMOs have environmental risks of out-crossing. Out-crossing is the process when a transfer of engineered genes from genetically modified crop cultivated by means of wing, insect pollination or other transfer (Couniham & Van Esterik, 2012). When foreign genes cross with and contaminate other species, they can result into hybridization of genetically modified crop plant with a non-GMO plant. This can alter the entire ecosystems, especially if a hybrid plant thrives. In addition, out-crossing can indirectly affect food safety and security as such contaminated species may make their way into the food chain. Moreover, since genetically modified crops are herbicide-resistant, it implies that there will be an increased use of herbicides. These are often-toxic chemicals that can adversely affect both human and plant life.
On the other hand, ethical food is normally defined by a number of attributes and perceived benefits in relation to how it is produced or processed and its impact on the environment. The fact that almost 75 percent of processed food, especially in the United States, contains some GM ingredients implies that world species are threatened by GM crops. The trend, if not corrected, will have a potential risk to the environment and wildlife. It will even worsen in cases where monogenetic crops do not sufficiently react to environmental stresses. In addition, the proprietary nature of biotechnology used in production of GMOs can slow down the basic research and patent protection, thereby having potential socio-economic effects (Dimitrov, 2006). As a result, GMOs do not enhance the ethics of food production. In exposing such facts to the various, the study will contribute to the reduction of the effects of this attractive yet very dangerous innovation.
The proposed research is important as it will help in the development of agricultural and food production policies that would help in reducing or eliminating the dangerous effects of genetically modified organisms. It is imperative for the general population to understand that the side effects of GMOs can not only be solved by avoiding the consumption of the products. It will require extra knowledge that will help ensure that people are empowered to embrace the traditional methods of agriculture that enhance ethics of food production.