|Californians to Vote on Genetically Engineered (GE) Food Labelling|
|Written by Ari Lesniak, Four Green Steps|
|Wednesday, 27 June 2012 07:39|
Written by Ari Lesniak, Four Green Steps
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Californians will vote in November on whether they want their food to be labeled as Genetically Engineered (GE). Genetically engineered food is more commonly known as a genetically modified organism (GMO). This is where an organism’s genetic code is purposefully altered by scientific techniques. Some of these changes include allowing plants to grow in conditions that normally would have been inhabitable, or produce toxins that deter pests.
Food is defined by this bill as being genetically engineered when it contains over 0.5% genetically engineered materiel. This is a very stringent amount as the EU allows almost double the amount of containment at 0.9%. These high purity standards can create high overhead costs, which may be a hard hit to an already crippled economy. Another fear is this bill will eventually encapsulate the entire United States, as California is its largest agricultural producer.
The majority of Americans agree on the issue that genetically engineered food should be labeled. This comes as no real surprise when internationally many nations have already adopted this labeling system. Yet there is no consensus that GMO’s are harmful. Nothing about the process of genetically engineered (GE) crop plants is inherently more dangerous to the environment or to human health than the traditional crop. This view is supported by prominent international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the European Commission. Yet there is popular belief that these types of food are dangerous. This mistrust of this science comes from a history of poor relationships between nature and scientific intervention in it. A prime example of this relationship is Rachel Carson’s famous book, Silent Spring, which recounts the detrimental effects of pesticides.
Though the safety of these crops is still up for debate, the crop’s social and economic upsides are not. These modifications can allow crops to grow in climates that would have not supported plant growth otherwise. This creates a greater area to be farmed, accessible to a greater amount of people. These qualities will reduce hunger and malnutrition, minimize poverty and provide viable solution to feeding our ever growing population.
The companies that produce these genetically modified seeds are known create circumstances that end up benefiting themselves more than the farmer. In these unfortunate situations farmers are coerced into signing long term contracts where the seeds are to be purchased every year at steep prices. These prices are possible because of patents and justifiable by high R&D costs.
The debate of GMO is not so simple and does not look to be reaching a conclusion any time soon. With as many players as there are involved including, politicians, big businesses and consumers it is no doubt that this story will continue to be one to follow.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
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