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Food Policy at a Crossroads, A World of Plenty or a World of Famine and Pestilence - An examination of competing philosophies

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Introduction

Food Policy at a Crossroads A World of Plenty or a World of Famine and Pestilence An examination of competing philosophies Overview The 21st century has become a world of wonders, a world of scientific and technological miracles. Moreover, a world where human kind strives to solve all of its ills without knowing enough about repercussions. If this dream is to be realized, we as an inter-dependant society, have a moral and ethical duty to make fundamental decisions as to the limits of science and technology in our every day life. Technology is emerging as the ruling power in western societies in the 21st century, and therefore, human kind is finding it more and more difficult to survive without constant aid from new hi-tech advances. Computers and the internet has become men's "best friend". Children are growing up with Nintendo and Xbox, and consequently without the wondrous knowledge of playing tag, climbing a tree, playing in the dirt or with little insects. They have no familiarity with a world without television and videogames, a natural world where everything is organic and healthy. As the futurist Alvin Toffler points out in an article in the New Scientist, "welcome to the latest installment of that (future) shock: the GM revolution. Gene therapy. Spare-part tissues grown from engineered fetal cells. Organ-donor pigs and their viruses. All these are part of it, but they are the remote part that exists only in the labs and the imaginations of scientists. GM food is different, it's already left the labs.1 In this paper, we will examine and try to clarify different philosophies that are competing to control world food production. In particular, we will mainly focus on the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GM or GMOs) and Organic Farming. Each philosophy has its adherents and its detractors are locked in a boisterous and intransigent battle. This has led to a clouding of issues, making it very difficult for people to develop an informed decision. ...read more.

Middle

This has the effect of decreasing the risks, for both human health and the environment".15 Many farmers choose this method of production because it also leads to more cost-effectiveness ways of farming. If the promises of GMOs and GMFs are realized, they have the potential to truly change the world's food production and benefit humanity. Cons The opponents of GMOs and GMFs argue that not only have the promises of this technology not materialized, but also that it can lead to an apocalyptic future; a future that has the soil of the earth irreparably contaminated, as well as ecological disruptions, leading to extinction of species of plants and animals. However, most frightening is the migration of the genetic modifications into man, leading to the possible extinction of our species. Opponents also point out that GMOs and GMFs have not fulfilled their promises and that instead of benefits they are turning into an ecological nightmare. As Nathan Batalion puts it, "genetic pollution can alter the life in soil forever! Not to be underestimated, the potential domino effect of internal and external genetic pollution can make substance of science-fiction horror movies become terrible realities in the future."16 Genetically altered foods have not been around long enough to know if they are safe enough for human consumption. In January 27, 1999, the news agency Reuters reported in the New Scientist magazine about a computer model developed by Dutch researchers to mimic human food digestion. The Dutch researchers found that the computer model predicted that antibiotic-resistance genes introduced into food could jump to bacteria in the gut. It showed that "DNA lingers in the intestine" and that "DNA from a bacteria had a half-life of six minutes in the large intestine."17 A naturally occurring pesticide bacterium, Bacillus Thuringiensis or Bt, that has been engineered into plants posses another problem as it enters the food supply. Katherine DiMatteo points out that "Bt crops, such as corn, potatoes, and cotton, are genetically engineered to contain genes from this natural pesticide Bt. ...read more.

Conclusion

Overall, we see throughout the world a fear of science "playing God" with dire consequences. More and more business, government and even science are not trusted to tell the truth. People believe that there are special interest groups with their own agendas that have little regard for the safety of the public and the environment. William Muir has tried to develop a model of environmental risk for GMOs. He presents the problems involved and the need for such a model. Weir says, "consumers and environmentalists remain wary of the safety of biotechnology in agriculture to alleviate concern and increase consumer confidence, more research needs to be done. The first step in this process is to develop a risk assessment that is accepted by scientists. If scientists cannot agree on a unified methodology for testing the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the public will reject transgenic technology on the basis of uncertainty. Through a comprehensive, unbiased examination of risks and hazards associated with agricultural biotechnology, a methodology for testing can be developed."31 GMFs need to be evaluated thoroughly and scientifically before they are introduced into our food supply. Too many questions remain, all doubt of their safety has to be eliminated, and their efficacy and value proved. Until this is done, no one will feel safe. A beginning is mandatory labeling of all GE products. The public needs and wants this to happen. If sales of GM products drop, that means that the consumer does not perceive a value in them. Businesses have an obligation to their consumers, and this is to provide value, and not hide detrimental factors through imperfect information. Thus, if the buyer does not perceive any value to using that product, the product deserves to fail. That is the nature of business. Hiding facts or problems with a product is bad business. Finally, the government has the right to protect society by passing laws that will benefit the majority of people. ...read more.

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